(Season 2, Episode 6) Thinking of the Passion of the Christ and talking about courage.
Courage in the Face of Danger
As we’re getting closer to Easter, I’ve been thinking more about the passion of the Christ, about the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Similarly, Spurgeon’s “Morning by Morning” devotional is exploring the same topic and the thought for today was focused on Matthew 26:56—“Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.”
That got me thinking about courage. All these disciples had been trained in the Torah as young boys. They probably knew by heart one of my favorite scriptures: Joshua 1:9—“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; Do not be discouraged. For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
They had walked with Christ and seen the miracles—the blind could see, the deaf could hear, the lame could walk, the hungry had been fed, and broken hearts had been healed. If anyone should have been able to pass the test, wouldn’t you think it would have been Jesus’ disciples?
And they tried! They really did. They even promised Jesus they would never deny him. In Matthew 26:35, Peter insists: “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And the scripture says that “all the other disciples vowed the same.”
Judas was the first to fold. I don’t know what caused him to betray Christ—theologians much grander than I have debated that for hundreds and thousands of years. But I would imagine Judas was maybe a bit disillusioned. He probably thought Jesus was planning to overthrow their Roman overlords and when it became apparent to him that wasn’t the direction Jesus was headed, greed got the best of him. After all, he was in it all for the glory and he may have been determined to benefit personally from Jesus’ ministry, one way or another. Even with Passover approaching, Judas could only think of himself, and he sold Jesus to the Pharisees for 30 pieces of silver. When Judas brought the Temple Guard to the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus, he had already given up on Jesus.
The other disciples, however, they were still trying their best. When the soldiers grabbed Jesus to arrest him, one of Jesus’ disciples pulled out a sword to fight back. He struck out at the high priest’s servant and actually cut off his ear. But this is where things get kind of squirrelly in the disciples’ minds. Instead of defending himself, to their surprise, Jesus rebukes his disciples by saying, “No more of this,” and he told the attacker to put his sword away. Luke tells us that Jesus then healed the servant’s ear. Matthew 26:52-56 reads:
“Then Jesus told him, ‘Put your sword back in its place because all who take up the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and he will provide me here and now with more than twelve legions of angels? How, then, would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?’ At that time Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs, as if I were a criminal, to capture me? Every day I used to sit, teaching in the temple, and you didn’t arrest me. But all this has happened so that the writings of the prophets would be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and ran away.”
I actually feel bad for the disciples—because I think I understand them. They had their lives mapped out. They had plans. Jesus was supposed to overthrow the Romans and they would rule over the Jewish people at his side in a new government that wholly served God. That’s good, right? The disciples had been captured heart and soul by Jesus’ promise of bringing a new Kingdom to Earth. But, unfortunately, they didn’t realize what that meant. They didn’t realize that Jesus wasn’t planning a physical revolution but a spiritual one. When he refused to fight back and told them to do the same, I can only imagine the looks of confusion on their faces. And then they did what we all do when we’re humiliated and put in our place—they slunk away into the darkness. I can imagine myself doing the same. As Spurgeon says: “It is one thing to promise, and quite another to perform.” The disciples came to a place where they had to face the dark night of their soul. They had to come to grips with their humanity and ultimately realize that sometimes our best-laid plans are never good enough.
Thankfully, their stories don’t end there. These timid, scared, confused men became the giant heroes who founded the Christian church. How could that be?
Spurgeon says, “Divine grace can make the coward brave. The smoking flax can flame forth like fire on the altar when the Lord wills it. These very apostles who were timid as hares, grew to be bold as lions after the Spirit had descended on them, and even so the Holy Spirit can make my recreant spirit brave to confess my Lord and witness for his truth.” Such good words.
Before the ends of their lives, the remaining 11 disciples got to fully experience the forgiveness, mercy, and power of the living God. Then, filled with the Holy Spirit, they grew to realize what Christ meant to do all along. And then filled with purpose, these men became the champions that continued the spiritual revolution that Jesus came to put into motion.
So where are you today? Are you still toiling away to bring your own personal dreams to reality? Or maybe you’ve seen the writing on the wall and realize that your plans are not good enough. I pray that today we all find the wisdom we need to turn our plans over to God. Let Him infuse you with His Holy Spirit and remake your plans into something even more beautiful and grand than you could ever imagine. And then, like Joshua, we can wield a godly sword—for us, the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God—and encourage all those around us with the words the angel used to encourage Joshua so many thousands of years ago:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; Do not be discouraged. For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
And that, my friends, that’s how you have courage in the face of danger.