Back on the road, they set out for Jerusalem. Jesus had a head start on them, and they were following, puzzled and not just a little afraid. He took the Twelve and began again to go over what to expect next. “Listen to me carefully. We’re on our way up to Jerusalem. When we get there, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the religious leaders and scholars. They will sentence him to death. Then they will hand him over to the Romans, who will mock and spit on him, give him the third degree, and kill him. After three days he will rise alive.”
I’m not known for my bravery. Come to think of it; I’m not known for much – but definitely not bravery. When it comes to ‘fight or flight’ I have to confess that flight wins out every time. And it’s not just physical conflict that scares me. I am scared of all sorts of confrontations – I find it much easier to back down and just concur, even if the subject is something I definitely don’t agree with, just to avoid confrontation or risk hurting someone’s feelings.
Of course, if there’s a crowd of us I’m a little bit braver. I’ll happily join in with any number of football chants ridiculing the opposition players, opposition fans and the referee if I’m just one voice in 45,000. It’s easier to hide in a crowd, isn’t it? Maybe I should join a choir…
And that is why I am so in awe of those people who DO stand up for what they believe in at the risk of ridicule, verbal and even physical violence. At the time of writing ex-footballer Gary Lineker is getting some serious stick on social media (and certain sections of the press) for daring to voice an opinion about refugees. Those who campaigned for justice after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 stood up for what they believed despite nearly 30 years of abuse and ridicule. Rosa Parks stood up (or, rather, sat down) for what she believed in when it came to segregated transport in the United States. Martin Luther took a stand against what he saw as the failures of the Catholic Church. And there are many other examples throughout history. People who didn’t run away when faced with conflict because they believed that what they were doing was right.
And then we have today’s reading. Jesus leaves his disciples in no doubt about what is going to happen. The mocking, the spitting, the flogging and, ultimately, the death. Or, rather, not ultimately – ultimately a resurrection. And it is this knowledge, this hope, that gives braver people than I the strength to stand up for what they believe in in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. I stand in awe of people like these, I cheer them on from the sidelines. But, coward that I am, I rarely stand in solidarity with them. I wish I could be more like Jesus.
when we see injustice,
when we become aware of situations that can be changed for the better if only action was taken,
give us just one iota of the strength of your son,
Let us, your Church,
be at the front of the fight for right –
and give us the courage not to back down
when the odds seem to be overwhelmingly against us. Amen.
Leo Roberts is the Children and Young People’s Development Officer for the North Western Synod.