The word “hero” can be applied pretty loosely these days. If you can poke a few buttons in rhythm with the lines on a screen, you’re considered a guitar hero. If you bring coffee for your coworkers on a Monday morning, you’re the office hero. Even a sandwich has managed to gain the title! Is the concept really that cheap?
If you’ve been tracking with me for the past several weeks, then you’ve seen four fictional characters who display the heroic qualities of fortitude, prudence, loyalty, and generosity. That’s pretty great, but it raises the question: are all heroes fictional? Isn’t there a real person who embodies all these traits and more? I bet you know my answer to those questions, but read on to see why I believe Jesus is the ultimate real-life hero.
Jesus was no bodybuilder. I mean, he was literally a Body Builder at creation (da-dum-tsss!), but when he chose his own body before his incarnation (!!!), he picked a normal one. In fact, the Bible says he didn’t stand out physically at all. If you saw him in a crowd, you wouldn’t even take notice of him. So when it comes to fortitude, Jesus may not seem like the poster child for physical endurance.
But have you forgotten his forty-day fast in the wilderness? And think of how much worse it would be, knowing that you could make food out of thin air or even manipulate your own digestive system to stop registering hunger. Consider also that for four years he had no home, nowhere to rest. He often stayed up all night in prayer. He walked from town to town, surrounded by mobs of needy people who wanted his attention and begged for his help all the time. And I think parenting is hard!
Ultimately, he chose to withstand the most excruciating form of execution. It may seem like he lacked physical endurance in his last hours because he needed help carrying his cross, and he later told the onlookers that he was thirsty. But to me, these show the ultimate endurance because he admitted the needs and continued on rather than eradicating the needs. He could have asked for superhuman strength and gotten it. He could have requested wine from angels and received it. He could have chosen to leave the scene entirely, striking everyone with lightning bolts on his way out, but he didn’t.
Jesus stayed, and he endured.
Can you imagine knowing every fact—everything past, present, and future; everything scientific, philosophical, and moral? Then imagine patiently listening to everyone making incorrect assumptions and touting false ideas all day long. I think I would snap. Can you imagine knowing every thought that passes through the mind of the people around you—every critical judgment, every disgusting desire, every self-righteous idea? It would be impossible to tolerate anyone, much less befriend them. I wouldn’t even be able to look them in the eye. And can you imagine knowing when and how your life would end…and knowing it wouldn’t be remotely quick or painless? What if you knew exactly who would betray you, knew that the people who were excited to see you one week would be jeering at your misery the next? I would be so fixated on my death that I wouldn’t be able to live.
And yet Jesus lived, and he endured.
Caution is another characteristic that seems strange when applied to Jesus, but I believe it’s true. Jesus showed prudence in the form of caution because he didn’t allow himself to be crucified until the exact moment that God had planned, even though there were many people who made it their goal to find a reason to kill Jesus. On one occasion when he provoked them with his teachings, a crowd of angry religious leaders managed to push Jesus all the way from the temple to the edge of a cliff in order to throw him over the edge. But the Bible casually says that when they got there, Jesus “passed through their midst” and went to another town instead. Now that’s some supernatural caution.
Jesus did many, many miracles right out in the open where everyone could see them. But from time to time, he healed someone behind the scenes, cautioning them not to spread the word. His motive seemed to be a desire to keep his ministry going until the very moment it was completed. He chose to be cautious at all the right times.
Luke 2 records only one story of Jesus as a child, and it is an amazing display of his profound reasoning even at the age of twelve. After the Passover in Jerusalem, Jesus’ parents headed home with a caravan of other people, thinking Jesus was with the group. But when they realized their mistake and found him three days later, they saw that he had been in the temple the whole time—you know, just discussing theology with the teachers and priests. And he wasn’t just asking questions; he was answering them too. It says that everyone who heard him was shocked at his understanding. The story concludes by saying that Jesus continued to grow in wisdom.
And grow he did! Throughout his entire ministry, no one could outwit him although it was the express purpose of the religious crowd to trap him in his reasoning. Whenever they asked him a trick question in order to arrest and destroy him, he countered it with an answer they weren’t expecting or, better yet, with another question. It isn’t that Jesus shunned genuine questions, because he welcomed them. He simply didn’t have time for those with ulterior motives. He used his reasoning to instruct those who were seeking wisdom, and that offer still stands today.
I had really hoped to wrap up this wonderful series today, but I found that there was just too much to say about Jesus as hero. What a shock! So I’ll be completing this post next week as we look together at Jesus’ display of loyalty and generosity. Be sure to check it out so we can celebrate together this wonderful Hero of heaven!