There is much more that could be said about the courage of Christ, and the way in which it led him right to those iconic words, ‘It is finished’. To simply see him walk with God, however, in his knowledge of danger and in his trembling before it, should give us great grounds to worship him, and great grace to follow him in our own path, laced as it might be with dangers, toils, and snares.
Like the best of portraits, the gospel accounts give us a view of Christ and his cross which is multi-faceted, narratively rich, and emotionally engaging. As one Easter follows another year on year, Christians find themselves reading the same texts, teaching the same truths, and yet their message and meaning come with disarming beauty and pathos. One angle which has arrested my attention and affections this year is the courage of Christ Jesus as he contemplated and endured his work on the cross. This post seeks to trace this perspective, and give some grounds for worshipping the Saviour, and walking in his steps.
Courage that sees the danger
Unless we work in acute or emergency services, most of the dangers we face in life stand in stark contrast to our day to day existence, and often arrive unawares. Courage seldom arises from contemplation, often from crisis. One of the great graces of God is his limitation of our knowledge and foresight, sparing us from the anxiety we might feel should we know that life changing events are around the corner. For the Saviour, however, there was a detailed and clear-eyed knowledge of what lay ahead of him at Calvary, and what it would require of him. We might think of many instances of this in the Gospel accounts, but John displays a particular concern to make it plain. Think, for instance, of this statement,
Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward. John 18:4
It is impossible for us to unpack the courage which lies behind this statement. These may be but a few steps for Jesus to take, but in them he straddles all of redemptive history, walks fully into every biblical prophecy, and embraces, with clear eyes, his Messianic destiny. Jesus steps forward in the Garden of Gethsemane, into the midst of a mob set upon his destruction, his cheek moist with the kiss of his treacherous kinsman, and in so doing enters the rapids of a river which will dash him against the rocks of his Father’s wrath. Knowing this, he comes forward. Knowing the gut wrenching injustice of the trial that awaits him, he steps forward. Knowing the ferocity of the scourge which will plough his back, he steps forward. Knowing the mockery and the naked shame in front of a whole battalion of soldiers, he steps forward. Knowing the searing isolation of the road to Calvary, the denial of his friends, the unrelenting torture of physical pain and psychological abuse, he steps forward. Knowing the ear splitting silence of the heavens, the soul crushing weight of atonement, he steps forward.
Our great temptation here might be to seek to emulate this courage, but our real calling is to bow before it. Here is Christ the courageous, the Saviour with his face set like a flint, with bravery rising in his breast, stepping into unnameable horror in obedience to his Father’s will, in harmony with the covenant of redemption, in compassion on those whom he would purchase through his death. Behold him there, coming forward, willingly, freely, lovingly, matchlessly, and worship him.