1-3. What danger comes upon Jesus, and how does he react?
A MOB is coming after Jesus. Armed with swords and clubs and with soldiers among them, the men form a large crowd. As if guided by a single malevolent will, they move through the darkened streets of Jerusalem and across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives. The moon is full, yet they carry torches and lamps. Do they light their way because clouds block the moonlight? Or do they expect their quarry to be hiding in the shadows? One thing is certain: Anyone who expects Jesus to cower knows little of the man.
2 Jesus is aware of the danger that approaches. Nonetheless, he stands and waits. The mob nears, led by Judas, once a trusted friend. Judas brazenly betrays Jesus, singling out his former master with a hypocritical greeting and a kiss. Still, Jesus keeps his composure. Then he steps out before the mob. “Whom are you looking for?” he asks. “Jesus the Nazarene,” they reply.
3 Most people would quail in terror before such an armed mob. Perhaps that is what this crowd expects of the man before them. But Jesus does not cower, does not flee, does not blurt out some lie. Instead, he simply says: “I am he.” His manner is so calm, so brave, that the men are astounded. They stagger backward and fall down!—John 18:1-6; Matthew 26:45-50; Mark 14:41-46.
4-6. (a) God’s Son is likened to what, and why? (b) What are three ways in which Jesus displayed courage?
4 How could Jesus face such extreme danger with complete composure and self-restraint? The answer, in a word, is courage. Few qualities are so admired or so needed in a leader, and no man has ever equaled, much less excelled, Jesus in this regard. In the preceding chapter, we learned how humble and meek Jesus was. He was rightly called “the Lamb.” (John 1:29) Jesus’ courage, however, gives rise to a very different description. The Bible says of God’s Son: “Look! The Lion that is of the tribe of Judah.”—Revelation 5:5.
5 The lion is often linked to courage. Have you ever stood face-to-face with an adult male lion? If you have, most likely you were safely separated from the beast, perhaps by the fence of his enclosure at a zoo. Still, such an experience can be daunting. As you look into the face of this huge and powerful creature and he gazes steadily back at you, you can hardly imagine the lion ever fleeing in fear from anything. The Bible speaks of “the lion, which is the mightiest among the beasts and which does not turn back from before anyone.” (Proverbs 30:30) Such is the courage of Christ.
6 Let us discuss how Jesus displayed lionlike courage in three ways: in standing up for the truth, in upholding justice, and in facing opposition. We will see, too, that all of us—whether naturally brave or not—can imitate Jesus in showing courage.
He Courageously Stood Up for the Truth
7-9. (a) What happened when Jesus was 12 years old, and what strikes you as intimidating about that situation? (b) How did Jesus display courage in dealing with the teachers in the temple?
7 In a world ruled by Satan, “the father of the lie,” it often takes courage to stand up for the truth. (John 8:44; 14:30) Jesus did not wait until adulthood before taking such a stand. When 12 years old, Jesus was separated from his parents after the Passover festival in Jerusalem. For three days, Mary and Joseph searched frantically for the boy. They finally found him in the temple. And what was he doing there? “Sitting in the midst of the teachers and listening to them and questioning them.” (Luke 2:41-50) Consider the setting for that discussion.
8 Historians say that some of the foremost religious leaders would customarily remain at the temple after festivals and teach at one of the spacious porches there. People would sit at their feet to listen and to ask questions. These teachers were learned men. They were well versed in the Mosaic Law and also in the endlessly complex man-made laws and traditions that had multiplied over the years. How might you have felt sitting in their midst? Intimidated? That would be only natural. And what if you were just 12 years old? Many young ones are shy. (Jeremiah 1:6) Some try desperately to avoid attracting the attention of their teachers in school; these youths fear being called on, fear being singled out, fear the possibility of being embarrassed or ridiculed.
9 Yet, here we find Jesus, sitting in the midst of those learned men, fearlessly asking them probing questions. And he did still more. The account tells us: “All those listening to him were in constant amazement at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:47) The Bible does not tell us what he said on that occasion, but we can be confident that he did not parrot the falsehoods that were so favored among those religious teachers. (1 Peter 2:22) No, he upheld the truth of God’s Word, and his listeners were surely amazed that a 12-year-old boy could express himself with such insight and courage.
