Acts 5:40-42: Shame.

40] And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  41] So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.  42] And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.  (NKJV)

Though there is a lot in these verses, we want to focus on the middle verse in this post.

For a while, I didn’t really know how to approach these verses. The Bible does have a lot to say on the subject of “shame”, how the wicked don’t have any or that they revel in things they ought to be ashamed of, and many other things as well.

In my reading the other day, I came across Mark 8:38, where our Lord says, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels,” also Luke 9:26.

This got me to thinking.  This led me to Hebrews 12:1, 2,Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great of cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

“despising the shame.”

In our superficial and sentimental Christianity, we have such a sanitized and inadequate view of the death of Christ on the cross.  Our pictures and icons show pretty much a bloodless Christ, modestly covered.  The real thing was far different.  Without meaning to minimize the horror of that event, our Lord was a bloody mess.  Scripture tells us His face was almost unrecognizable, Isaiah 52:14.  He had been whipped with a Roman flagellum, a thing made of leather cords in which were embedded bits of bone.  Contemporary accounts of such things tell us that the ribs became visible and that many died from this alone, before they ever got to a cross.  If they did make it that far, there was no modest covering.

No, my friends, it is not without meaning that Hebrews tells us that the Lord Jesus endured the Cross.  We cannot even begin to imagine what He suffered for those for whom He died.  And this doesn’t count what He suffered on account of sin as the wrath of God was poured out on Him.  We read of no cry for His physical suffering, only for His abandonment by the Father:  “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”  – “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?”  There was no profanity in that cry, as it is too often when we use God’s name.  That was the cry of One who had never ever before experienced separation from the Father. 

That cry should echo and reverbrate through our beings to remind us of the agony the Savior was willing to endure to rescue people like us from our sins.

But Scripture also tells us He “despised” the shame of hanging there open to view.  I don’t even really know how to write about that.  The shame of public exposure, of being condemned as a criminal, of being executed – though He died of His own will, not that of the Romans.

But there is something else of which Scripture tells us that the Lord Jesus will be ashamed.  We quoted the verse earlier in this post:  “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels,” emphasis added.

I don’t want to minimize this in any way, but perhaps the word carries an idea of “embarrassment.”  We think of the Return of Christ as a joyous time, a time of being reunited with our loved ones, of meeting other brothers and sisters in Christ, of being done with this wicked world and our own lives, which are too often marred by failure and heartache, of seeing our Lord.  And those things will be true, far more than we can realize.  We will be able to worship and serve Him as He deserves – without the hindrances of our fallen natures.

But there will also be a time of judgment,  Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10.

In 2 Corinthians 5:11, Paul used the word “phobos,” which the NKJV translates as “terror,” in describing how we should view standing before the judgment seat of Christ.  We get our word “phobia” from that word.  I don’t think that Paul had our definition in mind when he wrote, but perhaps it ought to make us stop and think a little about the idea of standing before the holy and righteous Creator of the universe to give an account of the years He gives us on this planet.

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