On the Road to Jerusalem

a preview

Luke tells of a journey

         Luke understood, with Mark, the dramatic significance of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem.  Mark had set the pattern, making it Jesus’ only journey to Jerusalem, and from the moment when Jesus takes that road, leading his disciples, Mark’s account moves swiftly and relentlessly to its conclusion.  That is his way, to tell the story quickly, because it moves with the energy and purpose of God, charged with the revelation of the Messiah which nothing can hold back.


         Luke, on the other hand, recognises the wide possibilities of a journey story.  Because the journey itself gives shape and direction to the story, you can afford to relax, moving from one incident to another without being too concerned about the structure.  Luke had gathered and sifted a lot of material, and he had much that he wanted to use: stories, incidents, observations, teachings.  The journey narrative gave him the opportunity to include everything he thought important, without having to arrange it all as an argument.  So include it he does, and, unlike Mark, he takes his time over the journey.  But he keeps the goal before us.

which is the teaching of Jesus, pregnant with the Spirit of God,

         Meanwhile, there is a sense, which we will notice during the journey, of the spirit of God already effective, already reaching into the experience of others who are learning from Jesus.  Whatever it is that has to be accomplished before the adventure of God lets rip in the full flow of her energy and strength, it’s not a rule or a law to be satisfied; it’s not any kind of reluctance or inhibition on the part of God that has to be overcome.  I get the feeling that, whatever the requirements, whatever the present limitations to the possibility of others receiving and acting in the Spirit of God, it’s not a barrier, but rather one of those porous borders that customs and the military complain of.  Whatever the rules of engagement, the Spirit is hovering there like an energy that can’t wait to begin, a breath of God that won’t be held for much longer.

the way of love and inclusion

Martha, it would seem, wanted to do justice both to the house and to its guests by providing amply – nothing left unthought of – for their wants.  She was exasperated that Miriam did not come and help, so she complained to Jesus: “Master, aren’t you concerned that my sister has left me to do all the work on my own?  Tell her to come and help me.”


I imagine Miriam jumping up at this point, feeling a little guilty, and Jesus signalling her with his arm out to stay where she is.


He said to Martha: “Martha, you’re fussing and worrying about a whole lot of things when really very little is needed.  If you just gave us one dish, it would be enough.  Miriam has chosen the better part, and it won’t be taken away from her.”


The story of the “good Samaritan” is possibly the best known story from all the gospels, and the incident of Martha and Miriam is also very well known.  It is often commented on.  But we don’t think of them as being together, although they stand here in Luke’s gospel one right after the other, and Luke is never a careless story teller.


What they have in common is the theme of inclusion, love that is neither a sentimental feeling nor a mystical experience, but the fundamental, inclusive bonding that makes us not just humans, but humans together.  In the story of the Samaritan, Jesus turned his people’s world of inclusion and exclusion, who did and who did not belong, upside-down.  ... When the new order for Israel, the coming kingdom, is being discussed, Miriam is not sent to the kitchen but included.

and of breath-catching reality,

         When Jesus describes the kingdom, he feels around tentatively, trying for an image.  What is the kingdom of God like?  How shall I speak of it?  To what can I compare the kingdom of God?  It’s not because there is anything vague or uncertain about the kingdom of God, but because it is too real, too much itself in its own assurance and glory, too much of God and too much of the earthy world, for any image to give the whole picture, although each one points to an impact and calls for a response that will change our lives and change the world.  The kingdom of God is too real to be summed up.  It defies definition, and each image of it, the reckless farmer, the lamp lit, the fall of Satan, the burglar, the yeast and the mustard tree, is like a history of the world.

the coming of the kingdom

         The kingdom of God is coming; it is already among us.  But history stretches ahead of us, creating a new kind of time, a new age of the world where the followers of Jesus will be challenged to live the kingdom of God and to shape the very world they live in according to its rules, even though Jesus, its ruler, is not with them as he was in Galilee and Judea.  This is a time for stewards to emerge, competent and reliable people who will manage the household as the Kyrios wants it, who will help to build in solidarity with all the people, the just and generous society.  The challenge of the kingdom, urgent as it is, is not that history is soon coming to an end, but that all of history from here on will be shaped by its approach.

in which we encounter God.

         Discovering God is also discovering that we are God’s children living God’s kind of world.  Discovering God and living the revolution of God is one and the same adventure.  We meet God as God approaches us, reaching out to us to rule us and save us in the kingdom that Jesus teaches.  To turn away from the kingdom, or to treat it as a merely spiritual reality belonging to another world and another time, is to turn away from the active revelation of God, retaining only metaphors and memories that we no longer know how to interpret.


         We have received a revelation beyond all our ambitions and hopes, of a world ordered by the loving will of God, where the values of God and we as the children of God shape society and realise a kingdom of freedom and honour and love.  We have received this not as a dreamy ideal or God’s plan for after the end of history, but as the kingdom breaking upon Israel and upon the world in the proclamation of Jesus and his disciples.  It is a new world order for the 21st century as it was for the first, because the integrity of God is unending and the commitment of God does not grow weary.  They are the very nature of God.