Devotional of the week: Set toward Jerusalem (6 in Pilgrim series)

Rembrandt, public domain

Rembrandt, public domain

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them”? But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village. As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Luke 9:51–58

Having spent our previous weeks in the Old Testament in this series on pilgrimage, we now turn to the life of Jesus, which is fitting as we approach Ash Wednesday. In one sense Jesus’ whole human life was a pilgrimage, namely as one of the Godhead who became man and dwelt among us before returning to heaven.

This week’s reading comes as Jesus sets out for Jerusalem and the cross, knowing the sacrifice he will make. As part of this, he begins preparing his disciples for his death. When James and John thought the unwelcoming village would need judgment, Jesus rebukes the them. Rather than punishment, now was the time for grace and proclamation.

Then another man appears, saying that he wants to follow Jesus – probably as one would follow a rabbi, learning from him by walking behind him. Jesus replies that though even the wild animals have holes in which to escape, he does not enjoy such a refuge. Thus the cost of following him will be great. But the rewards will be eternal.

We often shy away from speaking of the sacrifice required of disciples of Christ when sharing with someone enquiring about our faith. Jesus, in contrast, is clear. Discipleship is costly, but worth it. As we share with those whom we meet, may he give us winsome words filled with the right balance of grace and truth.

Prayer: Lord God, sometimes we fear that you will make us renounce what we love. Give us strength and courage to follow you, and strike hope and faith in us that we may believe your promises.

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