ON A STEADY COURSE TOWARDS JERUSALEM
"He went on teaching from town to village, from village to town but keeping on a steady course towards Jerusalem." Luke 13:22 (The Message).
Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, ancient citadel of David, Israel's model king and revered leader. Jerusalem, seat of religious government and site of their most holy shrine - the great temple of God, place of God's presence and the rallying point of His people. The temple was their security and their expression of unity. Every year they gathered in their thousands to celebrate their feasts at the temple in Jerusalem.
Jesus loved Jerusalem; He loved the temple. His first experience at the age of twelve captured His heart. He tarried in Jerusalem while His parents set off for home, not knowing that He was still in His Father's house, about His Father's business. Every time He returned to Jerusalem at feast times, He taught in the temple. His passion for His Father's house drew forth white-hot anger when greedy merchants turned it into a market place. Why would He not move with eager steps towards Jerusalem?
Jesus was fully aware of the sinister side of Jerusalem. Its beauty and fascination eclipsed its history. It was also the place where its own people had murdered its own prophets. Jerusalem was a place of religious intolerance and a rigid and ruthless priesthood. Anyone who threatened their position and power was dispensed with. Both political and religious threats were quickly judged and exterminated to keep the peace with Rome and to maintain the status quo.
Jesus fell into the category of a religious embarrassment. His popularity temporarily bordered on fanaticism because He was everything the people longed for. He was there for them in their physical crises; He miraculously fed them from meagre resources; He was kind and compassionate; He was the friend of sinners; He forgave their sin and restored peace in their hearts and, best of all, they fervently believed He would rescue them from their Roman oppressors.
Jesus knew that Jerusalem was the place of His final showdown with His opponents. To move steadily towards Jerusalem, knowing that they held the power to destroy Him was to commit suicide, and yet He was unflinching in His purpose. Worse still, He not only put Himself in the place of personal danger, He deliberately provoked His enemies into a frenzy of murderous hate by His exposure of their hypocrisy, His insistence on His identity as the Son of God and His unflinching adherence to the truth.
Jesus was not afraid of Jerusalem. It was the place where the climax of history would be played out with Himself the focal point. He had come to die in Jerusalem. Luke captures this His attitude in this moment in this one significant phrase, "...on a steady course towards Jerusalem." Unlike us who are swept along by our circumstances, Jesus moved purposefully into His because He knew who He was and why He had come.
What an inspiration this is for those of us who have chosen to believe what He said and to entrust our lives and our destiny to Him! We are secure in the truth the His death on the cross was neither a coincidence nor the victory of devil-inspired religious despots but the pre-determined plan of a loving and compassionate heavenly Father who sent His Son into a dangerous world to rescue us from the clutches of the devil.
Jesus was fully aware of what lay ahead of Him and moved into it with steadfast purpose because He knew the outcome and obeyed the Father in order to carry out His rescue plan. He absorbed the very worst that human beings could do to Him, He died as a silent and unprotesting sacrificial lamb although He was innocent, and triumphantly rose from the dead to prove it.
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