Jesus doesn't ask us to stand up FOR him. He asks us to stand WITH him.
Jesus is not in danger. The worst thing that could happen to him has already happened, and God has raised him from the dead. Jesus is not threatened by anyone, or anything.
Even when he was in "danger," he refused to resist evil with evil or to fight fire with fire. He didn't teach his disciples to protect him. He told Pilate, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not of this world." (That's this week's lectionary text from the gospels--the Holy Spirit is an awfully wise DJ). When the soldiers came to seize him, and the zealot Peter hacked off the high priest's ear, Jesus tells him to "Put away your sword."
The trouble with so many of us is that we are living from a posture of defense, afraid somebody is going to take something away from us--be it our faith, our freedom, our money, our way of life--maybe even "OUR Jesus!" Because there is very real violence in the world, and thus very real reasons to be afraid, we begin to adapt the language and strategy of a people in retreat--conserve, protect, guard, defend. The instinct is perfectly normal, and quintessentially human. But it is at odds with the gospel of the kingdom. Like the king who inaugurated it, we are called not to self-protect or defend our lives, but to lay them down. We are called not to defend Jesus, but to bear witness to the Crucified One. In the words of Marilynne Robinson's ever wise novel, Gilead, "Nothing true about God can be said from a posture of defense."
God is not in need of our protection, because God is not in danger. And because we share in the resurrection power of Christ, we aren't in any ultimate danger, either. But there are people all around us who are, people who are living in fragile places, on the margins. These are the people Jesus is always standing for, and with. As I have found out first hand in my own shipwreck, he doesn't just stand with the innocent--he stands with the guilty. When I couldn't stand up for myself, Jesus stood up for me. That's why I love him so much more now than ever.
Now he asks us not to stand up for him, but to stand with him--to stand with the lonely, the poor, the refugee, the immigrant, the hungry, the weak, the marginalized, the neglected.
"Put away your sword," Jesus would say to us. Don't stand up for yourself, or for your rights.
Don't stand up for Jesus. Stand with Jesus.