Coop's Column - Unswervingly Resolute

During each remaining week of Lent, we shall visit a place where Jesus stopped as he with his disciples made his final journey toward Jerusalem. We’ll note the people he met there, the words he spoke to them, and the decisions he made in order to be ready to take on the excruciating task which lay before him—to endure unspeakable humiliation and torture, and then at the end to die on a cross. Our only purpose in retracing the steps of his journey: to attend carefully to what our Lord did for us, and in response to offer him our adoration and worship.


"As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." (Luke 9:51-62)

During each remaining week of Lent, we shall visit a place where Jesus stopped as he with his disciples made his final journey toward Jerusalem. We’ll note the people he met there, the words he spoke to them, and the decisions he made in order to be ready to take on the excruciating task which lay before him—to endure unspeakable humiliation and torture, and then at the end to die on a cross. Our only purpose in retracing the steps of his journey: to attend carefully to what our Lord did for us, and in response to offer him our adoration and worship.

This week we join Jesus and his disciples at a spot just outside the city of Jericho. They’ve made their way southward from the Mount of Transfiguration a week or so earlier, and are now at a place a few miles west of the city where two important roads intersect. One road leads west toward Jerusalem, and the other north toward Galilee. That intersection, and the choice of which road to take, became something of a crossroads’ moment for Jesus, a decision that would determine the entire course of the rest of his life.

Consider each of the roads, and what circumstances Jesus would find after he had taken it. To head north would bring him back to his familiar Galilean roots and to the place where he had begun his public ministry several years before. It was there that he had healed the sick and had proclaimed and shown to them the wholeness of the Kingdom. There he had calmed the storm and cast out demons. There his aging mother lived; he could be with her again and offer her care during her remaining days. In Galilee, too, he could count on being received by multitudes who remembered him with affection and who would thrill to acclaim him again and call him blessed. In Galilee he could spend his remaining days in quiet joy, reflecting upon all the good he had accomplished during his life and looking forward to the day when, his hair grayed and his life’s earthly journey at its end, he would die peacefully and “be gathered to his fathers.”

To head west, on the other hand, would bring Jesus to Jerusalem and land him in trouble and distress. It was in Jerusalem that his bitterest enemies, the religious and civic leaders, were marshaled against him. They had joined forces to thwart his ministry before, and now had their minds set on destroying him. It was in Jerusalem that the common citizens, wandering aimlessly through life as sheep without a shepherd, in woeful stupidity had refused to respond to his plea to repent of their sins and to accept his invitation to join the Kingdom. Jesus knew, too, that it was in Jerusalem that even his closest friends would fail him when the opposition increased. He knew that, opting to go to Jerusalem, certain disaster lay ahead.

Which road did Jesus choose? Scripture declares: “Jesus resolutely set out for (literally: “set his face toward”) Jerusalem.” (Luke 9.51) Without a moment’s hesitating or even the slightest glance toward the road north, resolutely he determined to make his way toward Jerusalem, the “City of Peace,” which, so he knew, would offer him no peace.

Why Jesus’ unswerving determination to head toward Jerusalem—and to the certain distress and death that lay ahead? Three reasons compelled him to go there:

  1. Jesus was convinced that to go to Jerusalem was his Father’s will. Time and again he had repeated words like: “….I must be about my Father’s business.” (Luke 2.49), “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of the one who sent me.” (John 6.38) and “My food is to do the will of my Father.” (John 4.34) Convinced his Father was calling him to suffer and to die in Jerusalem, Jesus was willing to go there.
  2. Jesus loved Jerusalem. Even though the people of Jerusalem, both its religiously proud and headstrong leaders and its directionless commoners, continually failed to hear and accept his invitation to enter the Kingdom, nonetheless Jesus loved Jerusalem. Over the great city he shed tears of sadness and longing: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem….how I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks….But you would not.” (Matt 23.47)
  3. Jesus knew that through his approaching suffering and death—his imminent seeming defeat—his Father would bring eventual triumph. Thus, though in anguish over what lay immediately ahead, nonetheless he announced triumphantly: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12.32) His cross, from which most of his intimate companions would soon flee in terror, would become a magnet drawing together all who believe in him.

Willing to suffer and die, Jesus resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem. During this Lenten season he invites—no, summons—those who put their trust in him to behold his resolute face. Their only appropriate response to having beheld his courage and determination: To bow their faces to worship him, and to give him thanks for obeying his Father without complaint or backtalk; for loving Jerusalem (and them too); and for dying to bring them new life.

Prayer

“O Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Establish my heart in your will.
Grant me true repentance for my sins;….
To You, my God….be praise and glory forever
For all the benefits you have given me,
And for all Your mercies to me, a sinner,
For your name’s sake.
Amen.”

(Wulfstan, c. 1009-1095)

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