As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)
Before the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70, tens of thousands of Jews made their way three times a year to Jerusalem to attend the feasts of Sukkot (Tabernacles), Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentecost). These are known as the pilgrim festivals in Judaism. Although there was solemnity in their worship, it was also a time of celebration, joy and feasting where the pilgrims met family members and friends that they possibly had not seen for months.
However, for Jesus, as he made His way to Jerusalem for what was to be the final week of his life, already the shadow of the cross was upon Him. There was no thought of joyous family reunions, no times of feasting and no times of refreshing. For Him, it would be false accusations, an angry mob, flogging, a crown of thorns, and finally death by crucifixion. Yet, despite this, he ‘resolutely set out for Jerusalem.’ Some may have asked, “Why set yourself on a collision course with people who want to kill you?” Well, we are told the answer to that in Hebrews:
For the joy set before him he endured the cross... (Heb 12:2)
The joy for Jesus was not in meeting up with friends and family; it wasn’t the anticipation of shared meals and companionship. It was the joy of knowing that you and I would spend eternity with Him and His Father in Heaven.
Many years ago, I was sharing with my minister, Mary Black, about a cross that I was facing in my life. It made life seem dark and lifeless. A source of joy was being sucked from me. I have never forgotten her words to me at that time. She said, “It’s at times like this that you need to believe in the resurrection.” A short time later, I joyfully discovered for myself that the words she spoke were true.
Are you facing a ‘Jerusalem’ right now, a cross that is bringing suffering and pain? Friend, don’t try and run from your Jerusalem. Do what Jesus did and set you face resolutely towards the cross. Remember that Jerusalem was also the place of resurrection. It was so for Jesus, and it can be so for you also.
“To trust God in the light is nothing, but trust Him in the dark...that is faith.” C H Spurgeon
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