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Jesus’ Amazing Courage

Christian, tell me why do you say that Jesus was brave? That's not a description I hear very often.

Because…Jesus was in complete control the entire time, but still went knowingly into the agony of the cross — for me and for you!

Among all His many wonderful qualities, we don’t often think about the amount of sheer courage that Jesus displayed.

It’s one thing for someone to risk their life. It’s more to risk their life on behalf of another. Then it’s even more to face almost certain death for another, such as when a soldier charges into enemy fire — even when outnumbered — in order to rescue a fellow soldier.

What about charging into enemy fire in order to rescue an enemy, though? Jesus didn’t simply move toward almost certain death in a moment of crisis and adrenaline, either. He planned — then methodically carried out that plan — for absolutely certain, deliberate death by torture. He did so on behalf of those who were doing the torture…and on behalf of those whose sin caused it to be necessary, including me…and you.

As the plan unfolded and the time was drawing near, He “stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, KJV). Then He deliberately instigated the final confrontation.

He Planned

Acts 2:23 says that Jesus was crucified “by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God“. The prayer in Acts 4:27-28 reminds God that Jesus was turned over to His enemies “to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur“. In 1 Corinthians 2:6-9, Paul tells the church at Corinth that God’s wisdom is a mystery “predestined before the ages to our glory” and that if the rulers “had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory“. Romans 16:25-27 speaks of salvation through Jesus as the “mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested“. Colossians 2:1-3 speaks of “true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself…”. (Remember, in any of these verses that speak of God’s plan and foreknowledge, His Son participated in that plan.)

Jesus taught that the ancient scriptures had always said that the Messiah would have to suffer. As He reminded the two men on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection:

“O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

Luke 24:25-27

He Implemented His Plan

Let’s look at the progression of events as recorded in the Gospel of John. I started with Jesus’ last supper with His disciples on the night of His arrest, and backed up to look for the beginning of His confrontations with the Pharisees. I ended up back at chapter 5, with the healing at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15). The Pharisees were unhappy at Jesus doing the “work” of healing on the Sabbath. The result was:

For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

John 5:16-18

The rest of chapter 5 tells of Jesus doubling down, expanding on the testimony that He was indeed from God, more than a normal man. Then, in chapter 6, Jesus feeds the five thousand, walks on water, and describes Himself as the Bread of Life (John 6:48-58). In chapter 7, He goes to the Jewish festival at Jerusalem, the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles), teaching publicly even though it was common knowledge that the leaders were after Him (John 7:1, 10-13, 25-26, 31-32). On the last day of that festival, Jesus caused a big scene when He claimed to be the source of Living Water (John 7:37-38). In chapter 8, Jesus went on to declare Himself to be the Light of the World (John 8:12). Then He kept on going, saying things like:

You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.

“If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

John 8:19, 42, 56-59

Rather brave things to say to powerful leaders, right? And with predictable results: They started to stone Him!

Jesus wasn’t finished yet. In chapter 9, He healed a man who had been born blind. Then He told the leaders that they were the blind ones! (John 9:39-41) Today, we see the story of the Good Shepherd in chapter 10 as a beautiful picture of God’s love and care — as we should. But, in that context, Jesus was telling the leaders — who were also expected to be caretaking “shepherds” of the people — that they were bad shepherds! They would have immediately recognized His allusion to Ezekiel 34:1-16, where God takes the flock away from bad shepherds and tends to it Himself. He ends by saying “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) Guess what happened next? You’re right:

The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

John 10:31-33

At that point, Jesus left the region, crossing over the Jordan River from Judea into Galilee. But when He received word that His friend Lazarus had died, He headed back into Judea to see to him. About that dangerous destination, disciple Thomas said to the others, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16 1) Jesus told Lazarus’ sister Martha “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) Then He proceeded to demonstrate that by raising Lazarus from the dead!

And the reaction from the Jewish leaders? “So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.” (John 11:53) “Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him.” (John 11:57) They even wanted to kill Lazarus, also, as if that would stop the news about Jesus from spreading! (John 12:10-11)

After these eight chapters of tweaking the religious leaders while evading their wrath — and while at the same time proving Himself to those who were willing to see — Jesus was ready. In John 12:20-50, He said that the time had come for Him to die. He also said that, in doing so, He would draw men to Himself and bring them to His Light. So, Jesus entered Jerusalem to great acclaim on what we now call Palm Sunday (John 12:12-16). This was a deliberate enactment of Zechariah’s prophecy:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

With the stage set, chapter 13 starts in on the Last Supper and all that would follow.

He Knew, and Dreaded, What Was to Come

Jesus was consciously aware of what was to come, for His entire ministry — probably for His entire life. At one point, He started teaching that to His disciples:

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.

Matthew 16:21, See also Mark 8:31 and Luke 9:22

He was troubled by what He was going to face. Hundreds of years earlier, God had inspired David to describe it in Psalm 22:1-18, and Isaiah in Isaiah 53:1-6. Jesus knew that people would try to humiliate Him, that He would suffer from thirst, from dislocated bones, that He would be “poured out like water“. He knew that He would be “crushed“, “despised“, “smitten“, “afflicted“, “pierced“, “scourged“, “oppressed“, “cut off from the land of the living“, “poured out to death“. He also knew how the human body that He had created works. He knew every last detail of what would happen, biologically, during crucifixion.

But at the same time He knew that it was His reason for being on earth:

Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.

John 12:27

Still, He struggled again with that choice in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46). And still, He stayed on His planned path.

He Followed Through

He had scolded Peter when he first tried to stop Him from talking about His death (Matthew 16:22-23, Mark 8:32-33). He rebuked again when Peter tried to fight for Him (John 18:10-11, Matthew 26:51-52, Mark 14:47, Luke 22:50-51). He didn’t fight back when arrested (Matthew 26:53-54, John 18:36). Rather, He prayed forgiveness for His torturers (Luke 23:34).

At the height of His agony, He cried out to His Father “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34). Finally, though, the plan was completed (John 19:30).

Bottom Line

It’s true that He is God. But it’s also true that He is a human man, who suffered exactly as much as anyone else would on that cross. In addition, He suffered the emotional and spiritual burden of taking on the world’s sin…my sin, our sin. For the first, last, and only time in all of eternity, He was rejected by His Father.

As of the date this article is published, it is about a month until this year’s Palm Sunday. Try an experiment: For each day of this coming month, spend a minute thinking about Jesus knowingly moving toward the cross. Remember that each step was planned in advance; each provocation of the rulers was orchestrated; the timing was exact to the day from what had been prophesied hundreds of years earlier 2.

Imagine the coming ordeal. Picture in your mind Jesus being beaten, whipped, crucified, and rejected by His Father. Marvel that He could picture that, vividly, and still kept going toward it.

If that is difficult for you to stomach, use it as reason to praise Him for His amazing courage…and to, yet again, thank Him for His incredible salvation!

Footnotes and Scripture References

  1. BTW, we tend to remember only “Doubting Thomas”. Here, let’s give some props to “Loyal Thomas”!
  2. See Daniel 9:24-26, with some explanation of the timing here.

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