Journey to Jerusalem
Jerusalem had long been the symbol of God’s dedication to the descendants of Abraham. The temple made the city a holy site for centuries. Jesus was taken there by his parents when he was eight days old for purification. Joseph and Marry consecrated him to the Lord and offered a pair of doves or two young pigeons to satisfy the Law.
At the temple, Simeon was waiting “for the consolation of Israel” because the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would see the Messiah before he died. Moved by the Spirit, Simeon took the infant in his arms and praised God that he had seen his salvation. Simeon then blessed him and returned him to his parents with a prediction of Jesus’ influence and also pain for Mary.
During this same visit, Anna, a prophet who never left the temple because her life was worship, fasting and praying, came up to Joseph and Mary to proclaim to all that Jesus would bring redemption to Jerusalem.
Throughout Jesus’ childhood he traveled annually to Jerusalem for the Passover, and when he was 12 he amazed the teachers with his attention to their teaching and his questions for the scholars of the Law.
Jerusalem became the center of his early ministry, but as time passed and the opposition grew, Jesus stayed in Galilee, where he reached people who were less skeptical and more open to his teaching. Jesus’ conflict with the leaders of the Jews grew as he was more outspoken about their pride, legalism, devotion to their rules and subversion of God’s work in the hearts of men.
John’s gospel records that many followers in Galilee were leaving Jesus as his teaching became more direct. “You must eat my flesh,” John reports. After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, “purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.” (John 7:1)
When the Festival of Tabernacles was about to occur, his brother decided they would go to Jerusalem, but Jesus did not go with them. Later Jesus went and attracted large crowds. Many were amazed at his great learning. Then he challenged his listeners because he exclaimed that his words and teachings were from God. Pharisees warned him to leave Jerusalem because Herod wanted to kill him (Luke 13).
His teachings made more direct claims about the power and validity of his authority and representation of God the Father. For months he delayed returning to Jerusalem, but as Passover neared, he set his face toward the city. He told his apostles that he would be “delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 18:32-33)
The remainder of Luke’s account traces the last events of Jesus’ life as he journeys to Jerusalem. Meeting Zacchaeus, teaching about talents, facing ongoing conflict over his authority, sharing a parable of evil tenants and a vineyard, teaching about taxes, defending his Son-ship, learning of Judas’ agreement to betray — all events leading to his arrest.
Through all these events, Jesus had an amazing expectation about the triumph of goodness and righteousness. The constant barrage of criticism and conflict seems not to trouble him.
In fact, his main concern is for his apostles and surviving the disappointment of his death. His other concern is his own motivation to carry out the mission his father has sent him to complete.
The most powerful segment of this story is John’s account of the Last Supper, the washing of the disciples’ feet, the meal, the changing of the Passover meal to the memorial bread and wine for his sacrifice and his prayer for his disciples, those present and future believers. Gethsemane follows.
Jesus’ courage and clear mission show his strength in doing the Father’s will. Adversity does not disturb him or distract him from showing the truth to the people of his generation. Nor does blatant rejection deter him from loving Jerusalem and its citizens.