Commentary by Walter Albritton


June 19, 2005


Jesus Helps Us Find the Courage to Do What is Right


Mark 14:53-65


Key Verse: Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none.  – Mark 14:55


There is an ancient saying that embodies an eternal truth: “My son, if you would serve God, prepare your soul for temptation.” How true! All who step forward to serve God are tempted to take the easy road instead of the “way of the Cross.” The easy road is the safer road. Peter took the easy road when he followed Jesus “at a distance.” He was not ready yet to stand up like a man for his faith.

Why was there such conflict between Jesus and the religious establishment? Because Jesus refused to compromise the truth with the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus was focused. His one great desire was to do the will of the Father. He aimed to please God not men.

We can only imagine the incredible loneliness Jesus endured when his disciples abandoned him out of fear for their own lives. He had invested three years of teaching in the twelve only to have them flee, cowering in the darkness like cowards. What pain must have stabbed his soul; his beloved disciples had deserted him. Now, alone, he must walk on to do the Father’s will. The mournful spiritual recognized our Lord’s painful loneliness:

Jesus walked this lonesome valley.
He had to walk it by Himself;
O, nobody else could walk it for Him,
He had to walk it by Himself.

But Jesus was not the only lonely, hurting man present that terrible night. Though Peter was “sitting with the guards,” he was alone also, alone with the dreadful guilt of his spineless denial of Jesus. His own words ricochet in his brain like hammers pounding a gong: “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” How could he ever look Jesus in the face again?

Most of us can identify with Peter. We have been by the fire in that courtyard more than once. We know what it’s like to take the easy road so we will not look like Mr. Goody Two Shoes. We had a chance to stand up for Jesus but we remained glued to our seat. The intimidation of our colleagues at work was too great so like Peter we followed Jesus “at a distance.” Then, when guilt settles in, we also experience agonizing loneliness. Alone, we look into a mirror and it hurts to see a coward staring back.

The spiritual referred to earlier goes on to remind us that like Jesus we must walk the lonesome valley alone:

We must walk this lonesome valley,
We have to walk it by ourselves;
O, nobody else can walk it for us,
We have to walk it by ourselves.

You must go and stand your trial,
You have to stand it by yourself,
O, nobody else can stand it for you,
You have to stand it by yourself.

          Interestingly, Peter had an advantage over us and we have one over him. He had the advantage of looking into the eyes of Jesus in that courtyard, and seeing in that precious look the Master offering him forgiveness and a fresh start. The look that Jesus gave Peter that night literally saved his life and motivated him to come forward later as a man of great moral courage. Peter was indeed willing to die for his faith in Jesus. He rose from the ashes of cowardice and became such a fearless preacher that every pastor since then has envied his courage.                                    Our advantage over Peter is that in contrast to what the spiritual says, we actually do not have to walk our lonesome valleys “by ourselves.” By faith we may have the strengthening presence of Jesus with us every step of the way. Even though there may be times when no other fellow disciple will walk with us in our trials, we have our Lord’s precious promise: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” And remember, he keeps his promises!          When Karol Wojtyla served as a priest in Nowa Huta, the Communists ruled Poland. Wanting to build a church, Wojtyla planted a  makeshift cross (two rugged beams nailed together) on the property. The Communists rulers angrily tore it down. At night the young priest planted another cross. It was removed. Undaunted, the young priest planted another cross, and another, and every day his people gathered there to sing and celebrate Holy Communion.                                                                                                       Finally the people prevailed; the church was built and eventually the power of communism was overthrown in Poland. The priest who would become Pope John Paul II had the courage to stand behind his convictions!                 Perhaps that is why we admired him so: he was a man who let Jesus give him the courage to do what was right whether it was popular or not. May the Master find us as willing as Peter to recover our courage and do the right thing even at the risk of our lives. Though we are tempted to follow Jesus at a distance, he is ready to embrace us and help us live as faithful disciples.                                                                                                             When David Livingstone was asked how he had been able to serve God so well and for so long in Africa, he replied that the source of his strength had been the divine companionship of Jesus. Jesus had kept his promise to be with him always.  That source is available to us as well.                                                  + + + + (Contact Walter at