Editor’s note: What follows is a supplement for teachers of Courageous Churches, the newest online curriculum from Acacia Resources. Each Friday, curriculum editor Jan Turrentine offers relevant tips for the next lesson in the series. Today’s tips bolster the second lesson, “Jesus: The Courage of Connection and Clarity.”
In December 1955 in Montgomery, Ala., Rosa Parks boarded a public bus, something she had done for years. She sat on the first seat in the black section at the back of the bus.
As the bus continued its rounds that day, white passengers filled the front section until there were no more seats.
When a white man boarded and walked to the row where Parks and other black passengers were seated, the bus driver told them to leave their seats. Those seated next to her quickly obeyed. Parks simply slid across the seat and sat next to the window.
This angered the bus driver, and he again ordered her out of her seat. She refused.
He threatened to have her arrested.
She responded that he could do so.
In later talking about the events of that day, Rosa Parks reportedly said that it was not physical exhaustion that caused her not to give up her seat, as some people thought. Her weariness had an entirely different source.
Rosa Parks was tired of allowing others to define her. That day, her courageous character, not the color of her skin, defined her.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson.
No one exemplifies this reality more completely than Jesus.
Even before he began his public ministry, Jesus faced challenges to his identity with unwavering clarity of purpose. As a 12-year-old, he stayed at the temple in Jerusalem for several days after his parents had begun their trip home, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Lk 2:46).
When his relieved parents finally found him, they were baffled at his behavior and frustrated from worry. He seemed astonished that they failed to understand that he was exactly where he needed to be. “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49).
Throughout his ministry Jesus was dogged by people who completely misunderstood the nature of his message and kingdom. They were attracted to him and followed him, but they simply didn’t get it. Their massive demonstration of public adoration on what we now call Palm Sunday rightly honored Jesus, but most expected something different from his reign than what followed in subsequent days.
Others repeatedly questioned his authority and deliberately tried to trick him. Still, he remained true to God’s purpose for him, undaunted by challenges to his character and identity.
“Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves,” Emerson also wrote.
Not once did Jesus give in to Satan’s relentless temptations, the crowd’s misguided ideas or the religious leaders’ deceitful word games. He wasn’t fooled by them, and he refused to play along.
He also refused to pull away out of frustration or fear, because that would have deterred him from God’s larger purpose. He chose to stay connected to the people he had come to redeem—all of them. Even those at odds with him.
Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday cause us to celebrate and remember the kind of king Jesus really is. Like beautiful bookends, they hold volumes full of cruelty met with courage, horror turned to hope. Theirs is the story of Jesus staying connected to God and humanity, true to his identity and focused on his purpose.
It’s right to admire the bookends, but don’t miss the read. It makes all the difference.
Jan Turrentine is associate director for Acacia Resources.