In every time and place there are virtues and vices which predominate, while others quietly sit in the background. This is true of all cultures, including Christian cultures. Human limitation make it impossible to balance everything! Our own era has its favorite virtues. We are confronted with a side of Jesus that is not much emphasized in our church. Threatened by Herod, who had beheaded John the Baptist, Jesus makes a stunning reply. I think that the tone and message content made it clear that Jesus did not view the Galilean puppet prince a viable threat. Jesus demonstrates, in tangible form, the virtue of courage. Jesus is brave. He doesn't whine about injustice. He articulates His intent to stay on mission. Casting out demons and healing the sick--all the while traveling to His cross and death. Courage is in short supply these days. It is rarely spoken of and more rarely honed.
In the ancient days, the Israelites were exhorted to courage as they entered the Promised Land. Taking the land was a military conquest and, therefore, an exercise in stout hearts and gallant actions. Paul was especially keen on courage. Most often, the negative expression, "do not fear" is found throughout the Scriptures. The dozens and dozens of verses are a strong reminder that faith, hope, and love are not soft and delicate. We can forget that the way of discipleship is a tough road traversed by tough people. Christianity has a wonderful soft side, but the hard virtues have there place as well. If we are honest, too often our Christian life is hampered by wimping out in the face of any challenge or threat. We shrink before conflict, equating being loving with being nice and non-threatening.
"Herod intends to kill you,"they said.
"O my no, tell him I'm sorry and did not mean to offend... what can I do to make things right?" was not Jesus' reply. In a sense this is another temptation-test, just like the three we pondered last week. I told you then that it was Jesus' mission focus that allowed Him to discern the best response. I shared that the greatest threat to our life in Christ is not the bad things we do, but the good things that get in the way of mission. Jesus is focused. He is headed to Jerusalem. He is manly and strong in the best sense of the words.
Yet His courageous heart is also gentle and loving. He has a mother's desire to defend her children. He longs to gather the inhabitants of the holy city under His wings. Jesus the courageous mother hen. Jesus the Hero. And, of course, herein lies the paradox. Nothing is more brave than mother's love. No human commitment compares. The goal of Jesus is to provide for His kids--the very ones who reject Him. How is it that the city set aside for the worship of God is the only place for the King of Kings to die? Why do we live in a world where the holy city is the seat of Hell's activity? Why can't humanity make its holy sites faithful?
It takes courage because it is so painful to face. Jesus will die in the shadow of the Temple, not by the hand of Herod that fox. Jesus will carry His cross until He is nailed to it to die in agony. He will do this with a warriors heart and a mother heart. He will be brave as He looks at the Romans who torture Him to death and the Jews who betray Him and watch Him die...
Courage is not spoken of much in the church, but in days ahead you will hear it more. In days ahead, courage will be a needed virtue for those who would belong to Jesus. A growing storm is on the horizon. The cost of loving Jesus is getting greater. We will hear that the enemy intends to do us harm. Our response, from a heart encouraged by God's Spirit, needs to be the same as His.
"Threats? No time to be afraid, I am busy healing the sick and casting out demons. When the time is fulfilled I embrace my destiny in the power of Jesus Name!
Courage, with momma hen heart...