As the flogging continued the Spirit took me back to Jesus’ prayer in the garden that last night: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
As you know, while Jesus was praying John, James and I had fallen asleep in the garden. So when he returned to us he said, looking directly and only at me, “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
That last night with Jesus my spirit thought I was willing, but my flesh was still so weak. But not now. Now it was not my spirit that was willing, but the Spirit inside me, welling up with a force of power so strong the blinding pain was all but blocked out.
Then, and now, I want to know my Master and Savior. I want to go deeper. I want everything he wants for me. Everything. What he wants for me, and for you, is to be conformed to his likeness, to abandon our Selfs and live the life to the full only he can provide. In our journey there will be times when this is going to involve pain. The pain is not his desire; it is our growth he desires, our holiness.
So I was not about to ask the Father to take away this beating or this pain. I was asking only not to waste it. “Take me deeper Father. I will be your witness, and I will be a faithful one. With your Holy Spirit empowering me I will take this pain and capture it, subdue it, and use it to go deeper.”
After the thirty-nine lashes, the guards untied us and pushed us to the side. I was about to lose consciousness, so I am groggy on what was happening with the other apostles. But the sound of the whips tearing apart flesh will never leave me.
The next thing I knew we were dragged and pushed back into the room with Caiaphas. Annas apparently didn’t have the stomach for the gruesome, bloody sight we presented. Caiaphas ordered us not to speak in the name of Jesus, and he then let us go.
We left rejoicing because we had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for Jesus. Do you think we were out of our minds to celebrate our suffering? We were not. If you had experienced the love of the Master, the years of his deep abiding friendship, and then you had abandoned him like we did, you, too, would rejoice in suffering for him.
Jesus didn’t demand we suffer as some sort of penance for our failures. We knew we were totally and completely forgiven. We knew there was no penalty to pay for abandoning him. But it just felt so good to suffer for him. In some small way we had been able to repay him.
After that, day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, we never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. We were fueled by our suffering. We were propelled by the Spirit. We would never give up. We knew now we could endure anything with the power of the Holy Spirit resonating through our bodies.