Community Lenten Service: The Road to Jerusalem

Our Lenten Journey

The earliest followers of Jesus were often called “followers of the
Way.” In Greek (the NT language), the word “way” also means “road.”
This Lenten season, we’ve been looking at some of the roads Jesus
walked during his life on earth. Tonight, we’ll take a look at “The
Road to Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem was a vitally important city in the life of the Jews. It was
the city where David set up his capital, which known as “the City of
David.” Jerusalem became the center of the Hebrew religious life. A few
times a year, Hebrews made their way to Jerusalem for the Jewish

One of those special festivals was Passover. Every year at Passover,
Jerusalem was filled with people coming to worship God, and to
celebrate God’s salvation and deliverance.

Psalms of Ascent
In fact, there’s an entire section of the Psalms (120-134) called,
“Psalms of Ascent,” that the Hebrews may have used on their journey to

“Next year in Jerusalem!”
At the conclusion of a couple of the Jewish festivals, including
Passover, Jewish liturgy includes the hopeful expectation, “Next year
in Jerusalem!”

Jesus was born for the road to Jerusalem
I believe Jesus was born for the road to Jerusalem. He was born with an
internal compass which guided him toward Jerusalem. In fact, in the
gospels, one of the earliest glimpses of Jesus that we get is an
eventful trip to Jerusalem, where Jesus at the age of 12, was lost in
Jerusalem. (Of course, Jesus wasn’t really lost in Jerusalem, but to
his parents, he was!) [Luke 2.41-50]

Guided by a compass
So, from an early age, Jesus was guided by an internal compass; he knew his purpose was to do God’s work. And, during Jesus’ life and ministry, he touched many people, healed many diseases,forced out many demons, invited and equipped many disciples to join himon the greatest adventure!

The Home Stretch
Ever notice that when you travel and you’re heading home, you have a
sense that you’re nearing the end, the final leg, the home stretch.

Jesus must have sensed that, too, because toward the end of his journey
on earth, as he began making his final approach toward Jerusalem, Jesus
began to prepare his disciples for the events in Jerusalem.

Jesus’ Predictions
Mark’s gospel records three conversations Jesus had with his disciples …

Then Jesus began to tell them that he, the Son of Man, would suffer
many terrible things and be rejected by the leaders, the leading
priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, and
three days later he would rise again.

Whenever you travel, you sometimes have to watch out for detours or
what look like short cuts. For example, early on at the beginning of
Jesus’ ministry, Satan tempted Jesus, and offered him a short cut. Like
most shortcuts in life, that one would have been a huge mistake.

And here, as Jesus begins to prepare his disciples for what is about
the happen in Jerusalem, Jesus is confronted with another distraction:
see Mark 8.32-33

Thankfully, though, Jesus never gave up on his disciples! And Jesus offers a second Prediction …

Mark 9.30-32
Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus tried to
avoid all publicity in order to spend more time with his disciples and
teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed.
He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.”
But they didn’t understand what he was saying, and they were afraid to
ask him what he meant.

The disciples don’t get it! After hearing this dreadful (but hopeful) news, they argue about which disciple is the greatest. (Mark 9.33-37)

Jesus offers a third and final Prediction …

Mark 10.32-34
They were now on the way to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of
them. The disciples were filled with dread and the people following
behind were overwhelmed with fear. Taking the twelve disciples aside,
Jesus once more began to describe everything that was about to happen
to him in Jerusalem. “When we get to Jerusalem,” he told them, “the Son
of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of
religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the
Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, beat him with their whips, and
kill him, but after three days he will rise again.”

But the disciples still don’t get it! Now, James and John ask Jesus for the honor of sitting on his right and left! (Mark 10.35-45)

Jesus was committed to the mission!
Jesus’ predictions about his suffering, death, and resurrection show us
that Jesus not only knew what his mission was, but that he was also
committed to his mission.

Last Friday night, Joleen and I were on our way home, but because of a
flight delay in Fort Lauderdale, we missed a connection and ended up
spending the night in the Philadelphia airport. We decided then that we
would go ahead and watch one of the movies that’s been on our list of
movies to watch – “The Terminal.” And I’m glad we did!

It’s about a guy named Viktor Navorski from Eastern Europe. Viktor
travels to the US from his home in Krakozhia to fulfill a promise he
made to his father. But while he was in the air, Krakozhia’s government
was overthrown. When he arrives at the airport, his discovers that his
visa has been revoked and his passport is no longer valid. He can’t
leave the terminal and enter the US, but neither can he return home to
Krakozhia. He’s stuck in the terminal – for at least 9 months as it
turned out.

