Summary: Jesus boldly stands trial before the high priest Annas
John 18:12-27 “Strength and Weakness”
The lives of heroic people inspire us and challenge us to be greater than we have been and more than we are. Recently a ceremony was held at the White House where twenty-four veterans of World War II, the Korean Conflict, and Viet Nam War received Congressional Medals of Honor. Previously, they had been denied these medals because of their race and prejudice. The stories of what they did and how they acted under fire are demonstrations of courage and the definition of valor.
• Great men and women inspire us.
o Rosie Parks, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and their courageous stands against prejudice, segregation, and violence,
o Great Presidents such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Harry Truman,
o Susan B. Anthony the women’s suffragist, and Sally Ride the first woman astronaut,
o The New York City Firefighters of 9/11, the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, and Detective John Hobbs,
o Even everyday people such as the couple who have adopted nine special needs children because they have the love to do so, or the convict who trains dogs to help autistic children.
Today’s gospel lesson is, as John F. Kennedy would say, a “Profile in Courage.” We see Jesus in the final twenty-four hours of his life on earth.
PORTRAIT OF A HERO
It is Thursday evening, the day before Jesus’ execution. Jesus has been arrested by a detachment of soldiers and temple guards. He was brought before high-priest for questioning. Jesus is confronted by a display of power. He is surrounded by the magnificence of the temple, the riches of the high priest and religious authorities, the armed soldiers and guards, and bystanders who hate him and consider him a threat.
The power of Rome and Institutional Religion face off against the power of the Kingdom of God. One has force and the other has love. One is violent while the other is peaceful. It is the picture of an epic clash that continues to this day.
Jesus doesn’t blink. In the face of power he still maintains control. He is defiant, but not hostile. Jesus does not renege on his mission or ministry. He does not deny who he is or what he has done. He does not attempt to avoid what lies ahead. Jesus is a picture of courage and heroism.
To the early Christians, who experienced persecution, torture, and execution, Jesus was an inspiration. He called his followers to no more sacrificial life than he was willing to face himself. Jesus is an inspiration to us also as we face an increasingly indifferent and even hostile society.
Intertwined with the story of Jesus, before the high priest, is the story of Peter. He was so brave when he had a sword. He lopped off the ear of a slave, but Jesus told him to put away the sword—violence was not the way of the Kingdom of God.
Peter followed Jesus at a distance—curious by not committed. He enters the courtyard of the high priest’s home. Peter is confronted by a woman—not the high priest, not soldiers and guards but an unarmed woman. “You’re one of his disciples,” she accuses. Peter crumbles. He denies that he even knows Jesus let alone that he’s one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter does this three times. His lack of courage is complete.
The haunting thing about Peter is that we are all too often more like him and his lack of courage than we are of Jesus.
STRENGTH AND COURAGE TODAY
Few Christians in North America will ever face the prospect of persecution, torture or imprisonment. Still, we do face a society where being a Christian is not a popular or acceptable as it once was. Such a situation calls for deep love, a commitment to being a follower of Jesus Christ, courage and heroism.
As a community of believers the Church can courageously and boldly do great things. On religious pundit has stated that if Christians in the United States acted like committed disciples of Jesus Christ they would not rest until hunger was eliminated. A mathematician has pointed out that if all of the people in North America who identify themselves as Christians would tithe—give 10% of their income—they would give $168 billion dollars. Those funds could wipe out hunger in the United States, raise one billion people out of poverty, provide fresh drinking water for everyone on earth, wipe out malaria and still have several billion dollars left over.
On an individual level—being heroes in our world in some small way—we might:
• Courageously share our story and God’s story with others in a loving and appropriate manner,
• Listen to someone who needs to talk, hug someone who needs to be loved and appropriately touched, help someone who is in need,