When I was a boy I remember my mom telling me something like this: "Gene, it takes more courage to back down from a fight that it does to actually fight." I never believed her. It didn't make any sense to me. None of my friends thought that way. People who were tough, brave and strong where those who could stand up to everyone else. We valued outward strength more than the self control it would take to walk away from a challenge to fight.
I think that many of us still view power this way. Perhaps like me you got caught up a few years ago watching Keifer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in the television drama 24. Of course, we all knew that no human being could withstand or accomplish all that he did in that show, but something about the sort of strength he portrayed appealed to us. It certainly did to me. Once I got hooked on it, about halfway through the series, I rarely missed an episode.
This fascination with power makes me wonder if some of us secretly wonder if there is something weak about Jesus. In the story of his arrest and trial, on the surface he seems passive. Add to that the image that much art over the centuries seems to emphasize Jesus gentleness over other attributes. (Perhaps, that only reveals my ignorance of art) and that could result in an image of Jesus that is, well, wimpy. However, as I’ve looked deeply into these scenes of the arrest and the trial, though having read, studied, and taught them many times, the more a sense of awe wells up inside of me and my study notes on these texts end up peppered with exclamations of worship and adoration. Because in reality, in these scenes where it appears that Jesus is passive, he is demonstrating the glory and the power of God in a stunning way!
Getting this wrong is a serious issue because if we don't believe and know in our gut that Jesus is strong and that he is able to do all that he has promised, we will not be moved to worship him, not really, and we are certainly not likely to trust him, and we are not likely to be moved to follow him. I can’t wait to join with you on Sunday as we worship Jesus together for his indescribable gift!
You can see the scripture, outline, and discussion questions for Sunday’s message at Bethany Place below.
Demonstrate the strength of Jesus through . . .
1. Perseverance in the face of determined opposition
Mark 14:43–52 (ESV)
43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled.
51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
Demonstrate the strength of Jesus by
2. Refusing to retaliate in the face of lies and brutality
Mark 14:53–65 (ESV)
53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.
Questions for individuals, groups, or families
To what or whom are you so committed that no discouragement or opposition could persuade you to abandon it or them?
Do you think that our society views Jesus as strong or weak? How do common depictions of Jesus with long hair and soft features contribute to an image of weakness? Do you think Jesus' lack of retaliation throughout the experience of his trial leads anyone to believe he is weak?
List movies that you can think of where the primary theme of the movie is revenge or retaliation.
Many of our parents told us it takes more courage not to retaliate than to do so? Do you believe that? Why or why not?
Examine what Jesus does say and does not say in the midst of his trial? What provokes him to speak? About what does he remain silent?
How much of your talking is for the purpose of defending yourself or explaining yourself?
Why do you think that the four gospels spend so much time telling the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion relative to the other incidents of Jesus' life?