Nelson Mandela: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it”. Courage is one of our values at NBCS. Today, I want to engage with a story about the courage of Jesus, that for me personally, is perhaps the most significant story in the Bible. .
We will all face times in our lives when we’re scared, anxious or intimidated. It’s human to experience fear. Answering a question in class when you fear it may not be right. Standing up for those who are being teased or ridiculed. Talking to a new person. Trying again once you’ve failed. Asking a question that others may laugh at. Trying something new. Standing up for your beliefs. Asking someone out on a date. If we just give into fear, we never grow as a human or change the world around us. But courageous people do these things. And courage doesn’t mean you’re fearless. As many of us have heard before in that famous Nelson Mandela quote: courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. Courage is one of our values at NBCS. Today, I want to engage with a story about the courage of Jesus, that for me personally, is perhaps the most significant story in the Bible.
One of the things I’ve always liked about Jesus is that he seems to move through the world so wisely. He’s strong and tender, works hard but rests well. He never seems to be panicked or rushed. He seems to be in control and knows where he is headed. That is, until this scene today. It’s a Thursday night, and Jesus know he is going to be crucified the next day. And it’s here we see Jesus do something that we’ve never seen before – he’s scared. In a garden outside the city walls of Jerusalem, Jesus kneels, put his face to the ground and prays – Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me. His sweat is like drops of blood. Now we all sweat from exercise, but we rarely sweat from stress. And His sweat is like blood, which means it was thick. Jesus is clearly anxious and scared, probably having a panic attack. But why? Is it the fear of the nails the next day? The whipping? Pain? Death? Well, we’ve already been told the answer through his prayer when he asks His father in heaven: if you are willing, please take this CUP from me. What?! Is Jesus scared of a cup of tea? What does this cup refer to? Well, a ‘cup’ in this context was a metaphor for God’s fury and anger. And Jesus is panicking about having it all poured out on Him the next day.
Stepping out of the story for bit, we need to remember that God gets angry sometimes. As humans, We all get angry about assault, murder, selfishness, greed, gossip, dishonesty, arrogance, and injustice. We are furious at the dehumanisation of others in the form of human trafficking, bullying, racism, and sexism. We don’t like it when people get away with things like this and go unpunished. And God doesn’t like this either. The problems is: if God is to punish all these people, then he has to deal with all people, because in our honest moments, we all contribute to these things in some way. And that’s not good news for us (not only because no one likes to be punished), but because we miss out on a relationship with a good creator God.
Cue Jesus as we return to our story. Jesus has the option to take all of God’s fury and anger, not just for one person, but for all people.
Jesus is petrified.
Three times he prays, face to the ground – Father if you are willing – take this CUP from. Now – every great hero has their moment – their point of no return. Jesus could walk away. He could give into fear. But he displays true courage. He collects himself, and says – yet not as I will, but as you will.
Now, we need to step back from the story again, as perhaps you’re thinking: ‘why bother Jesus? What’s your motivation? Just keep preaching, you’ve got a good message!’ Luckily, we’re told about his motivation in another book of the Bible, where Hebrews 12:2 says: ‘for the joy set before him, he endured the cross.’ And what is this joy?
A relationship with us.
Just like one of our favourite things in life is being in healthy, peaceful relationships with others, it’s God’s favourite thing too.
So what do we do with this? At the very least, this is a story of courage for us all. On a practical level, may you be encouraged to do the good things that need to be done in and out of school, even when you’re anxious or afraid. May you enjoy the growth and results that come from that.
At a deeper level, perhaps Jesus is someone you can turn to when you’re anxious or afraid, because you know he understands it.
At an even deeper level, this story of courage shows us how much we mean to God. In general life, we only pay a cost if the benefit is higher. When it comes to the cost Jesus paid, the benefit of getting us back must have been high! Great sacrifice equals great love. May you know how valued and loved you are by God. Jesus has taken God’s anger against sin on Himself so we didn’t have to. Jesus has made a way for us to be in a relationship with God. If that’s for you, all we need to do is come and humble ourselves.