THE APPROACHING END
They were on the road, on their way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. They were in a state of astonished bewilderment, and, as they followed him, they were afraid. Once again he took the Twelve to him, and began to tell them what was going to happen to him. “Look you!” He said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and experts in the law, and they win condemn him to death, and they will hand him over to the Gentiles, and they will make a jest of him, and they will spit on him, and they will scourge him and they will kill him. And after three days he will rise again.”
Here is a vivid picture, all the more vivid because of the stark economy of words with which it is painted. Jesus and his men were entering upon the last scene. Jesus had set his course definitely and irrevocably to Jerusalem and the Cross. Mark marks the stages very definitely. There had been the withdrawal to the north, to the territory round Caesarea Phillipi. there had been the journey south, and the brief halt in Galilee. There had been the way to Judaea and the time in the hill-country and beyond Jordan. And now there is the final stage, the road to Jerusalem.
This picture tells us something about Jesus.
(i) It tells us of the loneliness of Jesus. They were going along the road and he was out ahead of them–alone. And they were so amazed and bewildered, so conscious of the sense of impending tragedy, that they were afraid to go up to him. There are certain decisions which a man must take alone. Had Jesus tried to share this decision with the Twelve their only contribution would have been to try to stop him. There are certain things which a man must face alone. Matthew Arnold, in his poem Isolation, speaks of,
“This truth–to prove and make thine own: `Thou hast been, shalt be, art alone’.”
There are certain decisions which must be taken and certain roads that must be walked in the awful loneliness of a man’s own soul. And yet, in the deepest sense of all, even in these times a man is not alone, for never is God nearer to him. Whittier writes of such a time,
“Nothing before, nothing behind. The steps of faith Fall on the seeming void, and find The rock beneath.”
Here we see the essential loneliness of Jesus, a loneliness that was comforted by God.
(ii) It tells us of the courage of Jesus. Three times Jesus foretold the things that were to happen to him in Jerusalem, and as Mark tells of these warnings, each time they grow grimmer and some further detail of horror is included. At first (Mk. 8:31) it is the bare announcement. At the second time the hint of betrayal is there (Mk. 9:31). And now at the third time the jesting, the mocking and the scourging appear. It would seem as if the picture became ever clearer in the mind of Jesus as he became more and more aware of the cost of redemption.
There are two kinds of courage. There is the courage which is a kind of instinctive reaction, almost a reflex action, the courage of the man confronted out of the blue with a crisis to which he instinctively reacts with gallantry, scarcely having time to think. Many a man has become a hero in the heat of the moment. There is also the courage of the man who sees the grim thing approaching far ahead, who has plenty of time to turn back, who could, if he chose, evade the issue, and who yet goes on. There is no doubt which is the higher courage–this known deliberate facing of the future. That is the courage Jesus showed. If no higher verdict was possible, it would still be true to say of Jesus that he ranks with the heroes of the world.
(iii) It tells us of the personal magnetism of Jesus. It is quite clear that by this time the disciples did not know what was going on. They were sure that Jesus was the Messiah. They were equally sure that he was going to die. To them these two facts did not make sense when put together. They were completely bewildered, and yet they followed To them everything was dark except one thing–they loved Jesus, and, however much they wished to, they could not leave him. They had learned something which is of the very essence of life and faith–they loved so much that they were compelled to accept what they could not understand.
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