Predicting Death (5th Sunday in Lent)

Let us continue on our Journey to Jerusalem with Jesus.

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” (Mark 10:32-34)

When will I die? As I get older, this question takes on more urgency.

A few years ago, we visited the cemetery in my hometown where my parents are buried. It was a beautiful, late summer day, but a somber moment. I’m not sure what we expected to find, but what was there surprised me. This was a newer part of the cemetery and I wandered a bit, seeing who else was there. What surprised me was to find a couple dozen other gravestones telling me that people I had known in high school were also there with my mom and dad. When we are young, we think we will live forever. As we get older, not so much.

But I am about twice the age that Jesus was in this week’s text. He not only knew that he would die, but he had a good idea of when, where, and how. He knew this was his last trip to Jerusalem, a predestined journey that held the fate of humanity in its outcome. He was going to Jerusalem to die, a sacrificial death to take away the sins of those who believe in him.

I was recently interviewed for a story in the Omaha newspaper about the traditions of Easter. Many are a mix of pagan and Christian ideas: bunnies, hot-crossed buns, palm branches, lilies, eggs; the list is long. But it struck me that most of them have to do with the idea of resurrection or renewal. To be sure, the death of Jesus means little without his resurrection, but what does resurrection mean without Jesus’ death? Catholics have long been criticized for the omnipresent crucifix, accused of leaving Jesus on the cross. Protestants present a clean cross, no longer occupied by our crucified Lord, for he is risen, we say. Orthodox folks often have a depiction of the Risen Christ as the central feature of their worship area.

But let’s think a little more this week about the death of Jesus. He knew that death awaited him in Jerusalem, but his face was “set like flint” to go to the holy city. He knew that his death would be painful, shameful, and terrifying, yet he went.

When will I die? When God calls me home. My death is likely to have significance for a small number. Jesus’ death changed everything for billions. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift to us, his Son willing to die for our sins.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College of Hope International University

The opinions in this blog are those of the author, not necessarily those of his employer.

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Following Jesus to Jerusalem (Lenten Series)

lent-2017For several years I have blogged weekly during the Lenten season. I plan to do so again in 2017.

This year I would like us to imagine we are with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem for the last time. We are going to the Holy City for Passover and to fulfill prophecy concerning Jesus’ atoning death on a Roman cross.

Luke follows Mark’s basic outline for his Gospel, including this final Journey to Jerusalem. Luke announces the beginning of the trek this way:

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)

What follows is a travel narrative, taking Jesus and his band about 10 chapters to arrive in the holy city.

In Mark, this is a single chapter, chapter 10. This is the one we will follow with a blog for each of the six Sundays in Lent and a seventh blog for Easter Sunday. I invite you to join me as we make the journey to Jerusalem with our Lord Jesus, a journey of destiny and fulfillment. It is the beginning of the final days of Jesus’ life on earth, days that changed human history forever.

The Final Turn: Meditation for the Sixth Sunday of Lent

home exitDo you know the feeling? I mean the feeling of taking your home exit off the freeway after a long journey. You are finally turning toward home. You can park in your own garage, eat your own food, sleep in your own bed, shower in your own shower, and nap in your own recliner. The tension of traveling begins to relax.

For those of you who have followed me these past few weeks, we have been using Luke’s Gospel to travel with Jesus to Jerusalem, the final journey to the cross. Luke presents this as an extended journey, surely exhausting for Jesus. At one point Jesus admits, “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). This was not even couch surfing, but sometimes sleeping rough, outdoors, for the Lord.

You might be thinking, how could going to Jerusalem be going home? The cross and a horrible death awaited Jesus in Jerusalem. No one should desire that! But remember as we started this journey, Jesus set his face like flint to go to Jerusalem. Perhaps it wasn’t just the cross that drew him to the holy city. Surely he saw beyond it and knew it was just a matter of days for him to be returned to his Father in heaven.

