“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 5:41-42)
When Jesus died, His disciples were terrified. Everyone knew that they had been with Jesus; would they be the next ones to die? In fear, they locked themselves in a house. But three days after Jesus’ death, something else scared them. Jesus Himself appeared to His disciples, very much alive. Several women had already told the disciples that they had seen Jesus alive, but most of them didn’t believe it. And yet here Jesus was, greeting them and calmly asking for something to eat. They certainly believed after that!
Jesus remained on earth for another forty days, continuing to teach His disciples about the kingdom of God. At the end of the forty days, He returned to Heaven, promising to send a Helper in His place. The disciples and over a hundred other followers of Jesus gathered in Jerusalem, waiting for this Helper—the Holy Spirit. It came as promised, and the disciples went out into the streets, boldly proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ, God’s promised Savior, and that though He had died He was now alive again.
The people who had hated Jesus were once again furious. They did all they could to stop the disciples from preaching, imprisoning them, beating them, and threatening them. But their efforts continually failed. Instead of being intimidated, the disciples taught more and more. They actually rejoiced that people hated them because of their obedience. They remembered Jesus’ words that, even as He had been persecuted, they too would be hated (John 15:20). It was an honor for them to be treated in the same way as their Lord.
It seems strange to us that the disciples would be glad about persecution. But in reality, it’s strange that we aren’t. In Luke 6:26, Jesus said, “‘Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.’” The majority of people in the world don’t like the truth of the Gospel. They’ll fight against it in one way or another. You may not be killed for your faith, but you will probably be ridiculed. If you’ve ever been persecuted for your faith, congratulations; you’re in excellent company. Jesus Himself was mocked and killed. Persecution hurts; there’s no denying that. But the disciples counted it as joy. We should do the same.