Be Courageous Like Jesus !
Acts 4:8-14 and Various Other Passages 
By Paul Robison

In 1849, Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery.  She become involved in the abolitionist movement and organized meetings speaking against slavery.  But this was not enough.  She was a leader in the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves find their way to freedom.  She made 13 trips into her home state of Maryland and rescued 70 slaves.  She made 19 trips into southern states and rescued about 300 more.  Each trip became more dangerous for her.  By anyone's standards, Tubman showed great courage in making each one of those 32 trips, where the odds were rarely in her favor (Wikipedia & Larson/Elshof).  What is courage?  Isn't it “the capacity to do what is right and good in the face of fear” (Bader-Saye)?  Isn't it putting a mission above our own personal safety (Ibid.)?  We've been looking at ways that we can imitate Jesus in this series.  Be devoted to God like Jesus.  Be humble like Jesus.  Today's challenge is: Be courageous like Jesus!  Someone observed: “It is nowhere said that Jesus had courage, for it did not need saying; it is implied from beginning to end in his story. …  It was one long trail of courage from beginning to end—the courage of conviction and consecration” (Harrison).    Let's look at Jesus' courage more in detail, and let's notice four ways that we can imitate His courage.  Be courageous like Jesus!
First of all, Jesus unmasked the evils, and we need to do the same.  Look now at Matthew 23:31-36.  Jesus is speaking to the multitudes and has just presented seven woes against the scribes and Pharisees.  He finishes His sermon with these bold words: “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murder the prophets.  Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt.  Serpents, brood of vipers!  How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”  And then Jesus states that because of their mistreatment of God's prophets, all the righteous blood that they have shed will rest upon them!  They will have to bear the guilt for their crimes!  To unmask evils, Jesus spoke the truth boldly!  “He gave up the good opinion of the [most religious people] of His day.  He was … sensitive, but there were certain things that were necessary for Him to say because they were true things, and He said them.  By saying them, He exposed himself to the charge of being a blasphemer, but He said them.  He was willing to do His duty, even though by the doing of it, He won Himself [dishonor from the religious leaders]” (Jefferson).  Do we have the courage to speak the truth boldly to the people that God allows to cross our paths?  Unmask the evils!  Now look at Luke 13:10-17 where we find the story of the healing of a woman who had been crippled for 18 years.  After Jesus healed this woman, the ruler of synagogue rebuked Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.  Jesus then responds by asking a question: “Wouldn't each one of them help an animal get water on the Sabbath?  Then why shouldn't He free this woman's from Satan's long slavery?”  Now note verse 17: “And when He had said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame, and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.”  To unmask the evils, Jesus shows the hypocrisy of His adversaries, so much so that they were shamed.  To show someone's hypocrisy takes courage based on confidence and clear reasoning.  Did you notice that wonderful word play in the text?  The Jews “loose” their animals on the Sabbath (v. 15), and Jesus “loosed” this Jewish woman from her infirmity on the Sabbath (v. 12)!  He taught a devastating lesson to the ruler of the synagogue.  When you smell hypocrisy, wherever it might be, do you try to expose it and help others to see their error?  Unmask the evils!  Be courageous like Jesus.  Now look at John 10:22-39.  Jesus is challenged by some Jews in the temple to tell them plainly if He is the Messiah.  He says that He has told them, and they still don't believe.  If they can't take His word for it, then they should look closely at the miracles He was performing because they are from His Father, God.  In fact, He goes on to affirm in verse 30: “I and My Father are one.”  The Jews are about ready to stone Him, so Jesus asks for which of His good works are they stoning Him.  And they reply not for His work but because of His blasphemy, making Himself to be God.  Jesus then responded that if He wasn't doing the works of God, they could stone Him, but if He was doing the works of God, they should believe that He and the Father are one.  At this, they try again to take Him, but He escapes from them.  To unmask evil sometimes means laying the choice out in black and white terms and challenging others to make a decision for truth or righteousness.  Jesus' statement at face value would be blasphemy, but Jesus had done many miracles publicly which showed clearly that He was no ordinary man and that God was working through Him.  Our tolerant culture ties to inculcate that there are only “grays” and that actions can no longer be called sins.  Jesus and the apostles never followed this mentality.  They usually preached two ways, like the broad way or the narrow way, like reject or embrace Jesus as the Messiah, like either live in the darkness or in the light, and then they challenged others to follow God and the righteous way.  Can't we do the same thing?  Can't we point out the alternatives and then challenge people to follow Jesus' way?  An elder was once visiting a member and said something like this: “You know, George, you are either faithful in coming to worship services or you are not.  I think you know into which category you fall.  When you don't attend, you're not hurting other members as much as you're hurting yourself.  Why don't you make up your mind to start worshiping with us again?  Could we pray together that you'll be more faithful in the future?”  Challenge others to make the right decision.  Unmask the evils!  Be courageous like Jesus!
