“Then Jesus took the disciples aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.'” (Luke 18:31-32)
During the season of Lent we follow Jesus on His journey from Galilee, the place of safety, to Golgotha, “the place of the skull.” His disciples wanted Jesus to remain in Galilee, which was His own country, the area that had been the center of His earthly ministry in the northern part of Israel, where His popularity was strongest and His friends outnumbered His enemies. The authorities in Jerusalem were trying every way they could to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the common people, labeling Him a false prophet, for He was exalting Himself, claiming the power to forgive sins, suggesting His words were greater than the words of Moses, even claiming that He was “before Abraham.”
However, most of the efforts to arouse opposition to Jesus had met with little success, for it was being said that Jesus spoke as no one had ever spoken before, as one who had obviously come from God to speak for God. The crowds were following Him to hear His words, for He spoke as someone who seemed to know all about God, from the inside. Furthermore, Jesus not only spoke with unusual authority, but acted with power that must be divine, for it was power over demons, power over disease, and even power over death. The religious leaders were accusing Him of being empowered by Satan, for they refused to acknowledge that any prophet who did not conform to their demands could be a true prophet of Yahweh, the only true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Jesus was fully aware of their plans and plots. He knew the risks and had warned His disciples that He was going to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies, that He would be mocked, insulted, spat upon, flogged, and killed (Luke 18:32-33). It was all so inconceivable to them, for they believed Him to be the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God, the One who would redeem Israel, the One who would overthrow their Roman oppressors, and reign as Lord of heaven and earth.
However, Jesus knew the purpose for which He had come into the world—to “give Himself as a ransom for many” and “seek and to save the lost”— was requiring Him to go up to Jerusalem. He knew the cross was waiting before Him with outstretched arms, ready to embrace Him in a bloody agony of death, but He knew it was impossible for Him to detour around the cross. He had the power to save Himself, but if He saved Himself He could not be the Savior of the world.
On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus continued to ignore the demands of the establishment, the entrenched powers in Jerusalem, who were threatened by His growing popularity, accusing Him of perverting the law of Moses. Their eyes had been so blinded by their prejudices that they could not see that Jesus of Nazareth was proclaiming and demonstrating a higher law, the divine law of love, a love without demand, a love without boundaries, a love without limits. For throughout His ministry, it was clear to all those who had eyes to see that the mighty miracles of Jesus, His deeds of loving kindness, were motivated by a compassion that went beyond the restrictions and limitations imposed by rigid interpretations of the Law.
Jesus was far more concerned for the spirit of the Law than the letter of the Law. The Scribes and Pharisees were accusing Him of not keeping the commandments regulating Sabbath observance, for He was healing the sick on the Sabbath Day, but Jesus told them that man was not made for the Sabbath, for the Sabbath was made for man. Furthermore, those self-righteous and legalistic moralists who prided themselves on enforcing the negatives of the Law enjoyed labeling Jesus a false prophet who called others to be holy as God is holy, while calling an unholy man, a despised tax collector, to become one of His disciples; refusing to condemn a woman caught in the very act of adultery; and including as a member of His inner circle another woman with a bad reputation. However, the remarkable changes in the character and conduct of these people were such radical transformations that they simply could not be explained apart from God. This should be true of all those who have answered the call of Christ to become one of His followers. Perhaps you are such a person, and if you are, I suggest the Lenten Season is a good time for you, and for all of us who have answered His call to discipleship, to take a long hard look at the quality of our commitment.
What is there about your life and mine that cannot be explained apart from Jesus Christ, i.e. our actions and reactions, our words and deeds, our priorities and practices, our values and virtues? There should be something, there must be something, about our character and conduct, our lifestyle, that requires Jesus to explain it.
Lent is a season for self-examination, for repentance, for spiritual renewal. And there is an old question that comes to mind which everyone who bears the name of Christ would do well to ask himself or herself during these days of preparation for the Easter season: “If you were arrested for being a Christian, as many in some nations have been, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
Well, think about it right now. Would there be?