Our outward journey in Lent takes place as we walk with Jesus, in Scripture, toward Jerusalem. Jesus is quite focused on his journey. “Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way…” Thanks for the warning Pharisees, but get out of my way. Jesus is busy loving the very people who will kill him and he knows it, for Jerusalem was long known as a city in which prophets were killed. Jesus laments: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” Jesus is very clear about his mission to that deadly city. Along the way, Jesus proclaims that he will continue his ministry: casting our demons and performing cures. Jesus dismisses the warnings of the Pharisees and continues on his way to the cross. Jesus foreshadows his glory: “on the third day I finish my work.”
Where are we in our Lenten journey with Jesus … to the cross? Are we resisting Jesus message? Jesus is with us in his walk to death, his rising to glory … his conquering of death, and our eternal life. We have a role in this walk.
Part of our role is to be faithful. Jesus lets Herod know that Jesus will continue healing and casting out demons: this is what I am doing today, tomorrow, and the third day. In other words, Jesus’ allegiance is not to Herod but to God. I invite you to consider: where do we put God last instead of first? Where do we put God, if not last, second, or third, or fourth? And how come our Savior is not first?
Well, God, we have these many demands of the world. Yes, yes we do. We are raising children and working, supporting ourselves and our families; we can still take this walk to the cross. Talk to Jesus every day. How about, “thank you, Lord for this first breath of the morning. Thank you, God, for bringing me safely through the night.” Such a simple prayer requires neither a shower nor getting dressed; it can be said while our heads are still on the pillow. And do you hear what we will have done? … We will have started our day with prayer and with thanksgiving. And at a time when so many other things are competing for our time, attention – our very life – we have thrown ourselves onto the mercy of God: thank you, GOD, for bringing me through the night. I couldn’t have done it without You.
Our walk is intentional. We give up something, or take something on, during Lent that we might think of our relationship with Jesus. We are tempted to think that our worries and our temptations are our own; in one sense, they are. In another real and broad sense, we are faced with nothing that Jesus has not already endured. Jesus was led to the desert where he faced 40 biblical days of temptation; Jesus was visited by the devil while he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps Jesus’ earthly journey can help us endure our own. Perhaps we can be reminded that Jesus is, in fact, with us in whatever we go through.
We remember Jesus’ lament (we don’t lament today, do we?): “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings!” … and you were not willing. Sometimes we want to avoid the difficult journey with Jesus. And when Jesus reaches out and offers himself to us – offers his protection and his comfort, we don’t want that, either. Frankly, we think that we can do anything and everything by ourselves.
We have an inward journey during Lent, too. (I wonder if Jesus did?) Is there something that is keeping us from our chosen Lenten discipline? Maybe our temptation in the wilderness is taking place. Maybe we are “too busy,” in a particular stressful situation in which we tend not to take good care of ourselves. It is hard to start something new, to make thanksgiving part of our lives, to make Jesus the foundation of our lives. Maybe we are being called to the desert as a place of refuge and respite, to know in new ways that we are indeed walking with Jesus and that He does gather us up in his loving embrace. Intentionality, thanksgiving, a little introspection – and we learn to walk with Jesus.
It is difficult to find time to observe a holy Lent, a holy “anytime.” Lent is a good time to figure out how to work out and to work around – even through, our secular calendars. The very first Christians struggled, too. In the first centuries every day was a work day. Christians had to figure out how to gather and explore this thing called Christianity, following Christ who was with them, who taught them and broke bread and said strange things. We have those same questions, even though we experience those questions and Jesus in a different way. We are still students of Jesus, still trying to make sense of what is going on when we are with Him. I have digressed. Remember: not working one day a week – Sundays – as a Sabbath day was an incredible change in our ancestors’ lives. On top of that radical gesture, they risked death for showing allegiance to the one God; they were accused of cannibalism and of being atheists. Still, Christianity not only survived but spread; it spread from Jerusalem to the world, from a sect within Judaism to the entire known world.
Christ, the light of Christ, the Good News of Christ, will not be hidden. Practice during this time of Lent: practice giving thanks, giving up something extra, taking on some new devotion that we might be intentional in our faith, intentional in our time with Jesus. Walk with Christ, toward Christ, knowing that He longs to gather us up and protect us.
Can we take this extraordinary walk to Jerusalem? God be with us on our journey.