I wasn't a comic book fan growing up, really. I mean, I had a few, but I don't remember having a childhood hero from the pages of Marvel like a lot of folks did. I grew up watching the Incredible Hulk, the original one, with Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby. The Hulk wasn't scared of anything, but he wasn't really a hero for me. I missed all of the old westerns by a decade, so I didn't really have a gunslinger hero. A sports fan I wasn't, even as a kid, so I didn't have any sports heroes. I did love watching CHiPs, because Ponch and John didn't seem to be scared of anything. I had a Luke Skywalker action figure (no it wasn't a doll, so hush), but still, at nearly 40 years old, I've never watched Star Wars all the way through.
Childhood heroes are great to have. They give us someone to look up to, and might be a positive example for us to follow. But what do you do when that hero has a moment of weakness? Or at least appears to? I mean, would Lucas McCain back down from a fight? I think not. Would Starsky and Hutch hide from the criminals? No way. What about Luke, Han, the Princess, Chewy, Obi Wan, and the droids? Not on your life.
My dad told me when I was a kid that if I ever started a fight at school I would be in trouble when I got home. He also said that if I ever didn't finish one, I'd be in trouble when I got home. Luckily, I haven't had to worry about it so far. But others have, and one of those is someone we might not have expected to back down from anything.
John talks about it. It's one of those stories in scriptures that we might just read over. There's nothing that really stands out in it, just a few lines in a much bigger story. But today, those few lines jumped out at me. Here is what it says:
"After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposefully staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life." Jesus seems to be running from the very thing he will set his face toward later on. But for now, the time's not right.
On the surface, it looks like Jesus is just running scared, but I don't think that's what's going on. I mean, yeah, they were trying to find a way to kill him, but he knew that would happen when he started out. If you're going to go against the system, you've got to be ready to make a few enemies. He certainly did, and lots of others have too...Dietrich Bonhoffer, Martin Luther King Jr., Dusty Miller, Janani Luwum, and a host of others who's "right time had come." These folks gave up their lives rather than back down, and later, we would see Jesus do the same thing.
So the lesson for me in this passage is that this is just one more example of our need to look a little deeper into a text to get the message buried in it. Jesus wasn't scared of the Jews, like this story would lead us to believe, Jesus wasn't done yet. Had he died prematurely, there would have been lots left undone. He was anything but a chicken. Are we as willing as that to stand up for what is right? To fight for the underdog? To reach out to those on the margins? If not, we should be.