Turning Toward Jerusalem at Lent

I have traveled often with my father-in-law. In fact, we have been to both the east and the west coasts together.  These journeys have been leisurely ones—we would not hurry anywhere, enjoying the sights and sounds and people of the places we would visit.   He laughed, however, when we would turn for home.  When we would get within what he called “smelling distance”, there was no stopping me.  Apparently my demeanor would change, and I would take charge; no stopping till we got home.

In the gospel of Mark chapter 10, we get the same indicator of a change in the demeanor of Christ—a new sense of urgency to the journey.

“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

First—the disciples had to process the words that they were on their way up to Jerusalem. Jerusalem, with all of its tradition and history, was not the destination the disciples wanted.  They knew the increasing opposition to the ministry of Christ was being fostered by the religious leaders of that day, and that made Jerusalem a dangerous place.

Second—with Jesus leading the way. This is the first time we see Jesus leading the way.  Usually we would find Jesus surrounded by a crowd of people.  Sometimes it was the Twelve, at other times there were crowds of people, followers or the bigger crowds of those who were curious or sick or genuinely interested in the messages and miracles performed by the Rabbi, the teacher, the miracle man.  Usually the message received was that rather than being out in front, Jesus was among the people.  Something significant changed in Mark 10…They were on their way up to Jerusalem with Jesus leading the way.  Jesus was clearly out front. He was leading the way. He was a man on a mission with a specific destination…Jerusalem awaited…Jerusalem was the final destination… Jerusalem and the cross.  Luke 9:51 puts it even more strongly in saying “As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

Third—our passage tells us “and the disciples were astonished while those who followed were afraid”. Imagine for a moment that for most of three years you have been walking with Jesus.  You have witnessed the miracles—changing water into wine, feeding five thousand, calming the seas, healing the sick, demons cast out.  You watched as Jesus took on the Pharisees and Sadducees—reprimanding, teaching, calling them to account. You witnessed all of those things in the hope that He would be the victorious King. And now; suddenly, Jesus turned resolutely to Jerusalem, leading the way. They were astonished and afraid.

Our passage says that Jesus took them aside and told them that they were going to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man was going to be betrayed and mocked and spit upon and flogged and killed—and then rise again in three days.  No wonder they were astonished and startled!

And so, Jesus turned toward Jerusalem. He had to go there to complete His purpose, His mission.  He had to pay the ransom. He had to take sin upon Himself, and no one else could possibly understand that part of His mission.  The disciples so much wanted freedom from the Romans that they could not see the need to be free from their own sin.

And so Jesus turned resolutely toward Jerusalem and explained to the astonished disciples and fearful followers that He must do this.

Why did Jesus bother?

Why did He turn toward Jerusalem and the cross?

Why did He come to earth in the first place?

Because He cared, and because He loved us and because only He could do this.  Only He could crush the head of the serpent. Only He could redeem us.

This Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.  Some of us will give up a favorite food or drink for Lent, to remind us of the suffering of Christ.  This year, I ask you to do something a little different.  Turn resolutely toward the cross and begin to walk the journey to Jerusalem with our Lord.  Join the disciples as they walk these final miles.  Daily, during this time of Lent, turn to the cross and realize the gift of the Saviour. His redemption is true and sure.