When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden…
If "the Christian is the highest style of man," it is because he copies a perfect model.
1. Christ knew how to bear prosperity. He who quails not before the angry mob may be led astray by the huzzas of the cheering crowd. How did Jesus endure this supreme test? In the palmy days of His public ministry, when multitudes came to hear Him, He never swerved from uprightness. To great and small He declared the same message.
2. But under circumstances of an opposite character does the text present the Man Christ Jesus. The manliness of Christ.
I. NEGATIVELY. Does not consist —
1. In physical strength, nor arise from the consciousness thereof. When Peter used his sword Jesus disclaimed all responsibility for the act, and refused to call the legions of angels that stood ready to do His bidding. In His own strength as a man He certainly was not stronger than others: and in the devoted, but defenceless, eleven He had but a poor dependence. Nor did He expect the Divine power to be put forth in His behalf, nor to escape through a panic of His foes. It was in the utter abandonment of all these things as a ground of fearlessness that His true nobility as a man appeared. It may seem needless to assert this; but when such stress is laid on physical culture, and some popular helps to this are glorified as "manly sports," it may not be amiss to estimate physical strength at its true value as related to manhood. A man may be the Samson of his neighbourhood, and be nothing but a bully and a coward after all. Let health and strength be sought, not to be deified, but to serve a manly spirit that resides within the sound body.
2. In mere hardihood. Fearlessness does enter into true manliness; but, if it stands alone, it comes far short of it. Emerson's sentiment, "Always do what you are afraid to do," must be taken with some allowance. To accustom one's self to face danger, when circumstances demand it, is an advantage; but to court it is scarcely justifiable. The same false principle underlies what is called the "code of honour." It applauds recklessness of danger at the expense of all moral considerations. We condemn the man who trifles with his own life and that of others by sporting on the edge of a precipice. Wherein does it differ from this, except in greater wrongdoing and guilt, when two men deliberately place each other's lives in peril firing at one another? To no such useless sacrifice did Jesus lend the sanction of His example. How careful He was to secure the safety of His disciples!
II. POSITIVELY. The manliness of Christ appeared —
1. In fearless action for what was worth the risk. We might see a reason sufficient for His conduct in His desire to spare His disciples. Like the mother-bird drawing attention to herself in order to protect her brood, He took the brunt of the attack upon Himself and averted it from them. But there was a reason of greater weight: He had a work to do that was not yet finished. He had undertaken to redeem the world, and He could not do this but by paying the price of His own blood. And now His hour was come, and "for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the Cross, despising the shame." It is this, having an adequate reason for the risk we run, that raises freedom from fear into the region of true manliness. If, for the sake of truth, liberty or duty, we surrender life itself, we do well and nobly. "I dare do all that may become a man. Who dares do more is none." To do what conscience bids us do is always manly. And, though we may not be called to posts of peculiar danger, where gallantry may be conspicuous, we may each of us act bravely in our own sphere of labour and influence. "The every-day courage of doing your duty is the grandest courage of all." It is this that prepares one for the test of the day of special trial. Men do not spring suddenly into magnanimity. The act of Jesus, in this scene at the garden, was consistent with all that went before. It was life-long fearlessness, in behalf of the truth, that gained for John Knox, when he died, this encomium from his antagonist: "There lies one who never feared the face of man."
2. In His patient, single-handed endurance. He willingly trod the winepress alone. There was no sustaining excitement. Often the soldier gets credit for what is done in a spasm of enthusiasm that is out of all proportion to the actual courage exercised. The pilot at the helm of the burning ship, and falling headlong at the last; the French physician, recording the facts concerning the plague for the benefit of mankind, and then dying himself as its victim — as he expected to do — teach us the nobility of self-sacrifice. What we admire in them shines most conspicuous in the life and death of the Son of man.
(R. C. Ferguson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.