The last turn for a Galilean pilgrim on the way to Jerusalem for Passover would normally be the south end of the Jordan River valley at the oasis city of Jericho. From there, the road to Jerusalem loomed, a climb of over 3,500 feet in about 18 miles. Sometimes, when you are driving home, that final stretch of freeway seems the hardest, the longest. Yet home awaits, and we don’t want to stop. We want to get home.

Blind BartimeusAs Jesus comes to this final Jericho turn, he is accosted by a blind man whose daily existence consisted of begging by the side of the road. He hears that Jesus is passing by and understands it is a carpe diem moment for him. He calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He is asking to be healed, to receive the mercy of God for his miserable life. What will Jesus do? Surely he wants to get home!

A little later, as Jesus enters Jericho, he encounters Zacchaeus, a “wee little man” who has climbed a tree to see the famous rabbi traveling zacchaeusto Jerusalem. Zacchaeus, a wealthy outcast in his city, needs Jesus as much as the poverty-bound blind man. We would think that the urgency of Jesus’ journey would mean there is no time for this tax collector. What will Jesus do?

Luke tells us that Jesus heals the blind man and goes to the home of Zacchaeus to redeem this hated “son of Abraham.” Jerusalem can wait a little. Jesus has time for those who need him. The journey can be as important as the final destination.

Holy Week is upon us. Today is Palm Sunday, the celebration of Jesus’ entrance into his city of destiny. In the midst of these momentous events, don’t think Jesus has forgotten you. Speak with him and he will be listening. Ask for his mercy and he will bless you. Look for him and he will come to your home and bless you.

Prayer: May we prepare our hearts for Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ death, and Resurrection Sunday, the morning of his true triumphal entry from death to life. Let us not stumble through this week without taking time each day to remember Jesus. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, may you have mercy on us!

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Face Setting: Meditation for the First Sunday of Lent

face like flintToday is the first Sunday in the 40-day Lenten season. Lent is the period of the church year leading up to the celebration of Resurrection Sunday. It has been used for centuries as a time for personal reflection, sacrifice, fasting, and recommitment of the Christian’s life.

Luke’s Gospel gives about ten chapters to Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem (a big expansion over Mark’s single chapter, Mark 10). In the seven Sundays of Lent 2015, I would like to use this narrative as a vehicle for our own journey to the cross.

Luke begins this epic journey with this statement:

 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)

The phrase, “resolutely set out” is striking in the original language (αὐτὸς τὸ πρόσωπον ἐστήρισεν), literally meaning “he set the face.” It is surely an echo of Isaiah 50:7:

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
    and I know I will not be put to shame.

This verse comes in the third of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs,” passages that are deeply prophetic and descriptive of the coming Messiah. A common theme in these songs is the physical abuse and humiliation the Messiah would suffer. Yet Isaiah puts these powerful words in the mouth of the Messiah, “I have set my face like flint.”

Flint was the hardest of common stones for the people of Isaiah’s Israel, found as nodules in the abundant limestone of the area. Flint was durable because of its hardness and capable of holding a sharp edge. This made it useful for tools and weapons.

Luke’s use of this metaphor illustrates the great determination in Jesus to go to the holy city despite his expectation of a painful death. He has already revealed this to his disciples:

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Luke 9:22)

Would you begin a journey that you knew would cost your life? Would you have the courage to take that first step?jesus-walking

As we enter the Lenten season, let us examine our own lives in this regard. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you willing to endure suffering because you are a follower of Christ?
  2. Are you willing to follow Christ for the rest of your life, even until the day of your death?
  3. What are the particular distractions in your life that sidetrack or delay your own Journey to Jerusalem?
  4. What must you give up to follow Jesus to the cross?

Let us begin this journey with prayer and determination on this, the first Sunday of Lent, 2015. Pray with me:

Lord Jesus, I want to follow you. I know it will not be easy. Help me to make the hard choices a disciple of yours must make. Help me to leave behind the things of this life that would pull me away from you. Hold me close to you. Never let me go. Let my feet follow in your footsteps.

Amen.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College