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Paul’s Journey to Jerusarome (OH! Clever title…)*

May 27, 2010 5 comments

I’m lazy.

If you don’t read this, the following will be less clear.

Jesus blessed the Jews by his bodily presence and through bringing the full force of the kingdom of God to the epicenter of Judaism. But this not where he stopped. Because after he ascended into heaven, he came back at Pentecost and infused his spirit into the body of believers. Then, the believers become markedly like Jesus: preaching the same message, performing similar healings, having similar conflict with authorities, casting out demons, and Jesus is seen to be doing in spirit form through the disciples essentially what he was doing in his body.

If you want, compare a few passages from Luke part 1 and Luke part 2 (Acts) to see what I mean. Luke 3:21-23/Acts 2:1-13 ; Luke 7:1-10/Acts 10:1-11:18 ; Luke 7:11-17/Acts 9:36-43 ; Luke 5:17-26/Acts 9:32-35 ; Luke 22:66-71/Acts 6:8-15, 7:56 ; Luke 4:40-41, 6:17-19 ; Acts 5:12-16.** These events are not the same, but they are similar. The vast number of similar-type events between Luke part 1 and part 2 at least demonstrates that something significant is going on here. I submit to you that Luke frequently utilizes events in Luke part 2 that resemble events in part 1 as narrative prompts for readers to recall the meanings and implications of the events in part 1 to help the reader interpret the meaning of events in part 2.

Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem was the climax of Luke part 1. In Luke part 2 (Acts), our deliberate author tells about the journey of another character, who is full of the Spirit of Jesus, and his journey to Jerusalem and then to Rome.
Luke does a very similar thing with Paul’s journey to Jerusalem that he did with Jesus’. He consistently reminds his readers as Paul is journeying from city to city that Paul is going to end up in Jerusalem. Although in the end Paul goes to Rome and dies in Rome and the reader already knows he is going there, Luke typically only mentions Paul’s journey to Jerusalem. I believe this is so the reminders have a dual function, to emphasize the importance of going to Jerusalem and to draw out the likeness of Paul’s journey to Jesus’.

When Luke first mentions Paul’s destiny-driven journey to Rome, he describes it similarly to the start of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Acts 19:21 says, “Paul resolved to go to Jerusalem… He said, ‘ After I have been there, I must also see Rome.'” Luke 9:51 says that Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” The words “resolved” and “resolutely” are both used in the translations instead of the Greek idioms that Luke used to describe the resolution and determination with which both men went to Jerusalem. After this Acts passage, Luke reiterates throughout Luke 20 and 21 that Paul is going to Jerusalem.

In Luke part 1, the author reminds his readers of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and what that meant for the Jewish people in terms of its fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, blessing the Hebrews by bringing the kingdom of God to the core of Judaism. In Acts (Luke part 2), the author also regularly reminds his readers of Paul’s journey to Jerusalem (and then to Rome). Why is he doing this when he talks about Paul’s Roman Holiday? Excellent question Jeremiah. Paul’s journey to Jerusalem/Rome has a similar theological function as Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Woah?

Paul also seems to have similar expectations of the outcome of his trip to Jerusalem. In Acts 20:22-24 Paul says, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there… in every city… prison and hardships are facing me… However, I consider my life worth nothing to me…” Here Paul is implying that he suspects some terrible things are awaiting in Jerusalem, he even hints at death.

Later, Paul’s friends through the Spirit affirm what is going down in Jerusalem. A prophet tied his own hands and feet together with Paul’s belt to illustrate the Spirit’s message to Paul, “‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles'” (Acts 20:11). Like anyone else who was handed over to the Gentiles? Paul’s response, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:13). Jesus and Paul have a strikingly similar readiness for the die for the sake of the good news of Jesus Christ, and both appear to have this idea that going to Jerusalem is movement toward their own death.

Perhaps you recall, Luke frequently utilizes events in Luke part 2 that resemble events in part 1 as narrative prompts for readers to recall the meanings and implications of the events in part 1 to help the reader interpret the events in part 2. Paul enters Jerusalem on a good note (21:7), just as Jesus did, but things heat up from there. Paul is taken out of the temple by a Jewish mob and beaten until the Roman authorities wrest him from the mob (21:30-35), the violence of whom “was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers.” Jesus’ beatings rendered him unable to carry his own cross. Both men ended up with their fate in the hands of the Romans because of the hostility of the Jews. Reminiscent. Similar but different.

How about “almost but not quite”? Paul was, just like Jesus, about to be flogged by the Romans at the directive of Roman authorities, but all of the sudden Paul wasn’t flogged because he was a Roman citizen.*** As a reader we’ve had ourselves set up for this dramatic trip to Jerusalem involving a looming expectation of death and explicit foreshadowing of Paul’s suffering there. We are set up for something much like Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem that we are probably well acquainted with. Just when it looks like it’s about to look like the passion story, it shifts and we’re reminded by this new information of Paul’s Roman citizenship that he told us at the outset his story wasn’t ending in Jerusalem.**** His epic journey to Jerusalem then becomes an epic journey to Rome.

Acts 23:11 is the first time that as a reader we hear God chiming in and making His will crystal clear: “‘Take courage” As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'” Then Paul goes before a smorgasbord of elite Roman rulers to whom he powerfully and insistently presents the story of Jesus Messiah. He gets sent to Rome to bring his testimony before Caesar. Rome. As Jerusalem was the center of Judaism and Hebrew culture, Rome is the center of the world. It is the hub of all of the peoples of the known world. The story of Acts ends with Paul spending years in this historically, narratively, and theologically significant city “boldly and without hindrance” preaching “the kingdom of God and” teaching “about the Lord Jesus Christ” (28:31).

My contention is that our delightful storyteller under the inspiration of the Spirit of God is deliberately comparing Paul’s journey to Jesus’ because of the similar but different theological implications of their respective journeys. One theologically significant aspect of Jesus’ was to bring the Messianic Kingdom and full presence of YHWH to the Hebrew people. Paul’s journey was to bring the Messianic Kingdom and full presence of YHWH to the people of the world. I believe Paul’s journey was, in the context of the story, the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant from way back in Genesis that Peter reminds us of in an important speech in the beginning of Acts. “He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples of the world will be blessed'” (4: Jesus blessed the Jewish people by bringing them Immanuel, “God with us,” hearkening back to the first part of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12: 2). Paul, only through the Spirit of Jesus, in the climactic event of the book of Acts, fulfilled the second part of the covenant by bringing Immanuel to “all peoples of the world.”

Sigh.

* Please laugh at my absurd parenthetical comment.
**Portions of list are borrowed.
*** Also, Paul went before the Sanhedrin like Jesus and the high priest commanded he be struck, like Jesus was beat while before the Sanhedrin, but Paul was not struck. Almost, not quite.
**** However, Paul’s journey to Jerusalem did result in him going to Rome where he was imprisoned and died. Ultimately Paul’s journey was also one to his own death.

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Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem

May 12, 2010 1 comment

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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