The movie really deals with the attitudes and prejudices Americans have
toward people from other cultures, which might explain why the movie
didn’t do very well at the box office, in spite of being a Stephen
Spielberg movie, starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

When the director of the airport (Dixon) was explaining the situation
to Viktor Navorski. As a result of the revolution, Dixon said, “All
flights in and out of your country have been suspended. The new
government has sealed all borders, so your visa no longer valid. So,
currently you are a citizen of nowhere.”

Viktor was told it would take some time to handle his situation. Dixon
went on to say, “You don’t qualify for asylum, refugee status,
temporary protective status, humanitarian parole, or non-immigration
work travel. You don’t qualify for any of these. You are simply …

I thought of Jesus. To the religious leaders of his day, Jesus was “unacceptable.”

In one scene, Viktor began applying for jobs at the airport mall, but
no employer wanted him. He was “unacceptable.” Viktor waited an entire
day outside of one store, by a payphone. Finally, the manager called
him, turned him down, and said, “Yeah, so could you go sit someplace

That reminds me that Jesus was simply too much trouble for some people.
After serving people in some villages, some of the people asked him to

In the movie, Viktor started out with no fiends. But on one occasion,
Viktor was needed as a translator in a tense situation. He ended up
helping the guy who was getting no help from the American authorities.
The guy was trying to take medication to his dying father but didn’t
have the right paperwork. Viktor changed the guy’s story and said the
medication was for his goat (which didn’t require paperwork).

One of the workers in the airport, a man named Gupta, who had escaped
from a legal situation in India, a man who was suspicious of Viktor at
first, became something of an evangelist, spreading the story of
Viktor’s heroism: “There was a 20 man. Immigration gun was drawn. The
Dixon was ready to fire. To kill the little man with the pills. But
then someone walks into the room and stand in front of this little man.
‘Put the guns away.’ The man say. ‘Nobody will die today.’” One of the
listeners asked, “Who? Who was it that saved him?” Others joined in,
“Yeah, tell us. Who was it? Who was this man?” Gupta replied,
“Navorski. Viktor ‘The Goat’ Navorski.”

Because of sin, you and I were utterly helpless. We need a Savior. And
the good news is that Jesus followed the road to Jerusalem, went to the
cross, so that we could be saved!

John 3.16-17
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone
who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not
send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.

It was this kind of love that broke Jesus’ heart on one of his trips to
Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets
and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your
children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but
you wouldn’t let me. And now look, your house is left to you, empty and
desolate. For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you
say, ‘Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (Matthew

Our road to Jerusalem!
I believe the road to Jerusalem wasn’t just Jesus’ road; it’s our road,
too! Jesus invites us to follow him on the journey! After Jesus’ first
conversation with his disciples about what was going to happen in
Jerusalem, he began spelling out what it looked like to follow Jesus on
the Road to Jerusalem (see Mark 8.34-38).

Life is a journey!
Earlier I mentioned that some of the Psalms were called “Psalms of
Ascent,” because they were used while traveling, or ascending, to
Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festivals.

I love the imagery of the ascent. Paul Stoltz wrote a book called, The Adversity Quotient, which uses mountain climbing as a metaphor for life. He refers to this journey through life as “the Ascent.”

Stoltz says there are three kinds of people …

  • Quitters simply quit climbing at some point along the journey.
  • Campers may start out okay, but somewhere along the way, they’re
    wore out, and they take a much-needed break (which we all need from
    time to time). They enjoy resting and camping out so much, they decide
    to stay right where they are. They’ve gone far enough.
  • Climbers are people who keep climbing no matter what obstacles
    get in their way, no matter what kinds of temptations or distractions
    come along. They take regular breaks and camp out for a while, but they
    don’t stop there, their eyes are on the destination, and they keep

Are you a climber?
Are you on the Ascent? What encourages you along the journey? What guides you? What keeps you on track?

There’s no map. All of our journeys are different, even though we’re
all on the same journey. There’s no map, but there is a compass. What’s
your compass? My compass is Scripture, the Holy Spirit, my wife, and
the community of Christ-followers.

Scriptures for the Journey

O God, I pray that you will encourage and equip every Christ-follower
who’s on the journey. I pray for those who have quit and for those who
are on the verge of quitting – please strengthen and restore them! I
pray for those who have gotten tired, camped out, become complacent,
and have stopped climbing. Renew their passion for Christ and the
journey he’s called us to! And I pray for climbers. May the climbers be
role models for us, spurring us on, encouraging us to continue on the

“Next year in Jerusalem!”

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