The Journey of Journeys
This week, as Christians, we celebrate the greatest event in all of history and beyond. In actuality, that event consisted of several steps, each profoundly significant and important—Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem before His death, His Passover celebration with His disciples, His washing their feet, His travail in the Garden of Gethsemane, His betrayal and arrest, His sham trials, His crucifixion, and, of course, His resurrection. As followers of Christ, Easter and its attendant holidays bring all these events and others to the surface of our thoughts.
Jesus’ final journey into the city where He would spend His last few days before saving the world marks the beginning of this remarkable series of events. Jesus had been ministering throughout cities and villages, making His way toward Jerusalem, where He and His disciples would celebrate their last Passover together. Approaching the Old City, Jesus travelled from Jericho through Bethany and Bethphage for the final leg. As He rode a donkey’s colt into the city, we read of the people’s response in Mark 11: “Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna! “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” (Mark 11:7-10) Their cries of “hosanna” were exclamations that God’s salvation had come.
Indeed, they had great reason to rejoice. After all, several hundred years of foreign (and often brutal) rule over their people was about to come to a distinct and unmistakable end—or so they thought. Jesus was to be the One—the one who had been prophesied hundreds of years earlier to deliver them. “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.” (Isaiah 9:7)
As His disciples watched Jesus ride on the colt, it must’ve been reminiscent of their ancestral kings coming to make peace. Surely the disciples must’ve experienced a panoply of emotions. Did they reflect on the centuries of hardship their people had endured under the reigns of heathen kings and kingdoms? Did they contemplate precisely how Jesus would defeat the Roman government? How would Jesus reconcile with the existing Jewish priesthood of the day? Would Jesus begin putting together a military force that would help Him usher in the new Davidic kingdom? Did they weep with joy as they realized they would be the generation to bring an end to the present day suffering and the beginning of the restoration of Israel to its prophesied greatness?
As they shouted and worshipped and rejoiced, little did they know that within a few days Jesus literally would be dead and buried. Of course, we now have the benefit of the rest of the story. Jesus was going much further than anything they could’ve imagined. Jesus was going for the total redemption of all of humanity, not the political and military establishment of a minority people, even a people His own. His disciples’ expectations undoubtedly were “the here and now” for the Jews. Jesus’ thoughts and intentions, by contrast, were on the eternal impact for Jews and Greeks and all humanity alike.
Ultimately, Jesus would make it possible for all to be saved and to be restored to right relationship with our Heavenly Father. As it is written, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:14-18)
Though the disciples didn’t know it at the time, Jesus was about to accomplish so much more than they ever could’ve imagined. Jesus’ accomplishment brings to mind the scripture, penned by the Apostle Paul some three decades after Christ’s work on the cross was complete: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
I sometimes read this scripture and think about how much God might do in my life. I think about how He might use me to lead people to Jesus, to preach the gospel, to pray for the sick and see them healed, and to be used in ways that only He could ordain. I think of how I might see God work in situations that seem impossible, to bring about good and life and healing and salvation. Yes, He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine. But whatever that may be going forward, it will never compare with what He already has done.
This week we reflect and turn our eyes on Jesus’ journey to the cross, His death and incurring of the wrath of God for all sin, and His glorious resurrection and exaltation as Eternal Victor. As we worship, meditate, weep and rejoice within the family of God to commemorate Jesus’ extraordinary accomplishment, let us consider that He already did exceedingly abundantly above all we could contemplate. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8) There is no greater miracle for each of us.