What Manner of Man
(A weekly program for knowing and following Jesus Christ)
By Richard M. Eyre
WEEK 11: COURAGE, FEARLESSNESS
Emerson said: “A hero is one who, taking both his reputation and his life in his hands, will, with perfect urbanity, dare the gibbet and the mob, by the absolute truth of his speech.”
The world and its history are filled with courage, with men and women who gave their lives for a cause. All shine as stars, but only as stars compared to the Master’s sun, for he did more. He preached openly the purest truth to a closed and tradition-bound people. At the Last Supper he had only twelve with him. He saw these twelve waver. Then, because it had to be so, even his Father’s spirit left him completely alone.
Yet he walked unwaveringly toward the cross, refusing the compromise, or the equivocation, or even the simple silence that might have saved him.
The Lord’s courage was not of the grandstand variety. He did not enjoy or promote conflict. But when people forced conflict, the Lord sided unequivocally with truth; and, often, truth flew in the teeth of Pharisee tradition. Plucking corn on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1), unclean foods (Mark 7:14-19), and ceremonial fasting (Matthew 6:16-18) all provided opportunities for lessons by the Master.
He was like the noon (the Mosaic Law was the dawn). Pharisee eyes, accustomed to twilight, shut themselves against a stronger light. The Lord characterized many Jewish traditions as being against God (Matthew 15:6). He said that a humble publican was justified in God’s sight more than the proud Pharisee who fasted twice a week (Luke 18:9-14). He taught that man’s relationship with God depends not on ceremonial things but on spiritual things.
To the honest in heart, Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law, but to those steeped in politics and tradition, Christ turned everything upside down. He boldly began his phrases with “It has been said by them of old time…but I say unto you…” Imagine the hate this aroused in the hearts of men so tradition-bound that their last scene in history’s greatest drama involved yelling “Crucify him” from the perimeters of Pilate’s court (from the perimeters because to step onto his court would make them “unclean”).
The Master was such a total example of courage that after he was gone the quality of boldness in his disciples quickly reminded people of him—at least, that may be the meaning of Acts 4:13. His oft-repeated admonition sums up the quality in tow words: “Fear not.”
Perhaps it was the Lord’s knowledge of all things that gave him perfect courage, for indeed it has been said that men fear only that which they don’t understand. Was it his knowledge? Yes, but there was on thing more, and he told us exactly what that was: “Perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).