10. How do young Christians today imitate Jesus’ courage?
10 Today, countless young Christians are following in Jesus’ footsteps. Granted, they are not perfect, as young Jesus was. Like him, though, they do not wait to reach adulthood before standing up for the truth. At school or in the communities where they live, they tactfully ask people questions, listen, and respectfully share with them the truth. (1 Peter 3:15) As a group, these young ones have helped classmates, teachers, and neighbors to become followers of Christ. How their courage must please Jehovah! His Word likens such youths to dewdrops—refreshing, pleasing, and numerous.—Psalm 110:3.
11, 12. As an adult, how did Jesus show courage in defending the truth?
11 In manhood, Jesus showed courage again and again in defending the truth. In fact, his ministry opened with a confrontation that many would call terrifying. Not as the mighty archangel, but as a mere man of flesh and blood, Jesus had to face Satan, the most powerful and dangerous of all of Jehovah’s enemies. Jesus rejected Satan and refuted his misapplication of inspired Scripture. Jesus ended the encounter by commanding boldly: “Go away, Satan!”—Matthew 4:2-11.
12 Jesus thus set the pattern for his ministry, bravely defending his Father’s Word against efforts to twist it or misuse it. Then, as now, such religious dishonesty was all too common. Jesus told religious leaders of his day: “You make the word of God invalid by your tradition which you handed down.” (Mark 7:13) Those men were greatly revered by the people in general, but Jesus fearlessly denounced them as blind guides and hypocrites.a (Matthew 23:13, 16) How can we imitate this aspect of Jesus’ courageous example?
13. What do we need to remember in imitating Jesus, yet what privilege do we have?
13 We remember, of course, that we have neither Jesus’ ability to read hearts nor his authority to judge. However, we can imitate his bold defense of the truth. For example, by exposing religious falsehoods—the lies so often taught about God, his purposes, and his Word—we shed light in a world bedarkened by Satan’s propaganda. (Matthew 5:14; Revelation 12:9, 10) We help to free people from enslavement to false teachings that fill their hearts with morbid fear and that poison their relationship with God. What a privilege we have to see the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise: “The truth will set you free”!—John 8:32.
He Courageously Upheld Justice
14, 15. (a) What is one way in which Jesus made clear “what justice is”? (b) In speaking to a Samaritan woman, what prejudices did Jesus ignore?
14 Bible prophecy foretold that the Messiah would clarify to the nations “what justice is.” (Matthew 12:18; Isaiah 42:1) Jesus certainly began to do so while here on earth. With great courage, he proved ever just and impartial in his dealings with people. For example, he refused to adopt the unscriptural prejudices and bigotry that were so prevalent in the world around him.
15 When Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar, his disciples were surprised. Why? In those days, the Jews in general detested the Samaritans; this disdain reached back many, many years. (Ezra 4:4) Furthermore, some rabbis held a disparaging view of women. The rabbinic rules, later put into writing, discouraged a man from conversing with a woman; they even suggested that women were unworthy of being taught God’s Law. Samaritan women in particular were viewed as unclean. Jesus ignored such unjust prejudices and openly taught the Samaritan woman (who was living an immoral life), even revealing to her his identity as the Messiah.—John 4:5-27.
16. Why do Christians need the courage to be different when it comes to prejudice?
16 Have you ever found yourself in company with those who harbor ugly prejudices? Perhaps they joke contemptuously about people of another race or nation, speak disparagingly about members of the opposite sex, or look down on those of a different economic or social status. Followers of Christ do not sympathize with such hateful views, and they work hard to eradicate any trace of prejudice in their own hearts. (Acts 10:34) Each of us needs to cultivate the courage to be just in this regard.
17. What action did Jesus take in the temple, and why?
17 Courage also led Jesus to fight for the cleanness of God’s people and for the arrangement for pure worship. Early in his ministry, he entered the temple area in Jerusalem and was appalled to see merchants and money changers operating their businesses there. Filled with righteous indignation, Jesus threw those greedy men and their merchandise out of there. (John 2:13-17) He took similar action later, near the close of his ministry. (Mark 11:15-18) These deeds surely made him some powerful enemies, yet he did not hesitate. Why? From childhood, he called that temple his Father’s house—and he meant it. (Luke 2:49) To pollute the pure worship carried on there was an injustice he could never condone. His zeal gave him the courage to do what was needed.
