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Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem

Well, this post has been in my head forever, but I haven’t been able to spit it out. I was going to speak it out and have an audio post, but everytime I had time I was either in public or sneezing every 10 seconds. So this is quite delayed. I just hate writing things out when I already know exactly what I want to write. Anyway, I’m forcing this onto paper for you guys. You’re welcome.

The main purpose of this is to provide a concise backdrop for how Luke uses Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem and how it functions thematically (and therefore, theologically) in the book of Luke. Then, I want to build on that and help elucidate how Jerusalem functions in the latter part of Acts and how that helps us understand what God is about and the scope of what he was doing. That’s for next time. My central contention is that for Luke, what happens to Jesus in Jerusalem was the climactic event of Jesus’ life and the zenith of Jesus’ prophetic fulfillment.

Luke, the author of Luke-Acts, assumes in his preface to his gospel narrative that his reader(s), Theophilus, already has some degree of familiarity with the Jesus story that has been written down by others (Luke 1:1-4). Perhaps he’s referring to the stories we know of, perhaps something different. Regardless, it is safe to assume that the intended reader of the story has a basic understanding Jesus and how his life played out. Specifically, I think it is highly likely that someone aware of writings about Jesus would also be aware that Jesus dies in Jerusalem. Every time Luke brings up Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem, it conjures up images for the intended reader of Jesus’ crucifixion and reminds them where this story is going.

You know when Jesus begins his journey to Jerusalem in Luke? Chapter 9. About third of the way into the book, Luke informs us, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (9:51). Our story of Jesus as an adult has barely been introduced and we’re already on our way to the place of Jesus’ death and fulfillment. Luke insists on frequent reminders to his readers that we’re on our way to Jerusalem.

I’m not going to talk about them all, but if you want to do some reading to check me and get a better idea of what Luke is doing, here’s some verses. Luke 9:30-31 is a foreshadowing at the transfiguration of where Jesus is going to end up. Luke 13:22 mentions again that as Jesus is going about to all these different places and doing sweet things, the very point is that he is on his way to Jerusalem. Luke 17:11 discusses something similar. Then as Jesus gets closer and closer to Jerusalem, the reader is reminded with a much higher frequency that Jerusalem is our destination in Luke 18:31, 19:11, 19:28, and 19:41.

One of the main reasons that Jerusalem is the main event of Luke’s narrative is that he perceives it to be the primary place of prophetic fulfillment of the Messiah. Luke does mention other examples of fulfillment of prophecy, but things like healings, resurrecting people, casting out demons, etc. are much more obvious to the disciples and less difficult to understand than crucifixion. But Luke is insistent that we get the importance of Jerusalem.

Soon before Jesus enters into Jerusalem on his cute colt, he specifically tries to make sure that the Twelve understand what is happening and how important it is. He says, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” Jesus is pretty specific that Jerusalem is necessary to fulfill everything and central to Jesus’ purposes. And again, after everything happened, Jesus told the disciples how necessary it was for the Messiah to go to Jerusalem and experience all that comes with it.

Jerusalem is important as a city because it is the center of Jewish religion. This city was the hub of Jewish culture and was the most holy part of their religion. This was where good Jews traveled to make their most important sacrifices. This was where the temple was, the place which held the very presence of God. For the Jews the city carried with it a lot of symbolic meaning as both the place of God and as a place which all Jews identified as theirs. It’s the most important place in the Jewish faith and culture.

Jesus Messiah, in all his power, love, and glory, came to Jerusalem. Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, journey to Jerusalem to be the Messiah the Jews were looking for. He came to open up the Holy of Holies that the presence of God might not be restricted to the temple (23:45). Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for the Jews, that their guilt might be truly gone and that they might know the love of God through his forgiveness. He came to the center of Judaism to bless the Jews by opening up to them the very presence of God for all who would believe. But he wasn’t going to stop there.

Categories: Journeys to Metropoli

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