It was a journey that Jesus had undertaken a number of times before. There was inherent excitement and expectation in heading off from Galilee for the capital, especially with the prospect of worshiping at the Temple. It was even more exhilarating to travel to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, joining the crowds of other pilgrims on the way.
Jesus had made that pilgrimage with his parents when he was 12 years old. It had been a formative experience in his life. His discussions and debates with the teachers of the Law in his “Father’s house” helped to clarify his calling and mission.
His final journey to Jerusalem for Passover was dramatically different from his previous ones, even from those the previous two years. Jesus knew this would be his last. Despite that, he was determined to go. Luke says: “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51 NIV). Along the way he progressively revealed to his disciples what was to happen to him there. Despite their opposition to the prospect and attempts to convince him otherwise, Jesus completed that journey.
During Lent, I find it helpful and stirring to take that journey with Jesus. It’s not possible to do that physically as the disciples did, although acts of self-denial during Lent are in a small way identification with Christ in his suffering. But in our imaginations and spirits, informed by Scripture, we can take that journey
with him, learning from him as disciples on the way. That’s not just a Lenten exercise, of course, but one that is always appropriate, though particularly so at this time of the year.
I find the concept of pilgrim particularly moving (excuse the pun). It doesn’t necessarily mean always being on the move geographically but can helpfully be applied to one’s walk as a believer – the “Christian journey”. It was during my 22-year Pastorate at Ashfield that the motif became especially significant for me. It was there that I tried to apply the Biblical image of pilgrim and pilgrimage in a very settled situation. It was only later that Kristine and I undertook a couple of pilgrimage walks, learning even more lessons. My last 5 years of ministry in different locations has been an attempt to intentionally apply those lessons.
On our first pilgrimage walk in Spain, I reread “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan along the way. It contains the following words which I have come to really appreciate, despite the archaic language. They are still sometimes sung in modified form as a hymn.
“Who would true valour see,
let him comer hither;
One here will; constant be,
Come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.”
Psalm 121 blessings on your journey.