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Courage

Character Traits of Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Intro

We celebrate Easter in three weeks. So today we dive into our Easters series called, “Character Traits of Jesus.” Over the next three weeks we are going to look at three different character traits of Jesus that he displayed on his way to the cross.
We are going to approach this series a little differently. Today we are going to talk about some moments Jesus had with his disciples leading up to his journey to Jerusalem. Next week we will look at his triumphal entry. On Easter Sunday, we will look at his resurrection.
As we begin today, I want to ask you a question.
What is the most courageous thing you have done?
It doesn’t have to be a person-saving situation. It can be something you did that overcame a fear. It could be a step you know you needed to take. It could also be something crazy that just took courage to accomplish.
I went to college in Kentucky which is a beautiful state. In Grayson, KY you had a man-made lake called Grayson Lake. Because it is Kentucky, the Appalachian Mountains went through the eastern part of the state. As a result of a man-made lake in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, there were cliffs that people could cliff jump off of. In college, on a number of occasions, a group of us would venture out and cliff jump. The cliffs ranged from 20 feet all the way up to 90 feet.
Maybe the most popular spot had a couple different size cliffs that you could jump off. There was one section of a cliff that had a pine tree sticking sideways out of the top of the cliff. The pine tree was only 6 feet tall but the challenge was jumping over the pine tree on a cliff that sat about 45 feet. The only the way to jump over it was to get a running start. The only problem was you only had about 20 feet to get enough speed and there was only one spot that your jump foot could land before the tree. It is a crazy thrill as you run up to the edge of the cliff to jump beyond a 6 foot tree into water 45 feet below. Not everyone does it because you cannot second guess as you run up. You have to be all in.
Now that might not be courageous in the heroic sense of the word but it still takes courage.

Prophecy of Jesus death in the OT

When we look at Jesus in the Gospels, we see a man of courage. In fact, there are going to be a couple passages of Scripture that we look at today that shows the courage of Jesus. In fact, a couple weeks ago we read which states that:
John 5:39 NIV
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,
As you look back on the Old Testament, you will find prophecies concerning Jesus. There are prophecies about his birth, childhood, adult life and death. Because we can believe what Jesus says, we can assume that he knew what those prophecies talked about. In fact, I’m certain he know what he was he doing when he left heaven.
If the Scriptures testify about Jesus, what prophecies are there in the Old Testament that gives us some clues into the courage of Jesus.

Jesus betrayed by a friend

Psalm 41:9 NIV
Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.
In , Judas betrays Jesus

Jesus betrayed for 30 pieces of silver

Zechariah 11:12–13 NIV
I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.
In Judas receives 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus and then returned it only for it to be used to buy a potter’s field.

Jesus spat upon and beaten

Isaiah 50:6 NIV
I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.
In , Jesus was spit on and beaten.

Jesus would remain silent during the false accusations

Isaiah 53:7 NIV
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
In , we see Jesus remain silent at his trial in the face of the accusations.

Jesus would die for our sins

Isaiah 53:4–6 NIV
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He died in .

foreshadows the crucifixion

talks about being surrounded by those who scorn and despise Jesus (Matthew 27:39; Mark 15:29)
talks about a man being mocked (; ; ; )
talks about rescue and people taunt Jesus back asking God to rescue him ()
talks about being numbered with transgressors (; ; ; )
talks about hands and feet being pierced (, , )
talks about being surrounded by people who stared and gloated (; )
talks about people gambling for pieces of clothing ()

Jesus will be numbered with transgressors

Isaiah 53:12 NIV
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
talks about two men hung next to Jesus

Jesus would be buried in a rich man’s tomb

Isaiah
Isaiah 53:9 NIV
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
and chronicles Jesus burial in Joseph’s tomb. He was a prominent man on the Council
So all of these Scriptures point to a brutal and humiliating death for us. Because Jesus was able to quote Scripture in during his temptation and then throughout his many different encounters with Pharisees, I think it is safe to assume that Jesus knew what these verses said.
So how does Jesus’ courage shine through?

Defining Courage

Before we look at our verses in Matthew today, let’s learn what courage is first. The word courage means according to the “Dictionary of Bible Themes”, “The quality of being able to act bravely under difficulties or in the face of opposition; being prepared to do dangerous or risky things in obedience to God, in the belief that he will strengthen, guard and protect his people.”

“Act bravely under difficulties or in the face of opposition”

The key word in this part of the definition is the little word “act”. It means you do something. It’s not standing by and doing nothing. You move to accomplish something or do something that in the face of difficulties or opposition.
It also says that courage is “being prepared.” We can use the word “premeditate” here. It isn’t a knee-jerk reaction. You have purposed in your heart and mind that you will act and do whatever is asked even if they are dangerous or risky.
The last phrase of this definition gives people in Christ hope in the face of difficulties and opposition. Why? Because of a belief in God and that his promises are going to be kept towards us.
Psychology Today had an article that listed several ways that we can define courage. Here are just a few of them:

Feeling fear yet choosing to act

Have you ever felt fear before? General symptoms might be sweaty palms, twisting or knotting stomach, inability to sit still, many different pictures running through your head of the possible outcomes, etc. Those kind of emotions and more pop up during a moment of fear. Courage then is still acting in the appropriate manner in spite of the fear that is starting to take over.

Persevering in the face of adversity

Have you ever started something and it started smoothly but somewhere along the way things go hard? Usually I have faced adversity in something when I began something that was of a benefit to me. You’re attempting to do something good but some roadblocks got in your way. Do you quit because it became hard or do you persevere?

Standing up for what is right

A phrase you might hear from time to time is social justice. The International Justice Mission is a great organization that fights against slavery, sex trafficking and sexual violence just to name a few. It’s putting yourself in the gap between someone who is being oppressed and their oppressor. It takes courage to stand up for what’s right.

Letting go of the familiar

We might say something like “stepping out of our comfort zone.” You’re trying something new or trying to tackle a new challenge. We often will praise people who doing things beyond their comfort zone and in the process accomplish something pretty cool. It’s courageous.

Facing suffering with dignity or faith

As a side note, I know this article was written by “Psychology Today” but doesn’t these things sound very familiar to things written in the Bible? We are called to handle suffering with grace because it is the testing and developing of our faith (). This one is some snide comments by someone. This is what we call persecution. It’s happening and there’s nothing you can do about it other than face it with dignity, honor and faith.
In light of the verses we read in the Old Testament and in light of these statements from the article, how does Jesus display courage?

The Courage of Jesus

Let’s move in to the New Testament and see how Jesus displayed courage. Our first set of verses come in . In Matthew, Mark and Luke we are told on three different occasions that Jesus predicted his death to his disciples. Even thought three Gospels record this occasion, we are going to be reading primarily out of Matthew. Let’s read (also found in ; Luke 9:22).
Wh
Matthew 16:21–22 NIV
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
We start out with a phrase that gives us a clear indication of Jesus’ intentions. “From that time on,” lets us know that Jesus intent is to head to Jerusalem. We are on the proverbial home stretch. It’s not just the beginning phrase, it’s the words used to describe what will happen to Jesus.
Must. Suffer. Killed.
He doesn’t have an option. It will hurt. He will die.
How many of us will still have courage to head that direction if we knew that was our end result? GK Chesterton said, “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live, taking the form of a readiness to die.”
Jesus knew he was going to die. This wasn’t a new revelation. I’m sure conversation between God and Jesus before he left heaven included these details. But imagine the disciples shock when they hear Jesus say these things. Peter’s response is typical Peter, speaking before thinking.
Because of Peter’s response, Jesus goes on to tell the disciples the amount of commitment and courage it will require to follow Jesus. List to .
Matthew 16:24–27 NIV
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
All of a sudden Chesterton’s quote takes on a whole new meaning. To follow Jesus means having a willingness and a readiness to die. And yet Jesus models courage for us by himself going to the cross and dying. He isn’t asking to do something he hasn’t already done. He modeled it for us.
Last week I talked about how there are nuances we try to find in Christianity today. In so doing, we need to be careful that we don’t try and nuance our way out of the verses and commands that are crystal clear. Jesus uses the phrase “must deny themselves.”
We don’t like that word “deny.” It means that I might not get to do everything I want. It means that I might not get everything I want. It means I might not get to say everything that crosses my mind. I means I might not get to go everywhere I want to go. It means that you will be giving things up.
When we talk about the word courageous in all of the contexts that we have so far today, is it not courageous of someone who denies themselves for the sake of the Gospel? Is it not courageous of someone who denies themselves for the glory of God? Again, Jesus isn’t telling us something he isn’t going to do himself. When he says to take up your cross, he does just that literally. He carried the crossbeam of the cross. He carried the piece of wood he would die one. He showed us courage.
He goes on to state that we find our life by losing it. We’ve talked about how the Bible at times sounds a little illogical in its approach until we live it and experience it. Some of the best times of my life have been when I have put others above me. It’s times when I spend time with my family instead of some personal interests. It’s times when I’ve given up time to help someone in a difficult circumstance. Ultimately it has come when I have surrendered my will to God’s and followed his leading. Nothing I did in those moments were for me. It all was for God’s glory and in obedience to him.
There is something refreshing about serving God in a way that removes you from the equation. Even for me who struggles with pride, when in God’s act of mercy has my full and undivided attention, those moments when I’m not worried about myself, what others will think or the end result, the most amazing times of my life happen.
Then Jesus asks the most important question, what is more important to you, this life or eternity? Many will live for this life. Many will live for eternity. Both require different outlooks. But only one requires true courage. Only one gives up things in this life for eternity. The other gives up eternity for this life. Some might call that courage. I call that foolishness. Shortsidedness. Pride.
This is the first instance that Jesus says he must go to Jerusalem to die. The second comes in (also found in ; ; ).
Matthew 17:22–23 NIV
When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.
At least this time the disciples aren’t trying to stop Jesus. This time they’re filled with grief. They are distressed and filled with sorrow. Their heart hurts. Here is something we need to know about Jesus’ courage: He continued on even when others were disheartened. People were going to miss him. He was their leader. He was a mentor and became a friend. Sometimes courage means people will grieve a little.
Matthew 10:37–39 NIV
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
Courage in following God means that people close to us might be left behind. It’s not that we don’t love them or care for them. But following God means we put him first and that becomes a courageous act. It isn’t easy. It’s part of the whole “deny yourself” mentality.
Are you willing to leave your family to pursue where God is taking you? Of course Jesus also promises that the Holy Spirit will come for us as God’s representative here on earth. But it still requires stepping forward and moving on.
Finally in , Jesus tells his disciples the last time that he will be going to Jerusalem.
Matthew 20:17–19 NIV
Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
There is no argument or grief from the disciples. Soon enough they will be entering Jerusalem on a donkey (we’ll talk about that next week) and seem to enjoy a wonderful passover week until that Thursday night when they venture to the garden. Everything for three days changes for the disciples. Their leader is taken and killed. They fear for their lives because of their association with Jesus. It wasn’t until some women come three days later proclaiming he’s alive that they begin to fully believe everything that Jesus had been teaching them.

Conclusion

The courage displayed in the disciples after is one we still talk about today. They harken back to Jesus words of deny yourself and taking up your cross. Ten of the remaining eleven disciples dies because of their faith.
Peter was crucified in Rome upside down.
Andrew after traveling to modern day Russia, Turkey and Greece was crucified.
Thomas spent much time east of Syria and India where tradition has him being killed by spear.
Philip traveled to North Africa and then later to Asia Minor where he was put to death for converting a Roman proconsul’s wife.
Matthew traveled to Persia (modern day Iraq and Iran) and Ethiopia where reports say he was stabbed to death.
Bartholomew traveled a lot from India to Armenia, Ethiopia to Southern Arabia. He was put to death.
James ministered in Syria where he was stoned and clubbed to death.
Simon the Zealot ministered in modern day Iraq and Iran where he was killed for not worshipping false Gods.
Matthias (replaced Judas) traveled to Syria with Andrew but was burned alive.
John was the only one to die a natural death.
Paul as tradition goes was beheaded in Rome under Nero.
That’s just the beginning of Christianity. We have another 1900 years between then and now of people who have given their life (literally) for the sake of the Gospel. As we approach Easter Sunday and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, let us not forget the courage Jesus displayed on his way to the cross and take courage ourselves to stand up and follow Jesus wherever he may lead.
Billy Graham said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” I hope your spine is stiffened as you try and emulate the courage Jesus displayed. Next week we will look at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and see the humility he displayed int he most difficult week of his life.
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