Call to Courage
The other day I pulled out my DVD copy of the 2007 movie, “The Kingdom,” and watched it.
I cannot tell you how many times I have watched the movie but draws me like a bird to its nest.
The story involves a terrorist attack on an American compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. An FBI agent is killed in the bombing, and four of his comrades defy State Department orders and fly to Riyadh and lead the investigation into the terror cell.
The movie is violent, but the qualities that draw me to it run deeper than the violence. They have to do with biblical ideals for masculine character—commitment to duty, courage to face suffering, and loyalty to friends.
Courage in Luke
We see these qualities in Luke’s Gospel in lighted letters in boldface type. Luke 9-10 marks the close of Jesus ministry in Galilee and the beginning of his journey to Jerusalem. Just before the journey begins, Jesus utters the pivotal question, “Who do you say that I am?” Here, Peter makes his famous reply, “The Christ of God” (Luke 9:20).
Good news, yes, but Jesus’ response to this realization leaves the disciples dumbfounded. He is the Christ, but the Christ must die.
Jesus’ Courage to face Suffering
In Luke 9, just before the journey begins, Jesus makes two of the three pronouncements on his death. Most of the verbs are passive, meaning that he will allow these things to be done to him. In the first pronouncement, he says, “The Son of Man must...be rejected...and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22).
The second is even more emphatic. “Let these words sink into your ears. The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men” (Luke 9:44). He does not even claim the luxury of fighting. Think of the courage that that commitment must have taken.
Jesus’ Commitment to Duty
Jesus’ commitment to his task was total. His journey commences in Luke 9:51, with a statement of resolution. Luke writes,
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem”
--Luke 9:51-53, emphasis added
Jesus’ Loyalty toward his Friends
Though his disciples were unable to understand that Jesus’ death was for their salvation, Jesus remained loyal to them. At the beginning of the journey, he tells his disciples, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it...” (Luke 23-24). This is the language of committed friendship. He will die, but he will not let his friends down. They would understand later, when he would come back from the dead.
The Call to Courage
Let me go back to The Kingdom for a moment to make a final point. The movie is not just about Americans rushing overseas to barge in on foreign soil on behalf of other Americans. It shows a cross-cultural call to courage. Over the course of the movie, the American agents form a growing bond with one of the Saudi police. The Saudi, witnessing the Americans’ courage, ultimately sacrifices himself in the pursuit of justice.
Jesus calls for that same, total commitment. At the end of his first announcement that he will die, Luke takes the story in an unexpected direction. He writes,
And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Later, in the very midst of Jesus’ cataclysmic change in direction, he calls a man to “Follow me” (Luke 9:59).
The context shows that the new disciple is to follow seriously, without looking back. Grace is not about Jesus doing everything for us. Grace means that Jesus does everything and then calls us to imitate his courage