Just Start Walking

By Alex S(User talk:Alex S).Alex S at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

Jerusalem, by Alex S(User talk:Alex S).Alex S at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Lent begins today, and many of us have already made preparations: we’ve prayerfully considered what we will surrender during this time, we’ve made arrangements for our fasts, we have sought out an Ash Wednesday gathering to be a part of.

All of these are good, good things.

But they’re not the best thing.

One of the verses that always gives me pause is located in Luke 9.

As the time approached when Jesus was to be taken up into heaven, he determined to go to Jerusalem (v51).

The Greek for this passage would read something a little more like: “He resolutely set his face to go Jerusalem.” The phrase indicates a sense of courage and determination. Moreover, it is also a reference to Isaiah 50v8:

The LORD God opened my ear; I didn’t rebel;
I didn’t turn my back.
Instead, I gave my body to attackers,
and my cheeks to beard pluckers.
I didn’t hide my face from insults and spitting.
The LORD God will help me; therefore, I haven’t been insulted.
Therefore, I set my face like flint, and knew I wouldn’t be ashamed.
The one who will declare me innocent is near. Who will argue with me?
Let’s stand up together. Who will bring judgment against me?
Let him approach me (vv5-8).

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, knowing what is waiting for him: insults, beatings, and attempts to discredit and shame him. He goes, however, with a steadfast faith in God’s call on his life, and a belief that ultimately God will vindicate him through the resurrection.

And here’s the deal:  his disciples are on the road to Jerusalem with him.

Lent is ultimately not about giving up chocolate, or fasting, or praying extra prayers, or attending gatherings, or anything. These are great—even necessary—tools, but for me Lent is ultimately about “setting my face” towards Jerusalem and journeying there with Jesus, with no agenda but to follow Him, and to attempt to be present, really present, through this last season of His ministry. 

As we begin our Lenten journey, don’t just commit to giving up something; don’t just commit to an extra gathering or devotion.

Commit to walking with Jesus on his road to Jerusalem. 

Commit to staying with him during his time of trial.

Commit to staying faithful to him when he is arrested. 

Commit to being with him at the Cross. 

And here’s the deal: He knows our weakness, just like he knew the disciples’. He knows that we will fall asleep, that we will look away, that we will deny him.

But he invites us anyway.

 

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Again, and again, and again.

Holy Week, Monday :: Jerusalem :: the Place of Mission

We are hosting early morning gatherings this week. I thought I’d post my reflections on and/or excerpts from my teaching. 

As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke’s Gospel, 9:51)

‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned. And you will never see me again until you say, “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ (Luke’s Gospel, 13:34-35)

I believe Jesus knew exactly what was waiting for him in Jerusalem. I think he knew the storm he was stirring up, and that when we walked into the center of the storm, he would encounter pain and suffering and death.

And he went anyway.

He went because, as Israel’s king, he was going to (finally) be the suffering servant that God had wanted Israel to be. He went because he knew that God wanted to take his mission to the whole world, to the people beyond the borders of Israel, but in order to do that someone had to pay the price for Israel’s sin, someone had to end the exile that Israel was in so that the light could go out to all the nations.

In this sense, Jerusalem represents the fulfillment of his mission, and “the road” is the path to that mission. Everything is leading up to this moment, this destination.

I love that phrase, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”

He strips everything away, and begins to focus on the culmination of his mission. Distractions will no longer be allowed. He has to complete his mission.

As we begin our own journey to the cross on Friday, is there anything distracting you? 

In a sense, our mission this week is to enter into the story of Jesus’ last week. By doing that—by faithfully and compassionately remembering Jesus’ last days, suffering, and death—we are making the story current and real.

  • Can you “resolutely” set out for Friday?
  • Is there something you need to set aside for these final days of lent, in order to allow God to work in your life?
  • What can you do to clear space for your mission this week: to listen to and experience the fulfillment of Jesus’ mission?