PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Acts 5:33–42 (NIV)
When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
His speech persuaded them. 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 gavel was falling. The sentence of death was about to be pronounced. We were about to get our first dozen martyrs of the first church.
But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin . . .
One man—a minority report (and a Pharisee no less)—persuaded a super-majority, the rest of the court of perhaps twenty-three men, to reverse course.
For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.
With enemies like this, who needs friends? Right?
That this one man managed to persuade a raging court with such a short speech was itself a sign that the apostles’ mission was from God and not of human origin. If ever there was a chance for the apostles to fail it was here. The verdict was against all odds.
Gamaliel + the Ascended Lord Jesus Christ = Win.
Gamaliel, . . . could he have been a covert agent of the kingdom? Maybe even a double agent? We will hear about him once more before this story ends. It turns out he taught and trained the primary author of the New Testament.
They called the apostles in and had them flogged.
You know what that means. It’s when they take a stick or a whip or a cat of nine tails—leather strands laced with shards of bone, pieces of metal, and other things that tear skin and gouge flesh—and beat you bloody. It brings this Holy Spirit–inspired word from the apostle Paul to mind:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection of the dead. (Phil. 3:10–11 NIV 1984)
This is that. These apostles were sharing in the fellowship of his sufferings. And there’s that word, fellowship. You remember it. It comes from the Greek word koinonia. Jesus was literally and physically with them through the Holy Spirit as they received the brutal blows of the flogging. In fact, when we read the testimonies of the martyrs we find these are the scenarios where Jesus is most tangibly present. This is “the fellowship” in all its fullness.
And when it was over did they go home licking their wounds, complaining and commiserating about this job they didn’t apply for? Check this out:
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
Get this picture in your mind, of the fledgling band of apostolic brothers . . . freshly flogged . . . beaten bloody . . . walking down the road . . . heads lifted high . . . smiles on their faces . . . slapping first-century high-fives . . . BECAUSE THEY HAD BEEN COUNTED WORTHY OF SUFFERING DISGRACE FOR THE NAME! WOW!
That’s our team! That’s our church! That’s our fellowship! And every time we suffer for doing good, directly or indirectly, he swells with pride and the Spirit surges with love and power.
And remember the Sanhedrin’s last words to them?
Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
Look how that went:
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 PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION
Lord Jesus, I am your witness.
I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness.
I receive your love and release my selfishness.
I receive the fellowship of sharing in your sufferings and release my fearful self-protection.
Come Holy Spirit transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.
How do you think of the “fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”? What might that mean for us who may not ever be flogged? How might we learn to reinterpret the sufferings we endure? How might we share in the fellowship? How might we open ourselves to such a sacred honor?
Today we sing the fitting hymn, “I am Thine O Lord.” It is hymn 591 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt