We all know the lion in The Wizard of Oz--the supposed king of the beasts lacked a little something to enable him to do well in his position--courage. It was the one thing that he desired from the wizard, and Dorothy and Company agreed to take him with them.
The idea of courage came to me recently as I read though the gospel of John, most specifically, in chapter 18. Let's back up a little bit though. Previously, in chapter 13, Jesus had identified Judas as the one who would betray him1 and Judas left the meal. Throughout the next few chapters, the author of this gospel relates many of Jesus' sermons. We hear about the vine and branches, the persecution to come, glorification of God, and other ideas. After Jesus speaks of these things, he and the disciples leave and go to a garden across the Kidron valley, and that is where we see the first instance of courage. We are told that "Jesus often met there with his disciples" (verse 2). Often met there. It was a place he often went. Do you understand where I am going with this? Jesus, knowing that Judas was going to betray him, did not choose to hide out in an obscure location, but went to a place where Judas would know to find him!
The next thing Jesus does is that he comes forward and asks the soldiers and police who they are looking for. They tell him they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth and he says "I am he" (verse 6). The text then tells us that "they stepped back and fell to the ground" (verse 6). Can you just see the confusion on their faces? The person they have come to arrest is the one asking them who they want and admitting who he is? It's not exactly a scenario we'd see on the television show Cops, is it?
It's hard to imagine, isn't it? Knowing that he had caused enough of an uproar to be arrested and that it would lead to his death, he basically says "hey, here I am". I'm not sure I have that kind of courage in me. What must he have thought at that time? Did he wonder if it was all really worth it? Did he wonder if his disciples would ever really understand the things he had tried to teach him?
While I can't identify with the courage he had, I can identify with the possibility of these thoughts. How often do we wonder if we have had an impact on people when we hope we did? We may never know. If we are teachers, we wonder if our students understand what we teach, or if they just don't care.
And, in the face of those possible questions, he still had the courage to admit who he was, knowing his death would be imminent. How many of us possess this kind of courage? The strength that Jesus had to face this had to have come from somewhere, and that somewhere was from the Father. Jesus believed he was doing God's will; that he was being totally obedient to God. And that is what we also ought to strive for, and in doing so, can have the same kind of strength and courage.
1 It appears from my reading of the text that only Simon Peter and the disciple Jesus loved were privy to hearing this conversation.