Lent 2023 Day 23: Mon 20 Mar

Lent 2023 Day 23: Mon 20 Mar

Acts 5.40-42

They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

The apostles now all bear permanent scars from the lashes they’d endured. Each one’s back now bears evidence of the cruelty of those who denied the truth of Jesus Christ. They were criminals in the eyes of the authorities and had been shamed through flogging. Those scars were unjustly borne – the religious authorities had overstepped the mark.

But it made no difference to the apostles. The strange thing about bearing insult or injury for Christ Jesus is that it frequently makes the bearer bolder. What must it have been like for the authorities to see the men they’d flogged rejoicing in their suffering? Usually, those who’d been flogged would have crawled home, if they could get that far. But these men were praising the same God the authorities worshipped.

Religious authorities have done some terrible things over years – witch-hunting, ordeals, inquisition and turning blind eyes to abuse. The one foundation of the Church is Christ Jesus, not Peter or any other person, successor or not. Each of us is accountable to God for what we do, from the poorest to the richest, from the powerless to the powerful.

The apostles did not stop meeting in the temple courts. They were there every day. Now they are teaching as well as evangelising. I wonder what the content of their teaching was. They’d have had plenty of material from their time with Jesus. Did they start to put all they knew into some order so that they could plan courses? That might be something that came later. I suspect that they used what Jesus taught them about the Kingdom of God. There was as yet no organised church beyond the apostles.

A new form of evangelism has appeared! The apostles not only held their sessions in the Temple courts, but they also went door-knocking. No-one was going to miss out on hearing the message of Christ Jesus!

Under what circumstances would you condone the barring of a person from your church fellowship?

If you were dragooned into knocking on doors, what would you say to the person at the door?

Would you prefer not to knock on doors? What is it that deters you?

Father God, I have to admit that suffering for the sake of the Gospel of your Son Jesus is a spur to greater witness. Teach me how to take up my cross and follow him. Amen.

Must Jesus bear the cross alone?

Take up my cross