“And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:22)
Around the turn of the new year, this verse came up in my Bible reading and I’ve been pondering a lot on the last phrase – “journeying toward Jerusalem”.
Jerusalem is a place of redemption… where the old becomes new again. It is a place where the past is forgiven, where we are reconciled to one another and to Christ, and where we find love. As I scroll through social media these days, the obvious need for redemption of the human race is so very overwhelming. As Christians, we are sent forth in the midst of this, and called to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10). The responsibility weighs so heavily on me today, as I think about my own journey to Jerusalem, and how I, too, am one of them – those who are protesting, those who are angry, those who nailed Christ to the cross… I, too, am one of them.
I, too, have been sometimes angry, unloving, unwilling to forgive, certain of my own righteousness… and yet Christ has been so good as to take this journey with me. As I talked with brothers and sisters in Mexico in the past weeks, and went running down the roads I ran when we lived there, things began to settle for me, and I began to see redemption in my own life.
There were free in-flight movies during our trip home, and while the kids slept I watched Ben-Hur. It was hard, but at the end of the flight, I knew and understood that the message there was for me. I watched confusion, misunderstanding, anger, and pride drive apart two brothers – not blood brothers, but brothers nonetheless. I watched them suffer pain and torment as a result. And then, at the very end, I watched reconciliation take place – in Jerusalem.
Ben-Hur helped me gain a new understanding of the Roman army – what their presence meant, and consequently how incredibly radical the ideas and words of Christ would have echoed throughout those ancient city streets… love them? It doesn’t come easy for any of us to love our oppressors, or to do good to those who are causing us harm. But there, in Jerusalem, love was the only way to survive the oppression. For Judah Ben-Hur, clinging to Christ’s directive to “love your enemies” is what kept him alive.
And so, as I walk my journey toward Jerusalem – a redemptive path in this life, and an eternal home in the next, I, too, must follow that mandate to love.
The Lord is good, and at the very end of our trip, my Bible fell open to St. Luke 6:35-38 – the most eloquent summary I can imagine of what I am called to do in my days ahead…
“But love ye your enemies, and do good and lend, hoping for nothing again and your reward shall be great. And ye shall be the children of the Highest, for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned. Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”