Next, confront the Jerusalems.  Luke 9:51 says that Jesus steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.  Jesus showed courage because He knew that He “was walking into a religious and political powder keg.  Yet he knew that his mission was more important than His safety” (Bader-Saye).  Now look at Luke 22 where we discover some of the hardships that Jesus knew was awaiting Him in Jerusalem.  In verses 47-53, Jesus experienced the sting of being betrayed by a close friend.  He knew that it was coming, but it still didn't make the reality any easier when Judas confronted Him.  Following Jesus may mean suffering betrayal.  “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death” (Luke 21:16).  Can you confront betrayal for Jesus' sake?  In verses 54-62, Jesus experiences the sharp pain of denial by a very close friend.  This is the incident where Peter denies ever knowing Jesus.  Jesus again was aware that it would happen and warns Peter to arm himself with prayer.  But Peter does not pray, and soon he discovers that three times he denies knowing Jesus!  Jesus knew the sharp pain of denial.  Are you prepared to confront that Jerusalem?  Hasn't Jesus warned us: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and a man's enemies will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:34-35).  Now notice in verses 63-65 of Luke 22 that Jesus is mocked, beaten, and reviled: “Now the men who held Jesus mocked Him and beat Him.  And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and ask Him saying: 'Prophesy!  Who is the one who struck You?'  And many other things they blasphemously spoke against Him.”  Jesus knew the deep hurt of ridicule.  Can you confront ridicule for Jesus' sake?  Ridicule hurts, but our reasoned and well-mannered response to it can have an impact on others for Peter says “those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Peter 3:15-16).  Then we see in verses 66-71 of Luke 22 how Jesus is confronted and rejected by the Jewish leaders.  The leaders challenged Him to tell them if He really was the Messiah.  Jesus answers that He is God's Son.  Now notice the Jewish leaders' rejection in verse 71: “And they said: 'What further testimony do we need?  For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”  Jesus knows the heartbreak of mistreatment and rejection from His own religious leaders.  Are you prepared to confront that Jerusalem?  “And you will be hated by all from My name's sake.  But not a hair of your head will be lost” (Luke 21:17-18)!  Jesus showed courage in confronting His Jerusalems—the sting of betrayal, the pain of denial, hurt of ridicule, and the heartbreak of rejection.  Someone else puts it this way: “Strengthened in prayer, as Jesus entered into direct confrontation with the abusive powers of Jerusalem and Rome, His proclamation of His Father's way of power was a fearless one (Jegen).”  Can we follow in His footsteps?  Confront the Jerusalems!  Be courageous like Jesus!
Next, suffer the persecutions.  Look now at Matthew 12:22-30.  In this incident, a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and Jesus healed him.  This amazed the people, and they began asking: “Could this be the Son of David or the Messiah?”  Then we notice how the Pharisees try to discredit Jesus by saying: “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”  Beelzebub, and not God, has given Jesus the power to cast out demons.  How would you like someone to say to you: “Well, your action has the smell of Satan behind it!”?  Jesus answers this false accusation with several statements and questions.  Notice what he says in verses 29-30: “Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?  And then he will plunder his house.”  In essence, Jesus is saying, “Wouldn't I have to have power over Satan in order to be able to cast out one of his workers?  Then He adds: “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”  And where does this black and white challenge leave His accusers?  Jesus responds to the persecution of false accusation with the glorious light and clarify of the truth.  We can expect the persecution of false accusations as well.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:11:  “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake” (Matthew 5:11).  We know that the truth can bring enlightenment to those who have been blinded by the god of this world and by their own hatred.  Suffer the persecutions.  Now look at Matthew 22:15-22.  This incident begins with these words: “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.”  Doesn't that sound like a friendly and loving thing to do?  The Pharisees are going to try to find some way that they can provoke Jesus to incriminate Himself by saying the wrong thing.  How would you like it if there was a certain group in town who met over at a restaurant and their sole purpose was to discuss over coffee how they could come up with questions that would make you look bad before the public?  That's the persecution of being put in a hot spot, isn't it?  But Jesus took the heat right in stride and wouldn't allow His speech and actions to incriminate Him.  The Pharisees came up with a tricky question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”  If Jesus answers, “Yes, it is,” then His popularity with the Jews will take a nosedive.  If He answers, “No, it's not,” then He can be accused of not being loyal to the Roman government.  The text notes that Jesus saw through their wickedness and asked for a coin.  Then He asked: “'Whose image and inscription is this?'  They said to Him, 'Caesar's.'  And He said to them: 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.'  When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.”  They were blown out of the saddle by Jesus' wisdom!  The Pharisee's question didn't mention God, but Jesus' answer did.  And what has the image and inscription of God on it?  It's people, isn't it?  Jesus reduces the heat by taking an either-or proposition and turning it into a both-and proposition.  Could we respond to our critics with such godly wisdom?  Suffer the persecutions.  Now look at Matthew 27:39-43.  Finally, Jesus' enemies have Him nailed to a Roman cross.  But even this is not enough to stop their persecutions.  Through them, Satan also offers another temptation to Jesus as well because the wording here is very similar to the wording found at the time of Jesus' temptations in the wilderness right after His baptism.  “If you are the Son of God and if you are the King of Israel, then come down from that cross.  Save yourself, Mr. Hot Shot Messiah!”  Look at verse 43: “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said: 'I am the Son of God.'”  Can't you almost hear a very sarcastic laugh after that verbal jab?  Here is the persecution of provocation.  Question: Could Jesus have come down from that cross?  Yes, He certainly had the power to do it.  No, He could not use His power against God's will, and it was God's will that He become the perfect Lamb slain for our sins!  What awesome control, composure, and strength Jesus manifests, even at death's very door!  “By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19)!  Can we courageously suffer physical and verbal abuses for Christ's sake without being provoked?  Suffer the persecutions.  Be courageous like Jesus!
