HONOURED TO BE DISHONOURED
"That convinced them. They called the apostles back in. After giving them a thorough whipping, they warned them not to speak in Jesus' name and sent them off. The apostles went out of the High Court overjoyed because they had been given the honour of being dishonoured on account of the Name. Every day they were in the Temple and homes, teaching and preaching Christ Jesus, not letting up for a minute." Acts 5:40-42 (The Message).
Isn't this a rather strange way to react to an unfair whipping? What had these men done to deserve such drastic treatment at the hands of their justice system? Given people back their health and a better quality of life? Introduced them to the God who forgave their sin and gave them inner peace? What kind of crime was that?
The authorities might just as well have beaten them with an ostrich feather, for all the effect it had on the apostles. In fact, instead of deterring them, it made them even bolder and more determined to obey the Lord Jesus in spite of the consequences. Their response? They were honoured to be dishonoured for the Name of their Master.
What is the significance of that specific statement "for the Name"? In Hebrew thought a name had far more meaning than the handle by which a person was known. A name was a prophetic utterance of character. When a child was named it was sometimes a reflection of the circumstances of the child's birth but often prophetic of what that child would become. "'You are to give Him the name Jesus,'" Luke 1:31b (NIV), "Saviour".
The name of Jesus is much more than His handle; it is the character of the Person whose name we carry. We have been given the name of Jesus to wear as the distinguishing garment of our identity. When we were baptised, we were immersed into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as representatives of the triune God; and those who wear His name are to be witnesses to the world of who He is and how He behaves towards all people.
The apostles were delighted to be dishonoured for the honour of wearing His name because He was willing to suffer disgrace in the eyes of man to rescue them, and us, from the clutches of the enemy. How different from the attitude of many so-called believers today. We whine and even walk away when God does not answer our "prayers" when we issue our instructions.
What did these incorrigible apostles do about the beating and the warning that went with it not to propagate the name of Jesus ever again? They went right back and carried on from where they were interrupted! No puny Sanhedrin had the power to stop them from obeying their divine Master.
Such was the focus of these men on the mandate they had been given to make Jesus known that nothing could veer them off course -- not even the physical and verbal abuse of the highest court in their land. Their guiding star was, "We must obey God rather than men." These were only unexpected interruptions which they brushed off like flicking off an irritating fly so that they could get right on with the task at hand.
If we claim to wear the name of Jesus we, too, must learn to flick off every irritating interruption to our calling to be His witnesses. It may not mean beatings and imprisonment, but it does mean not being fazed by the circumstances of living in a fallen world. Instead of whining, "Why me, Lord?" Let's get on with the business of being His witnesses by walking in the unshakeable confidence of who He is and serving a broken world with all our hearts.
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