Jump Start # 3370
Galatians 6:17 “From no one let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”
It is hard for us to truly grasp what the apostle Paul endured. His brief accounts are sobering, humbling, and shocking to us. Beaten with rods. Stoned. Whipped. Hungry. Homeless. And, as our passage today states, bearing the marks of Jesus on his body.
There was an expression about Indy car race drivers decades ago called ’the Indy shuffle.’ It came about as drivers crashed into the wall and often had their feet and ankles shattered. Massive surgeries followed and those guys would return to racing. But to see them walk, they “shuffled.” They bore the marks of high speed accidents.
Older football players also carry the marks of years of practice and playing. Their knees hurt. Their backs hurt. They also have their own shuffle.
But here, it’s the apostle. I don’t see him hopping up to the pulpit to preach. I see a shuffle as he walked. His back likely showed the scars of whippings. The rods easily could have broken bones that in these days would require surgery but it wasn’t known back then. So the bones healed, maybe crooked. His face would have looked tired, weathered and old. The enemies of Christ used Paul as a punching bag. Stones would have cut his skin and left scars.
Some lessons for us:
First, those that hate Christ have no limits to how they manifest their outrage on those that are His disciples. The abuse that Paul endured was because of the message He preached and the life he tried to imitate. Christianity is peaceful. Kindness, compassion and gentleness are the hallmarks and the qualities of Christianity. The enemies are not that way. They will lie. They will misquote. They will injure. They will go to any length to make Christians suffer. It’s that way today. Instead of rods, it’s insults. Instead of rocks, they throw verbal hatred. Instead of whips, they use their tongues to ridicule, mock and hurt the heart of disciples.
And, for many, that’s all it takes to hide their faith, blend in with the world and pretend to not be a Christian. They want to get along with people who do not want to get along. They want to make peace with those who are looking for war.
Second, the outward beatings did not stop Paul from spreading the message about the risen Christ. There were times when he was afraid. There were times when he was discouraged. There were times when he needed help to continue on. It’s like the injured football player who is helped off the field by a couple of other players. His arms wrapped around their shoulders so they can support him. Emotionally and likely even physically, that’s our Paul. Wounded, but still in the game. Hurting, but not stopping.
How was this possible? He understood that our Lord endured so much for and He did it for our sake. No one has carried the sins of the world. No one can treat us with such wickedness as Jesus endured. Paul also did not focus upon himself but the glorious mission he was on. Our culture is stuck on itself. How I feel. What I want. What I think. Everything is seen through the lens of self. Why should I? What do I get out of this? Me. Me. Me. Paul didn’t think that way. Paul understood that the salvation of so many meant that they had to hear the message. He was that messenger.
Third, Paul doesn’t seem to draw attention to the marks of Christ on his body. We have this passage, but we don’t read about Paul lifting up his shirt to show his scared back to the audience. He doesn’t tell us the details of how many cuts, broken bones, lingering headaches that he endures. Paul was not the poster child of what a persecuted life looks like. He doesn’t write a book about fighting the wild beasts at Ephesus. The bullet points of suffering in 2 Corinthians are used as a defense of his apostleship, not as bragging that he was better than others. Paul didn’t wear the victim badge.
The message of Paul wasn’t about himself. The attention was upon him. He wanted everyone to see the Christ of the Cross. Paul didn’t like talking about himself. He’d rather talk about Jesus. It wasn’t his story that was important. It was the story of Jesus that everyone needed to know.
Through the years I have collected books about the prodigal son. It’s my favorite parable. But in so many of those books, the author has to detail their own journey to the far country and their own trials and troubles as a prodigal. One can’t improve upon the Lord’s story. Don’t give me your biography. Focus upon the Lord’s story.
A tired, shuffling, scared, worn-out apostle. That’s likely the way Paul was. It sure makes us think about what little we have to deal with today.