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Feet to Follow Jesus

Jesus, who willingly directed his feet to walk that difficult path of obedience marked out for him by his heavenly Father, endured heavy opposition from enemies as a result. Be clear, therefore: When Jesus bids a person to follow him, he doesn’t present the call as something of an attractive bargain.

Scripture labels these enemies, “the world,” that collective of people and powers who, under the evil one, scheme together to thwart God’s salvation purpose. The world conspired to put Jesus to death.

Nor does the world act more kindly toward Jesus’ followers. It hates and opposes them, too, at every turn.

Be clear, therefore: When Jesus bids a person to follow him, he doesn’t present the call as something of an attractive bargain. Scripture declares it and 2,000 years of church history drenched with the blood of persecuted saints confirms it: “Those who are godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (II Timothy 3.12)  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who paid for his devotion to his Lord with his life, is right: “When Jesus bids a man, He calls him to come and die."  

The Road to Jerusalem 

His rendezvous with agony and death only a few days away, Jesus’ set his feet to go toward Jerusalem. (cf. Luke 9.51)  His decision was deliberate, even though he was fully aware he was in for heavy assault from his enemies and likely would die at their hands.

Thus, the question of which road to take as he departed Jericho —whether to travel west or to head north—was something of a crossroads moment for Jesus. It would determine his entire future. Going north offered a far more pleasant and inviting prospect: Galilee’s multitudes adored Jesus. He could count on their applause for the wonderful words he had spoken to them, and for the life-giving deeds he had done there. He could anticipate a future filled with basking in Galilee’s adulation and acclaim.

Why, then, did Jesus choose Jerusalem over Galilee, willing to face the suffering that was a sure consequence of his choice?  For two reasons, chiefly:

  1. Jesus loved Jerusalem. The holy city’s daughters and sons were “the apple of his Father’s eye” (cf. Zechariah 2.8), and thus were precious to him, too (cf.Matthew 23.37) . 
  2. Jesus was fully aware of the prophetic word found in Isaiah 53.10:, “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.” He construed his life’s mission and purpose in the light of that prophetic message.

So Jesus turned his feet toward Jerusalem, convinced that his agony and death would become a magnet in his Father’s hands, as it were, to draw Jerusalem’s lost and aimless people together again. His agonies would lead them—and all who place their salvation’s hope in him—home to his Father’s embrace.  

Jesus did not flinch from his God-appointed mission. In a testimony born both of determination and of hope, he declared: “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to Myself." (John 12.32). He was confident that his coming suffering and death would serve as a means, in God’s hands, to produce rich blessing. Through them he would redeem the world.

Our Call

Jesus calls us to be willing, too, as he was, to suffer for his Father’s sake and for the coming Kingdom.  Not to go sniffing and hunting for cheap opportunities to endure trouble—that would be contemptible foolishness; nor, however, in frightened disobedience, to flee from trouble either.

Suffering for the Lord is a Christian badge of honor. Says Luther: “As God’s servants, we should impress on our hearts that we should be ready and willing to suffer what comes our way because Christ did so much for us….Shouldn’t I also suffer a little bit if this pleases him?...Remember that Christ suffered everything for you…”  

He adds: “We have to suffer so that we can become more and more like Christ…[God] lays a holy cross upon our backs to strengthen our faith. The gospel is a powerful word, but it cannot do its work without trials. The gospel can show its power only where there is a cross and where there is suffering….That’s why God imposes the cross on all believers. He wants us to experience and demonstrate God’s power.” 

Our willingness to endure suffering for our Lord can become, as his was, redemptive. It can help us to grow in holiness, can draw others toward our Savior, and —most important—can bring delight to God and earn his “Well done.” 

Lent calls us to examine ourselves. To inquire: “Am I willing to direct my feet toward “Jerusalem”—to bear the world’s scorn and ridicule, its shunning and insults?  

One thing is sure: Our eagerness to live for our Lord today measures accurately our willingness to suffer for him, should tomorrow’s call to obedience demand it of us.

“Am I a soldier of the Cross, a follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own his cause, or blush to speak his name?”
                                                            (Isaac Watts, 1724)

Theological Reflection

Christ was willing to suffer and be despised, and darest thou complain of anything? ….If thou art willing to suffer no adversity, how wilt thou be the friend of Christ? --Thomas à Kempis