Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Suffering for My Name


Stripped to his waist and forced on his stomach by the authorities, Paul shut his eyes. A pair of sandals shuffled in the dirt behind him. He heard the crowd quiet down, heard the breath taken, the whistle of the leather, and—snap!—felt its bite. The guard found his rhythm and the beating began in earnest. The flogging was characteristically Jewish: thirty-nine applications of a triple lash. Thirty-nine, not forty. Mosaic law permitted up to forty, but better not risk overstepping the bounds.

By the thirtieth blow, Paul’s tongue lagged in the sand. Before his career’s end, he would taste the dust outside of five such synagogues. He would also know scar-opening sessions under the rod of Rome, barely elude assassination, cling to ship’s wreckage in the open sea for a day and a night, mark years in chains, and be left for dead after stoning-by-mob (2 Corinthians 11:24-27).

He could avoid it all. A few disclaimers would do, even just a discreet silence at critical moments. But Paul never could hold things in. His enemies came to hate his endless spewing of quotations, not to mention his formidable intellect. They couldn’t fool Paul. He knew their deeper objection. What his enemies truly loathed was the unseen figure behind every debate and discussion he entered—the one, as the Baptizer put it, whose sandals he wasn’t good enough to untie. It was the memory of this unseen man that kept Paul going. Of course, what always set everyone off was that thing above “three days in the tomb and then…” Hadn’t the Greeks guffawed over that one! A corpse hopping off his stone slab? A stiff traipsing about town? Hah! But what entertained the Greeks incenses the Jews. How dare a mere mortal claim the same rank with the Almighty! Especially a bastard rabbi from the backwoods who polluted the Sabbath with his so-called healings and infested teachings! He was double a fool for having gotten himself crucified!

But Paul had seen this Rabbi. After he burial. Less than a decade afterwards. This Rabbi had appeared to Paul and his caravan on the road to Damascus—enveloped in eye-sizzling glory, speaking from the third heaven, and majestic beyond words. Unquestionably risen from a stone-cold tomb. This incident alone convinced Paul that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the long prophesied Son of God—come to meet death for the sins of the world in order to grasp life again and lavish it on others. Hours later this same risen Christ had appeared in softer tones to a Christian man in Damascus, telling him to find and baptize Paul. The message ended with an announcement: “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16).

The proclamation proved true. Paul was destined to spread the fame of Jesus more than the other apostles combined. Yet he suffered intensely in the process.


–Jonie Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes, When God Weeps, p. 24-25


  1. Very nice selection, Evan! I might need to read that book. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. That was amazingly well written. Wow! Thanks for sharing that.

  3. I highly recommend the book. It only gets better and better.

    Chapters 3 and 4 are excellent.