On my first trip to Israel, by the time I got to Jerusalem, I was overwhelmed with information and the sheer experience of being in Israel. But on my second trip, and perhaps because of the teacher who took our class there, Jerusalem and its significance in Jesus’ life really impacted me. On our last day in Israel, we walked in the footsteps of Jesus from Gethsemane to Golgotha. We actually saw how close it was to shuffle Jesus back and forth between Herod and Caiaphas. We walked the road from Antonia’s Fortress where Jesus stood before Pilate to Golgotha where He was crucified (now inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; then “outside the gate”). We saw and felt it all- reading Scripture and contemplating on what Jesus must have felt in His final hours on earth. It was a powerful and moving experience which is hard to capture in words. But Jesus was resolute to reach Jerusalem because it was there He would become “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:35-36).
Hebrews says He did this for “the glory that was set before Him” (Heb. 12:2). These words remind me of Jesus’ act of humility at the Passover. John says, “Jesus, knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) At that moment, Jesus who within 24 hours would be scourged, stabbed with thorns and pierced with nails, gets up and washes the disciples’ feet. It is an act of humility that has never been matched throughout history (Jn. 13:1-5).
It would be easy to let the story end there and admire Jesus, worship Him, and go merrily on my way. But in the next chapter of John, Jesus reveals that He is going to the cross to “prepare a place for you” (Jn. 14:2). The imagery in this passage comes directly from the Jewish wedding custom whereupon after the proposal has been made and the bride-price (a pre-wedding gift to the future in-laws) has been received, the groom goes back to his hometown and begins construction on the couple’s future living quarters. This could take up to a year, but when it is completed, the groom will return (usually at an unexpected but anticipated time) and bring his bride home. What a wonderful picture! Jesus has returned to His hometown (Heaven) and is preparing not just a house, but an entire city for us (Heb. 11:13-16). And what a glorious city it is (Rev. 21:2-3, (9-20), 21-27; 22:1-5)! Having been to the earthly Jerusalem, walking its streets and enjoying its beauty I feel as if I’ve had a taste of what glories the heavenly Jerusalem may hold. I am now waiting for my Bridegroom to come and call me home. All I can say is, “Come quickly Lord Jesus!
Like the bride who waits for her betrothed to return for her, I am now waiting for Jesus to return. The question is, “Am I ready?” (Mt. 25:1-13). Jesus spent His final hours on earth in humble submission to His Father’s will, but He stayed in Jerusalem nonetheless. It is a challenge to remain faithful to the Father’s will. And sometimes, like Peter I think that the path to my Jerusalem should contain no opposition or danger, no trials or strife, and certainly not death (Mt. 16:13-23). But Jesus continually taught His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die (Mk. 10:32-33; Lk. 18:17-19, 31-34). For Jesus, Jerusalem was the city of destiny, but His ultimate destination was just outside its walls on the cross (Mt. 16:24-27). The cross is our destiny too (Gal. 2:19-20). We never truly know when our last hour on this earth will occur. So, while we are waiting it is important to live as if it will happen at any moment and make ourselves ready (Mt. 24:32-44; Mk. 13:32-37). If we stay mindful that we have a glorious destination ahead the things of this world become less important. Like an athlete who eyes the victor’s trophy, our eyes are fixed on a heavenly prize- living with Jesus eternally (Phil. 3:7-14). I’m looking forward to my future home. How about you?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 4/16/2017