18. How may Christians today show courage when it comes to the cleanness of the congregation?
18 Christ’s followers today likewise care deeply about the cleanness of God’s people and the arrangement for pure worship. If they see that a fellow Christian is involved in serious wrongdoing, they do not simply turn a blind eye. They courageously speak up. (1 Corinthians 1:11) They make sure that the congregation elders are informed. The elders can help those who are spiritually sick and can also take action to preserve the clean standing of Jehovah’s sheep.—James 5:14, 15.
19, 20. (a) What injustices were rampant in Jesus’ day, and what pressure did Jesus face? (b) Why do Christ’s followers refuse to get involved in politics and violence, and what is one reward for their stand?
19 Should we conclude, though, that Jesus fought social injustice in the world at large? There certainly were injustices all around him. His homeland was occupied by a foreign power. The Romans oppressed the Jews with a powerful military presence, taxed them heavily, and even interfered with their religious customs. Not surprisingly, many people wanted Jesus to get involved in the politics of his day. (John 6:14, 15) Again, his courage had to come into play.
20 Jesus explained that his Kingdom was no part of the world. By his example, he trained his followers to keep out of the political fights of the day and to focus instead on preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. (John 17:16; 18:36) He taught a powerful lesson regarding neutrality when the mob came to arrest him. Peter sprang into action, impulsively swinging his sword and injuring a man. It is easy to sympathize with Peter. If ever violence might have seemed justified, it was on that night, when God’s innocent Son was attacked. Yet, Jesus then set the standard for his earthly followers down to this day: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:51-54) For Christ’s followers, maintaining such a peaceful stand surely took courage then, as it does today. As a result of their Christian neutrality, God’s people today have a clean record when it comes to the countless modern-day wars, holocausts, riots, and similar acts of violence. That sterling record is one reward for their courage.
He Courageously Faced Opposition
21, 22. (a) Jesus received what help before facing the hardest of his trials? (b) How did Jesus prove courageous to the end?
21 Jehovah’s Son knew well in advance that he would face severe opposition when here on earth. (Isaiah 50:4-7) He faced many threats of death, culminating in the one described at the outset of this chapter. How did Jesus maintain his courage in the face of such dangers? Well, what was Jesus doing before that mob came to arrest him? He was praying fervently to Jehovah. And what did Jehovah do? The Bible tells us that Jesus “was favorably heard.” (Hebrews 5:7) Jehovah sent an angel from heaven to strengthen his brave Son.—Luke 22:42, 43.
22 Shortly after being strengthened, Jesus said to his apostles: “Get up, let us go.” (Matthew 26:46) Think of the bravery in those words. “Let us go,” he said, knowing that he would ask the mob to spare his friends, knowing that those companions would abandon him and flee, and knowing that he would go on alone to face the hardest ordeal of his life. Alone, he faced an illegal and unjust trial, ridicule, torture, and an agonizing death. Throughout it all, his courage never failed him.
23. Explain why Jesus was not reckless in the way that he faced danger and the threat of death.
23 Was Jesus being reckless? No; recklessness has little to do with true courage. In fact, Jesus taught his followers to be cautious, to withdraw prudently from danger in order to continue doing God’s will. (Matthew 4:12; 10:16) In this case, though, Jesus knew that there was no way to withdraw. He knew what God’s will involved. Jesus was determined to keep his integrity, so the only way to go was forward, right into the trial.
24. Why may we be assured that we can prove courageous in the face of any trial that may arise?
24 How often Jesus’ followers have walked courageously in their Master’s footsteps! Many have stood firm in the face of ridicule, persecution, arrest, imprisonment, torture, and even death. Where do imperfect humans get such courage? It does not simply arise from within. As Jesus received help from above, so do his followers. (Philippians 4:13) Never fear, then, what the future may bring. Be determined to keep your integrity, and Jehovah will give you the courage you need. Keep drawing strength from the example of our Leader, Jesus, who said: “Take courage! I have conquered the world.”—John 16:33.
a Historians have noted that the tombs of the rabbis were venerated in much the same way as were the tombs of prophets and patriarchs.