“God will not let his work be made manifest by cowards.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Self Reliance
I want to be courageous. I want my life to be one tiny place in the world where people may see God at work. I want to participate in God’s mission, God’s project of redemption of the world (including me). I want to get over fear and get on with whatever God asks of me.
Hunkering down, pulling the covers over my head, pretending no one’s home does not manifest confidence that God is still at work in the world, much less that I want to be part of God’s work. God gets things done through the brave and courageous.
In Mark’s version of the Passion, though, cowardice runs rampant: Peter denies Jesus, quaking in fear when a servant-girl identifies him as “with Jesus” (14:66-72).
Pilate has Jesus crucified to satisfy the crowd, even though he doesn’t see a reason Jesus deserves it (15:15).
All Jesus’ disciples desert Jesus and flee (14:50).
At Jesus’ arrest, an unnamed young man is so anxious to get away, he leaves his linen garment behind and runs off naked (14:51-52).
Garments on the road in praise on Palm Sunday; a trail of garments jettisoned in fear on Thursday night.
Yet, the cowardice of those around Jesus cannot keep God’s work from being made manifest. Jesus doesn’t berate or condemn the cowards. He doesn’t say, well, then, you can’t be included in what God is doing. Redemption is only for the brave. God’s love is only for the qualifying courageous. No.
Jesus says he knows this about his followers: “You will all become deserters; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee” (14:27-28). Jesus knows his followers will be cowards, but he will keep leading them.
This is good news, Gospel-good news.
I want to be brave and courageous. I want to follow even in the hard times, in the hard places, when there is great cost. But when I fail, my failure cannot keep God from accomplishing God’s works. And Jesus will not stop calling me to follow.
So what if, instead of being so anxious to flee what I fear that I leave scraps of my failures in a trail behind me, I find the courage to offer them to Jesus? He may even turn them into something useful.
Photos: El Carito, on Unsplash
Denial of St. Peter, by Caravaggio, 1610, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Judgment of Jesus and Denial of St. Peter, Roman, 420-430, The British Museum, London
The Arrest of Jesus, detail of the Maesta Altarpiece, by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1309-1311, Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy
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