I have spent almost my whole life around the military. My dad was in the army, and I made a career of the military myself. I have always loved hearing about acts of courage on the battlefield. I have heard many such stories and even have met many of the men who were involved in them.
But courage can exist in many different contexts. You don’t have to be in a literal battle to show courage.
I recently read about a brave man in Mark 12. You may be familiar with the story, but perhaps you have never looked upon this man as particularly brave. I believe in these verses he is a great example of courage.
The man is a scribe. As such, he was one of the religious leaders of Israel. In Mark 11–12, the religious leaders are opposed to Christ. In fact, they have decided to kill Him. This includes the scribes (Mark 11:18). In these two chapters we see the religious leaders confronting Jesus at every turn.
Every time Mark mentions the scribes, it is in a negative light. Every time, that is, until we get to this man. Jesus had just been questioned by another group of religious leaders, the Sadducees. The Lord had shown the Sadducees that they were wrong in their belief that the dead do not rise from the dead.
The scribe was impressed by the Lord’s answer (v 28). He then asked the Lord a question himself. He wanted to know what the Lord thought was the greatest commandment of all. Matthew tells us that he was a Pharisee (Matt 22:34-35). The Pharisees often discussed things like this, and the scribe wanted to know what Jesus thought about this theological debate.
In a well-known response, the Lord told the man that the greatest commandment is to love God with all you are, and the second is like it. He should love his neighbor as himself (vv 29-31).
Matthew 22 tells us that other Pharisees were present during this discussion. What the man said next took a great deal of courage. He said that Jesus had answered the question well. He acknowledged that Jesus had spoken the truth.
Think about the courage that took. He belonged to a group which was trying to kill Jesus. He was there to trip Him up. His buddies were there listening to him. But he publicly praised their enemy.
But he does more. He tells the Lord that what Jesus had said was more important than all the sacrifices being done at the Temple (v 33). In Mark 11, Jesus had cleaned out the Temple because of what was going on there. That was the immediate cause for the religious leaders wanting to kill Jesus. Jesus was attacking their way of life and religious practices.
Now, with his fellow scribes and Pharisees standing by, this scribe said that Jesus is right in His teaching. There are things more important than ritually keeping commandments and doing sacrifices.
My guess is that this scribe was not well received by his friends and colleagues. He had to have known that would be the result of what he said to the Lord. He had sided with the enemy. But we see that this man was willing to listen. His heart was not hardened by his tradition to the point that he couldn’t see the truth. He was in danger of laying aside everything his life stood for. It takes courage to be able to do that. We must be willing to change our views when confronted with the Word of God. That is not an easy thing to do in many instances.
The Lord noticed this man’s openness to the truth. He noticed this man’s bravery. He told this scribe that he was not far from the Kingdom (v 34). Seems like the Lord enjoyed hearing and seeing stories of courage as well.