“The Way” the Disciples of Jesus Responded to Suffering: Acts 5:33-42

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Last post from the book of Acts we explored the difference in attitude and countenance between Jesus’ disciples and the Sadducees in charge of the Jewish religion at that time. We also looked at how one of those parties seemed to succumb to a spirit of rage and how there might be people today succumbing to that same spirit. If you’re interested you can read more about that here: A Contrast in Countenance (and the spirit of rage): Acts 5:30-33.

In today’s post we’ll look at the way the disciples suffered at the hands of those same Sadducees.

Acts 5:33-42

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

Acts 5:33-42

So the Sadducees were enraged and wanted to kill Peter and the apostles who were teaching people about Jesus in the temple. But then a Pharisee named Gamaliel rose to speak. This man was probably the most influential Pharisee of his time. He was known for his great teaching and his piety. He was also an aristocrat. He advised the council to be cautious about how they dealt with Jesus’ apostles. In those days at that time many viewed continuance as divine help. So, Gamaliel reasoned, if God was with the apostles, the Sadducees wouldn’t be able to stop them, and, he said, the Sadducees might even find themselves opposing God. (Keener)

So what did they do? They decided not to kill them after all. Instead they called in the apostles and physically beat them. They also charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore. Then they let them go.

How the Disciples of Jesus Didn’t Respond to Suffering

Then after the disciples were beaten, each went to his own home, hopped on social media, and raged against the injustice they suffered. After doing a little research and pointing out every possible failing and fault of the religious leaders that had assaulted them, they organized a campaign to take down the Sanhedrin. And they marched in the streets. And they burned down the temple in Jerusalem.

Is that what they did? No! Of course not.

So if that’s not what they did then what did they do?

“The Way” the Disciples of Jesus Responded to Suffering

They responded in two simple ways.

They rejoiced. And they kept sharing Jesus in the temple and from house to house — every day.

They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus. They weren’t surprised at their fiery trial. They didn’t feel as though something strange or unusual was happening to them. (1 Peter 4:12)

They recognized that suffering is a part of the Christian experience. Even an integral part of the Christian experience. (Philippians 1:29, Colossians 1:24)

Suffering is built into the Christian experience, and not just the Christian experience but suffering is a part of everyone’s life. No one escapes suffering. There are those who have suffered and those who will suffer. But nobody lives without suffering. Nobody.

So if you’re a Jesus follower, the question to ask yourself isn’t if you will suffer. The only question to ask yourself is how you will suffer.

I have a friend who’s a former Army Ranger and he told me about what happened on his wedding anniversary one time. His beautiful wife set up this scavenger hunt of sorts that included a variety of painful and difficult tasks. One of these tasks stands out in particular. She left a clue in their doughboy pool and he had to swim to the bottom to retrieve it. The thing was: it was in the middle of winter! The water was ice cold.

I remember asking asking him, “How could you do that? How could you swim in that ice cold water and suffer through all the other painful obstacles your wife left for you.

He smiled at me and said, “Why wouldn’t I? I love her.”

When you and I ask ourselves how we’re going to suffer, what it comes down to is how much we love Jesus. If we love Jesus more than we love ourselves, we’ll suffer well. If we love Jesus enough, like the disciples we’ll communicate Jesus everyday. Maybe we’ll accomplish that with teaching and preaching but more likely we’ll communicate Jesus by walking the way he walked, living the way he lived, by keeping a loving countenance: even when we’re suffering.

I’m reminded of how the earliest Christians weren’t called Christians by most people in society. They were called “Followers of the Way.” They walked in the way Jesus walked. John said it very clearly and directly. Speaking of Jesus he said, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:6)

Jesus loved God well every day. And he loved the people around him well every day even while he endured attempts on his life and mocking and derision and envy. And in the book of Acts we see his disciples living and loving the same way.

They were Followers of the Way.

I want to be a Follower of the Way too. I hope you’ll join me.

“Father, please have mercy on me and on the person reading this at this moment. We’re sinners. We want to say and do what pleases You and what blesses You when we suffer, but too often we fall short. Change us Father. As much as possible transform us into the likeness of Jesus who suffered exceedingly well in Your sight when he was mocked and unjustly charged and beaten and hung on the cross. He wasn’t bitter or angry at his persecutors. He asked You to forgive them. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and inspire us to respond to suffering the way the apostles did in our text, by rejoicing. Help us to not be surprised when we suffer. Help us not to feel as though something strange or unusual is happening to us. Deliver us from despair and deliver us from depression. Please, help us to suffer well in Your sight.

“In Jesus’ name.”

(You might also like We Must Obey God Rather Than Men: Acts 5:17-29 (The Jesus Follower and Civil Disobedience) and A Contrast in Countenance (and the spirit of rage): Acts 5:30-33.)


Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament,
InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 337

Image of Jesus on the cross via ArteZoe — Creative Commons

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Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)

Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.

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  • How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
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  • How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.

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2 Comments on ““The Way” the Disciples of Jesus Responded to Suffering: Acts 5:33-42

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