“Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.” Shakespeare - Julius Caesar
This quote crossed my path last week - around the same time that I listened to this podcast (which is stomach-turningly horrible about the death penalty for martyrs in Elizabethan England) from a series about the World in Shakespeare's time
The thought came to me that Jesus had been extraordinarily courageous.
Today, as a preparation for this week's portion of Luke's gospel I re-read "The Dream of the Rood", an old-English poem that I came across on this blog
There are quite a few versions on the internet, for example here, or you can download a copy from amazon easily enough for some money.
This poem is the recounting of a dream that the teller had of the Cross, or Rood, telling the story of the crucifixion. Christ is described a warrior, stepping up to his duty;
"I saw then the Saviour of mankind hasten with great zeal, as if he wanted to climb upon me. There I did not dare, against the word of the Lord, bow or break, when I saw the
corners of the earth tremble.
I might have felled all the enemies, even so, I stood fast.
He stripped himself then, young hero - that was God almighty - strong and resolute; he ascended on the high gallows, brave in the sight of many, when he wanted to ransom mankind.
I trembled when the warrior embraced me; even then I did not dare to bow to earth, but I had to stand fast. I was reared a cross. I raised up the powerful King, the Lord of Heaven; I did not dare to bend...."
I've found the first page of this introduction from a University of Oxford Course pack is very helpful with understanding the historical context of this poem.
Anyway, having read "The Dream of the Rood", I tackled the Luke chapters with less dread than I usually feel when reading this part of the Gospel. Luke is mercifully brief in his narrative.
When people say "oh, the world is getting worse and worse blah blah", I answer that at least we don't have such appalling punishments as public spectacles anymore.
I will read these gospel chapters again this week, with thankfulness for Christ's bravery and resolution at sticking to The Plan, in a way that few of us are asked to do these days.