They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.’
Mark paints a picture of Jesus walking steadily towards Jerusalem with his disciples trailing behind. We are told that they were both amazed and afraid.
Presumably they were amazed at Jesus’ instance on going to Jerusalem, despite warning them for a third time that he would suffer and die at the hands of the authorities based there. It’s no wonder that the disciples are afraid both for Jesus and for themselves.
Fear is a recurring theme in the bible. ‘Do not be afraid’ is possibly the most frequent commandment. More positively folk are often encouraged to believe, have faith, or trust.
It was Jesus’ absolute trust in his father that had made him ‘set his face towards Jerusalem’. However, that would not be enough to take away from the terrible consequences of following that path.
Faith can give us the ‘sure and certain hope’ that we are doing the right thing. It can give us strength to carry on, even in the most difficult of circumstances. It can even help us to have an outwardly calm approach, because we know what we are doing and why.
Nevertheless, we can still be afraid of the consequences. Like Jesus we can sweat drops of blood, and suffer greatly as a result of following our chosen path, even, in extremis, crying, ‘My God why have you forsaken me?’
So let’s cling to the sure and certain hope and to the leading that God has given us, and let’s not be afraid of fear itself. We are human and we know that our faith will not remove the pain and difficulties ahead, nevertheless our faith tells us that with God’s help we will be able to deal with them.
Living and loving God. We believe, help our unbelief. Open our eyes to the paths that you would have us walk. Hold us in our fear, and strengthen our trust, that we might set our faces towards your kingdom, regardless of the difficulties on the road ahead. Thanks be to God
The Rev’d Jacky Embrey, Bolton & Salford Missional Partnership