PASTOR TUURA

“The Jericho Road”
By Rev. Tom Tuura
Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church


2022 Theme: "Thy Kingdom Come"

We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.

 

The Jericho road is a real road.  Looking at the terrain maps Biblical Jericho starts out 800 feet below sea level up to Jerusalem, which is 2600 feet.  That is a 3400 foot climb.  The distance is about 15 ½ miles, uphill, (or down on the return).  It was the famous route of armies, merchants and pilgrims.  There is an interesting YouTube video by a wonderful young Christian couple Sergio and Rhoda, who have a channel featuring travels to many of the Biblical locations of interest in Israel.  He and some friends, including his pastor, hiked as much of the dangerous Jericho road as they could.  Jericho, of course, was rebuilt after Joshua circled and God destroyed it in the book bearing his name.  It was where Jesus healed the blind man nearby the city and dined with the tax collector Zacchaeus in Luke 19.  Luke 19:28 says, “And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem”  And it was ahead in one of the villages where Jesus instructed the disciples where they would find a young donkey which would soon prove very important.

 

Up to Jerusalem…a phrase that was repeated several times.  “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.  For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon  They will scourge Him and kill Him.  And the third day He will rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33)  At this point, it was the third time He said it.  The disciples didn’t get it because it was hidden from them.  Reading it now so many years later, one pauses to think about why it was hidden.

 

This section of Luke is a treasure.  Luke 9 is famous in discipleship circles as the ground zero for new followers of Christ.  It is the take up your cross, self denial—count the cost passages.  “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For what profit is to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26)

 

Lent is again upon us.  What have we learned from Luke’s gospel?  Jesus is explicit. The importance of repentance.  You and I will not be in heaven without repentance—period.  But today we have a repentance-less church, and Christianity.  It is a proximity based type of “faith”, meaning we base our salvation on how close we feel to God.  After all, if we are growing closer to Him, it is a good thing, who's to judge—so it is said.

People believe in a ‘going their own way’ religion.  Jesus is explicit, “When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘ I do not know you, where you are from.’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’  But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth...”

But the answer is we ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.  These people were close.  This is a proximity based belief system.  Yes Jesus traveled not only the Jericho road, but many roads up and down Israel.  He walked the streets and interacted with many people.  But how many became disciples?  How many counted the cost?  Proximity clearly isn’t enough.  Especially when God desires to lead us to repentance through His love and grace.  We can’t get close to God on our own.  God doesn’t lead us close, He leads us to repentance.

What is astounding here is the familiarity factor.  Like the crowds Jesus is referring to, we may believe we are close in proximity,  we may feel we are getting close to God—based upon familiarity, walking the streets, eating and drinking in His presence.  But no--there is no change.  We simply have created a god of our own choosing.   

Back in chapter 9, Jesus is alone praying, and the disciples joined him.  He asked, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  Various answers were given.  But the answer Jesus wanted was “But who do you say I am?”  

Let our answer be like Peter’s, “The Christ of God.”  Let our response be like the disciples, imperfect and obtuse as they often were, taking up our cross to follow.  Peter’s confession wasn’t the lite confession of a feeling of mere proximity.  It wasn’t a project that he was growing closer to God, it was a statement in Luke 5, where his proximity to the Lord evoked his own sinfulness, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord”  Don’t get me wrong, Peter needed closeness to God, as we all do.  But closeness didn’t come from proximity, or anything in his own toolkit.  Closeness can only come through repentance.  And taking up our cross.

What is our cross?  It is the life that would have been.

 

Believe it!

That’s my view from the Blackberry Patch Pulpit

Pastor Tom