We know the story well. Jesus has a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, heralded and hailed with waving palms. We assume that some of these people would have been among the throng shouting “Crucify him!” mere days after.
Under the boot of the Roman Empire, there was dissatisfaction and suffering: a grain toll, taxes on produce, sales taxes, temple taxes, occupational taxes, custom taxes, transit taxes.
According to the website Theology Curator, “…it is clear that Augustus and his successors made it their goal to collect as much money in the form of tax revenue as possible, causing a great divide between the economic elite and the ninety-seven percent of those in the Empire who lived in some degree of poverty.”
The time was ripe for change and possibly a revolutionary one at that and this is what some of His followers saw in Jesus: the conduit for change and alleviation of oppressive circumstances.
He was the promised Messiah, but He did not live up to their expectations, and the plaudits descended into condemnation. In Jesus’ case, He was innocent and His fate was far bigger than political revolution.
How easy it is to fall from hero to zero. It is observable in every sphere, and the last year has seen the decline of many larger-than-life figures—Harvey Weinstein, and Bill Cosby are the two most known.
Then there is the Instagram vegan influencer recently who was caught enjoying a meaty meal. Yet another influencer’s mother, a popular actress, was charged with fraud for having both paid out a large amount of money, and falsifying her daughter’s extracurricular interests to ensure a place in a top US university. Of the Church’s own situation, the press can’t get enough.
The circumstances locally are also ripe for a saviour and immediately our Police Commissioner Gary Griffith comes to mind. And he has assumed a heroic stance in the eyes of the populace: “Gary wukkin’!”.
From memes where he has replaced Chuck Norris in terms of apparently incredible strength and abilities, to a prayer that was circulating for his protection on WhatsApp, to a video with a compelling soundtrack released by the TTPS after the drug bust in Westmoorings, he has become Trinidad and Tobago’s modern-day hero—an action figure with the promise of salvation from the villainous drug lords and gun-toting bad boys.
But praise and condemnation come swiftly here, and even while lauding, there is also the wait for the inevitable slip-up on which we descend in a shark-feeding frenzy.
We, more often than not, apply impossible proportions to and expectations of those who are simply quite fallible humans. Our construct of who they should be and desire for almost god-like figures to walk among us, and save us, allow for no negotiation of mistakes or errors in judgement. These are often standards which we do not apply to ourselves.
Imagine a different narrative then, where we become our own heroes, aware of our weaknesses but constantly striving for improvement and positive impact in the world around us.
As Christians we are called to be Christ-like in our everyday lives and who was Christ but not the purest of ‘heroes’. Perhaps not in the contemporary definition of ‘hero’, but He did die to save His people and lived a life, in the short time of His ministry, on one core philosophy: love.
It is this love radically lived that makes someone heroic.