Annas’ order to flog us sent a shiver down my spine. I knew the others were reeling, too. Annas ordered our flogging like it was a spanking for a child, but if you know anything about floggings, they are unspeakably painful. Many have died from floggings. It is a horrible punishment. The pain is unbearable, and the public humiliation renders you an outcast, as alienated as a leper in the eyes of the people.
I had seen the Master flogged. His back was ripped to shreds. His sides and chest were gashed to the bone. Blood was everywhere as bits of his skin flew off his back. For a moment I was paralyzed with fear. Everything in me said, “Run! Save yourself!” I know my brothers were experiencing the same horror.
Jesus had told us we would one day have to take up our crosses and follow him, and here we were, getting ready to do just that with this flogging. But he had also told us he would never leave us, and that he would always be with us, even until the end of the age.
I remembered his assurance that the Spirit would always be with us, too, and would give us the words to say in these kind of situations. So with Jesus’ promises filling my heart with protection and power, I lost all sense of my fear, and stepped forward and said to Annas, “Sir, let these men go. I am the leader. I will take this punishment on myself.”
Annas looked at me with a puzzled smirk. He was trying to process what he had just heard. Just a moment before he had felt such great power. Now, with my words, his power had slipped. He had been in control just a moment ago, or so he thought. But now a new power was at play, and he knew it.
Then I heard Thomas clear his throat and say, “No sir. I will take this punishment for my brothers. Let it be me.”
There was a thickening of the air. A heaviness. It was the Spirit. We all felt him, even Annas and Caiaphas and the guards. Only we knew exactly what … who … it was. Suddenly James and John both stepped forward and said, “Sir, we are the Sons of Thunder. We will take this punishment on ourselves. Let these other men go. We are the chief instigators.”
And with that all twelve of us were clamoring to be the ones to take the lashing. Philip, Simon, Matthew, Thaddeus, James and Nathanael were all exclaiming, “No, it is I. I am the leader. Let it be me!”
Annas was stunned. Now all his power had been usurped. His body language was closing up, shrinking before our eyes. He was defeated. For all his temple and earthly power, and his weapons of the world, he knew he was facing a divine power. A power able to demolish any and all strongholds – physical or spiritual.
Any stronghold fear may have had on us was gone. Demolished! But I want you to understand our motive. We weren’t trying to shame Annas and Caiaphas. We were not seeking to be heroes. No. We simply wanted to take the beating ourselves. Each of us. We wanted to protect our brothers.
And for me, I wanted, yes, I wanted to suffer for Jesus. He had suffered for me and I had betrayed him in his hour of need. I would not betray him now. I would not let him down now. I wanted to take this beating. I was proud to suffer for my Master Jesus.
Caiaphas, seeing the situation was getting out of hand, stepped in and said, “Quiet! You all want to suffer? Well so be it. You will.” His face was twisted with hatred. The Spirit was stirring in the room, yet Satan was strong in Caiaphas. Any reasonable approach Gamaliel had offered was gone. Hatred and fear had won the day.
So the guards took us out, and two by two they tided us down, ripped the shirts off our backs and prepared to whip us. I will spare you the details of this beating, but I will share with you my thoughts as I was on my knees, awaiting the first blow.
Next Week: Spiritual Armor