Journeying Toward Jerusalem

I was struck by the first line of the Gospel for this Second Sunday of Lent: “(Jesus) went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and JOURNEYING TOWARD JERUSALEM.” (Luke 13:22). I find myself drawn to geographical references to the Holy Land like this one ever since a sabbatical I took years ago at St. George’s College located in the Palestinian section of east Jerusalem just a short walk from the Damascus gate into the Old City.

Jerusalem is a holy and timeless place. I have been back several times since and always look forward to the experience of “journeying toward Jerusalem” like Jesus. Of course, in our Lord’s case, the journey is rich with symbolism and meaning. In a way, Jesus’ whole life could be described as a “journey toward Jerusalem.” His whole life was moving toward some kind of encounter in Jerusalem.

His radical understanding of God’s inclusive love, his challenging of the religious status quo, his own special sense of vocation as God’s unique revelation — all these would have to bring him into conflict with the religious and political leaders of the day. And that conflict would have to be played out eventually in the capital and “see city” of Palestine — Jerusalem!

The former Dean of St. George’s College and retired Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, John Peterson, shared a theory of his with us during my sabbatical. He believes that one reason Jesus was tried, convicted, and executed by the Roman government with the full consent of the Temple authorities in Jerusalem was because he came from the north of the country, in the Galilee.

There, rabbis were accustomed to dialogue and debate and even arguing with Scripture and with various interpretations. While in Jerusalem, because of the Temple and the sacrificial system, things were seen as being much more “black and white.” If you commit this sin, you offer that sacrifice. Things were very “clear” to the Jerusalem authorities, and they could not handle Jesus’ rabbinical, dialogical way of getting at God’s truth.

These two perspectives — absolute clarity, black and white “easy” answers versus dialogue and continual seeking after the deeper truths of God’s ongoing revelation — frame much of the debate within our own Anglican communion today as well as throughout much of the Christian world. Indeed, these differing perspectives are present in other great religions of the world as well.

How can we engage one another — without rancor or premature closure — as we together seek God’s truth on our “journey toward Jerusalem?”       

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