Next, overcome your fears.  Look now at Matthew 10:24-31: Jesus begins this passage by laying down a principle: if others have mistreated and killed Me, then others will treat My followers in the same way!  That's not good news.  in fact, that's pretty terrifying news!  But then notice what Jesus repeats: “Therefore do not fear them (v. 26). ... And do not fear those who kill the body (v. 28) ... Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (v. 31).”  What a reassurance Jesus gives us!  And did Jesus practice what He preached?  Was he fearful before those who arrested Him, before Caiaphas, before Pilate, before King Herod Antipas?  No, He was fearless!  Someone put it this way: “Jesus displayed no trace of fear.  He was not afraid of losing His reputation or even losing His life. ... He did not seek anyone’s approval” (Nuckols).  Jesus tells us to put his message first, and not to fear what men may think or do to us.  Overcome your fears!  Now look at Mark 4:35-41 where we see Jesus as Lord over nature Who stills the storm that came upon the Sea of Galilee.  He was asleep, and the fearful disciples awaken Him and beg His help.  “Peace be still!” and the storm ceased.  Then notice Jesus question in verse 40: “But He said to them: 'Why are you so fearful?  How is it that you have no faith?'”  Question: if we have the God of the universe in our boat, why are WE so fearful?  Jesus puts His finger right it, doesn't He?  It's because we have no faith!  We really don't believe that Jesus has the capacity or the desire to help us?  We try to solve our problems through out own power and our own culture's way of thinking!  And Jesus must shake His head at times in disappointment asking: “When will they ever learn to rely on Me and seek My intervention into the situation?”  Put your faith in Jesus!  Overcome your fears.  Now turn to Luke 12:32-34 where Jesus exhorts us: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  When you know the Great Shepherd is near, you need not fear.  “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches or moth destroys.”  Your Father is giving you a kingdom, so can't you give something to bless others?  That gift is the one that will really last.  “For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.”  Do not fear; as the Great Shepherd blesses you, put treasures in heaven by blessing others!  Overcome your fears!  Be courageous like Jesus!
There was a Muslim we'll call Rajik who fled from Iran to Greece.  He had relatives there, but also found a Bible there.  He began reading it during the night while his uncles were sleeping.  He did this for two years and became convinced that he needed to baptized for the remission of his sins.  On a Sunday in 2006, he set his alarm for 6:00 a.m. because he wanted to read his Bible and pray before going to worship services to be baptized.  But Rajik's cousin learned of this plan.  So before the alarm went off, his cousin boiled water in a saucepan and poured it on Rajik while he slept.  This scaled both thighs and one arm.  Rajik went on to the worship services anyway and stood before the members.  With the burn on his arm clearly visible, he declared: “No matter what they do to me, I will love Jesus.”  Now there's courage—the capacity to do right in the face of fear!  Unmask the evils, confront the Jerusalems, suffer the persecutions, overcome your fears!  Be courageous like Jesus! 
Let's pray: “God, we let so many things intimidate us.  Help us to be more courageous, just as Jesus was courageous.  Increase our faith.  In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.”
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled.  And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).  Jesus' courage can make you bold!  If you have been a fearful and faithless Christian, remember that Jesus CAN help, so call on Him right now!  If you are not a Christian, show your courage by confessing that Jesus is God's Son and being immersed into His name before this audience!  Jesus will take your courage and make you even more bold!