In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is on his way toward Jerusalem.
It’s one of the defining characteristics of the way Luke arranges the gospel narrative. Luke 9:51 states, “When the days drew near for (Jesus) to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The narrative is not even halfway done and Jesus has already set his face to go toward Jerusalem. The rest of the narrative must all be read and understood through this lens; Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem.
For those of us who know the story, we already know Jerusalem is the climax of the plot. Jerusalem will be the place where the cosmic battle of good and evil takes place. Jerusalem will be the place where Jesus’s mission to redeem and restore what was lost at the fall reaches its fullest; when Jesus submits to the will of the Father even unto death he undoes the curse of sin that started when Adam failed to submit to the will of the Father and disobeyed the command of God. The foolishness of the cross, that power is found in sacrifice, and death is overcome in submission, will be on display in Jerusalem. Redemption has been Jesus’s goal all along, thus he sets his face toward Jerusalem in an effort to accomplish this goal. Jesus is focused.
At times, when we get focused on an end goal it becomes easy to lose sight of the present moment. It could be an upcoming graduation or move. It could be a wedding day or family vacation. It could be the end of a school year, a retirement, or the deadline of a major project at work. No matter the goal, it becomes easy to focus to such an extent on the goal that we fail to enjoy the moments of everyday life. We become so focused on the goal that we don’t even notice the opportunities God is placing in our path everyday to share life with others.
While we sometimes lose sight of the present, Jesus never does. Consider the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers in Luke 19. Luke begins the episode in verse 11 by reminding the reader that Jesus is on his way toward Jerusalem. The focus for Jesus hasn’t changed. He’s on his way to Jerusalem because that’s the climax of the story. Yet while his focus in on Jerusalem, he encounters some lepers who are in need of mercy. Leprosy has affected them not only physically, but socially and emotionally as well. They have been forced to live outside the village away from family and friends. Life in the village has continued, but they have been left behind. They have no communication with others, no prospects for work, and no chance to worship at the temple or synagogue. They are broken on many levels.
It would be easy in this moment for Jesus to be focused on other things. The pages of the gospel story are getting thinner. Jesus will be in Jerusalem in just two short chapters for passion week. There is no time to slow down, the climax is coming. Yet Jesus stops to heal. Jesus recognizes that while his most important task is in Jerusalem, he has been given the opportunity to share life with the hurting, and restore them to wholeness. This is an opportunity that can’t be missed. These lepers are seeking mercy, and Jesus has the chance to share life. So, while Jesus is still focused on Jerusalem, and the goal of the journey hasn’t changed, he takes the time to slow down and enjoy the moment as he shares life with the broken.
Truth is, we are all going somewhere. Figuratively or literally, we have set our face in some direction. The end goal may be clearly stated, or it may remain in the background of our consciousness, but we are all going somewhere. The danger is that we will get so focused on the end goal that we will fail to live and share life through the journey. Yet Jesus reminds us that in the midst of our journeys toward the end goal, God provides opportunities to share life with others through the journey. Thus, we need to be open to hearing the cries of the hurting asking for mercy each day, and be willing to share life with them.
So, instead of asking, what is the end goal you are currently pursuing, we should ask, how is the journey, and what are the opportunities God has placed in your path in which you can share life with others?