They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise." (Mark 10:32-34)
Jesus is scary. Not like Freddie Krueger or some off-beat Johnny Depp character. Think of Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, getting up again and again to take another blow. I remember reading this passage several years ago when the reality sank in of just how, well, bizarre Jesus is. Why do I say this?
He and the disciples knew that in Jerusalem a gruesome death awaited him (see also John 11:8, 16). Yet here Jesus is, "leading the way," preventing anyone else from being a stumbling block by telling him that stuff like that isn't supposed to happen to the Messiah. He "steadfastly set his face" (Luke 9:51 KJV) and marched into a minefield, fully cognizant of what was to come. Who does that? This is not Homeboy Jesus or Kindergarten Teacher Jesus or anything else. This is the ghostly Jesus who walks on water, the one who descends to hell and kisses death, the man who wanders alone for weeks in the desert among jackals and talks with Satan. How are we, as his disciples, supposed to follow this kind of person? How can we even wrap our minds around such determined, purposeful embrace of sacrifice and suffering for the sake of others? And yet that's exactly what he calls us to do.*
Even such a man as Oswald Chambers was freaked out:
At the beginning we were sure we knew all about Jesus Christ, it was a delight to sell all and to fling ourselves out in a hardihood of love; but now we are not quite so sure. Jesus is on in front and He looks strange: "Jesus went before them and they were amazed."
There is an aspect of Jesus that chills the heart of a disciple to the core and makes the whole spiritual life gasp for breath. This strange Being with His face "set like a flint" and His striding determination, strikes terror into me. He is no longer Counsellor and Comrade, He is taken up with a point of view I know nothing about, and I am amazed at Him. At first I was confident that I understood Him, but now I am not so sure. I begin to realize there is a distance between Jesus Christ and me; I can no longer be familiar with Him. He is ahead of me and He never turns round; I have no idea where He is going, and the goal has become strangely far off. (My Utmost for His Highest, March 15)
Yet I cannot get away from following him. Where else can I turn? He alone has eternal life.
*"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." (1 Peter 2:21)