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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

We Are Going Up To Jerusalem

Fifth Sunday in Lent

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 delivered over to the chief priests and the 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.” Mark 10:32-34

We’re nearing the end of our Lenten journey, which will reach its climax on Good Friday. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” Jesus told His disciples and others who were following Him. Jesus is heading to the cross, and there’s a difference in the atmosphere. There’s an underlying tension as Jesus begins to move away from peaceful Galilee and toward tense, uptight Jerusalem.

If the disciples had realized all that was going to happen when they got to Jerusalem, I wonder if they would have finished the trip. I know there came a time when they wished they were someplace else! Jesus knew that this journey to Jerusalem was a one-way trip. He knew that Jerusalem was a destination from which there would be no return. But it was His choice, and the time had come to make it known and to head that way.

So now they were travelling along the road to Jerusalem. With Jesus leading the way and the disciples lagging behind. And Mark tells us they were afraid! They should have been afraid! Jesus had told them that He was going to be betrayed, condemned, mocked, spit on, flogged, and killed! Who wouldn’t be afraid?!

Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem” and so they are travelling along the road that will lead into the city, into the upper room, out to the Garden of Gethsemane, into the palace, and out to a hill they called “The Place of the Skull!” Jesus knew where He was going and why. This is what He had been born to do. This is the hour for which He had been living. This was the purpose for which His Father had sent Him into the world. And, this is what would make Him who He is in our eyes today.

Jesus chose to turn toward Jerusalem and everything that faced Him there. If we look at the road He chose, I think we’ll also see the choices we have before us, too.

Jesus didn’t choose the road of selfishness – He chose the road of sacrifice. The road to Jerusalem was the road of sacrifice. The temple in Jerusalem was the place of sacrifice for the Jewish people. But this time it would be different. This time Jesus himself would be the sacrifice. So He said to His disciples, “The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests.”

It would have been so easy for Jesus to travel the selfish road. He could have used His power for himself. He could have raised an army and gathered the masses around himself, marched into Jerusalem and become the King of the Jews. After all, that’s what most people wanted Him to do anyway. But He turned away from all of that, and turned toward Jerusalem, the place of sacrifice.

He went there unarmed, with an “army” of simple men, women, and children. He didn’t go to wage war – He went to surrender. He didn’t go to win a big victory, but to suffer a temporary defeat. He didn’t go to gain the spoils of war, but to give himself away.

And through what Jesus did, He instilled that same spirit of sacrifice in His disciples. They would choose later to live the same way. Their lives were changed by Him, and they became self-giving people. And Christian people at their best are sacrificial people. They catch the same spirit, and they give themselves away.

And that choice is one that’s always in front of us. It’s a choice we constantly face. Are we going to live for ourselves only? Or are we going to live for something greater than we are? Nothing really important is ever gained without some sacrifice. Whether it’s building a home or a business, a friendship, an education, or a church – there will be no real success without some sacrifice. And the Kingdom of God still needs people who are willing to give themselves away!

Even though we know there are lots of people in our world today who are takers, we are still called by God to be givers!

What would have happened if Jesus hadn’t given himself? What if the disciples hadn’t? What if you and I don’t? There wouldn’t even be a Christian witness in the world! The world has enough selfish people already. What the world needs is Kingdom of God people who give themselves. The question is always whether we’re willing to pay the price, and travel the road of sacrifice.

Jesus didn’t choose the road of safety, either – the road to Jerusalem was the road of suffering, and that’s the road He chose. He knew it meant being betrayed, condemned, mocked, spit on, flogged, and killed! That’s suffering!

The road of safety is an easy road to travel. It’s the road of least resistance. It just kind of winds around and wanders endlessly with no direction to it. The road of safety doesn’t ever offend, never protests, never objects. It’s the road cowards travel. And it’s certainly not the road that Jesus chose! He took the road that led to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, the execution site for the city of Jerusalem. It was the way of the cross.

And he told His disciples that if they were going to follow Him they shouldn’t expect anything any different. There would be a cross of some kind waiting down the road for them.

If we’re going to be true to our Lord, we can’t choose the road of safety either. We can’t travel the road of easy living and unconcerned attitudes. We can’t take the road of token involvement. We can’t keep Christ and the church and the world and each other all at a safe distance. We can’t protect ourselves from doing too much, giving too much, and becoming too involved in the church, simply because we have other things to do, and we want to keep on living our private lives.

The Christian life is not a life of ease and safety. It involves suffering: sometimes our own suffering, and sometimes taking upon ourselves the suffering of others. It means bearing the world’s hurts and problems. Obviously that’s more than we can do on our own. The good news is we’re not on our own!

The greatest miracle of the New Testament isn’t that Jesus gave sight to the blind and made the lame to walk. It’s that He gives sight to us who can already see, and walks with us on the road to the crosses He gives us to bear for Him.

And finally, Jesus didn’t choose the road of security – He chose the road of service. The road to Jerusalem was the road of service. That’s what it meant. Jesus knew all along this is what He was doing. He was serving His Heavenly Father, and through what would happen, He would be serving the whole world. That’s why He could say about all He was going to go through, “and the third day He will rise again!”

He knew He was the only hope for the world. That’s why He said, “I came not to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” He wasn’t afraid to take the risk. He wasn’t looking for security. He wanted only to serve!

And not only was this true for Him, it was also true for all who would follow Him. When two of His disciples asked for a place of glory, He told them that “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” That attitude sure doesn’t come naturally! But the road of service was the way Jesus took to accomplish His goals. And He wanted His followers to know they were to travel the same road.

Here is one of the great secrets of the Christian life. The real joy of living comes to us when we have given ourselves in service to the Kingdom of God. Not because we have to, but because we want to. Jesus didn’t have to go to the cross for us – He wanted to!

So you see, the cross isn’t only that place where we see God’s love expressed and find new life – it’s also where we hear His call to service!

The cross becomes real for us when we begin to see that not only did Jesus die for us there, but when we also hear from the cross the call to serve Him. He calls us to choose the way of the cross!

It means sacrifice. It means suffering. It means service. But it also means joy – real joy – lasting joy. Even the joy of one day hearing Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Oh, what joy that will be!


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