#7 Refocused Travelers
The disciples’ focal point was local—Galilee and its surrounding areas, Jerusalem on special occasions, and the familiarity of fishing boats. Called to a cause, they focused on Jesus’ riveting words, amazing miracles, and what it could possibly mean. Then Jesus died, shattering all the disciples believed and dared hope for. Disappointment, confusion, and fear were their close companions. Then, Jesus appeared and refocused their outlook.
His last words to them were, Go… make disciples… baptize… teach. Jesus stretched their boundaries from Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria to the ends of the earth.* The words He spoke to the disciples, He speaks to us, book-ended by two empowering promises.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus said—and says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples…” Therefore—because all authority (power and dominion) is His and He is in us—we go, we make disciples, we baptize, and we teach.
The second bookend is as precious. “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Never alone—Jesus is with us and within us, before and behind us, above and beneath us, ever present. He equips, enables, empowers us to meet the call.
Easter makes these promises and this calling personal. Like the disciples, let’s be world travelers with our words and prayers, time and treasure, heart and soul.
* Acts 1:8
Image by stokpic from Pixabay
#6 Tearful Travelers
Caring, devoted, passionate women were among Jesus’ followers. They believed in Him and faithfully watched for the fulfillment of Jesus’ time. Early Easter morning they tearfully hurried to the tomb with spices for His body. Why had they not thought to invite the men to remove the stone? Perhaps as tears blurred their eyes, grief blurred their thinking.
Of course, we hind-sighters know the story. The stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, except for the angels. Not understanding, the women continued to mourn—until the resurrected Jesus turned their tears of mourning to tears of joy. Part of me envies their first-hand discovery.
But… Jesus still reveals to me fresh resurrection truth. He comes to me, a sometimes-faithless female follower, and rolls away stones from my desolate places. The sin that snared me, the despair that gripped me, the selfishness that consumed me are rolled away by my risen Lord and I’m given life—again. Like the women of old, my tears of sorrow become tears of joy because Jesus stills rolls away stones.
Listen to Lauren Daigle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQZNcZcfo8E
Image by TC Perch from Pixabay
#5 The Destined Traveler
The Creator of time traveled through time. The Maker came to live in the world He made. Son of God became Son of Man.
As a human, God lived, eating, drinking, and sleeping as we do. He grieved, laughed, taught. He walked dusty roads, dined with the lowborn and the highborn, cursed hypocrites and blessed children. Eventually He traveled to the cross, the end of His human journey, the beginning of God’s redemption.
I cannot comprehend the distance from heaven to earth. It cannot be understood or measured, though I sometimes try. I was helped when I read The Triumph, by Gene Edwards. As he described the dregs of sin Jesus drank (in what Jesus described as His cup), I thought about the sins too ugly to dwell on.
I refuse to read books or watch shows elucidating sins such as slavery, rape, child abuse, racial discrimination, human trafficking, or torture. These atrocities exist but I can’t bear to look at them. Jesus did more than look. He took them into Himself—and paid their price.
The unthinkable sins, the ugliness that makes me want to lash out, punish, and take revenge, Jesus drank and then made a second inconceivable journey—He descended into hell. Then, by His victorious resurrection, He closed the immeasurable distance with unmerited forgiveness, making our journey to the Father possible.
“Thank you,” is just not enough.
Image from verseoftheday.com
#4 The Compelled Traveler
Compelled, forced, made to carry Jesus’ burden, he traveled the road to Golgotha with a cross on his back. Simon of Cyrene is found in this one event in the Bible and details of his life are only conjecture.
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. Mark 15:21
This we know—he was pressed into humble service, seemingly unwillingly, with the unrealized honor of serving the Son of God. When Jesus could no longer travel up the hill carrying His cross, Simon carried it for Him.
I wonder what he thought as he trudged to Golgotha under that heavy weight. I wonder what he thought afterwards. I hope he believed. I hope he hurried home to his sons, Alexander and Rufus, and told them he served the Savior. I hope he and his household were saved.
Simon was Jesus’ hands and feet, grasping the cross, plodding uphill—not an easy road. We too are Jesus’ hands and feet, sometimes compelled, always honored—not an easy road for us either. He asks us to serve and promises that the humble will be exalted.
Simon lived during the crucifixion; we live after the crucifixion with the Holy Spirit resident in us. Let’s follow in Simon’s humble steps, compelled not by Roman soldiers, but by the love of Christ (2 Cor. 5:14). Let us honor our Lord with heart and soul, hands and feet.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal. 2:20
# 3 The Conflicted Traveler
He followed Jesus to the Garden; he defended Jesus against the soldiers; he traveled to the high priest’s courtyard—Peter, first to speak, fast to act, famously impetuous. The man with unbridled passion vowed he would never deny Jesus but here, in the courtyard, he did so three times.
Jesus told him he would do so. Jesus asked him to pray so he wouldn’t be tempted. And Jesus forgave him, as He does us, for all our rash promises, fear-filled moments, and reckless behaviors.
After His resurrection, Jesus took a walk with Peter. If I was in Peter’s sandals I would have felt uncomfortable, awkward, ashamed. But all my regret could not have prepared me for Jesus’ grace. He didn’t reprimand Peter—He didn’t even refer to his three denials. Jesus knew Peter was repentant and He simply repeated one question three times, “Do you love me?”
Jesus died for our sins, transgressions, short-comings. He saved us as imperfect creatures who await the day we will be made perfect. Too often we work for perfection when what Jesus is looking for is our love.
If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn’t ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, March 23 reading)
Jesus asks us today, “Do you love me?” He expects those who love Him to not look inward but upward, to Him, and then outward—to care for His sheep.
John 13:36-38;18:15-27. Image from Carmelites.net
#2 Clueless Travelers
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.
Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet and celebrated the Passover, establishing it as the Lord’s Supper from that point forward. Jesus also spoke troubling words to them—words of death, desertion, and denial. Now He and the disciples traveled to a familiar garden and Jesus asked them to pray.
He didn’t ask them to pray for Him, but for themselves.
He said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”
He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed.
Each of the three times He rose from prayer, Jesus saw that they were not praying as He had asked, but sleeping. Luke tells us why:
He found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.*
Jesus didn’t condemn them. He didn’t even scold them. He had warned them there was temptation ahead—to fight, run, hide, deny, despair—and they were not prepared. They were exhausted from sorrow and so they slept.
Fast forward less than two months and we find these sleepy, unprepared, undisciplined, fearful disciples changing the world. They became preachers, healers, miracle workers—wide awake, bold, and unafraid. Like last week’s donkey, they were the ones Jesus chose to use, just as He chooses us.
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Cor. 1:27
Gethsemane references are from Luke 22.
Image from the Brooklyn Museum/FreeBibleimages.org.
#1 The Humble Traveler
See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious,lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9
A king on a donkey—it doesn’t quite compute. Surely any king worth his salt would ride in a chariot pulled by pompous horses adorned with plumes. If not a chariot, a king would at least ride a magnificent white steed, draped with scarlet, flaunting jeweled reins.
But the King of all kings chose—wanted—needed—a donkey. He didn’t ride into Jerusalem on a splendid stallion that proclaimed His importance, the common people did that for Him. With cries of “Hosanna” they tore palm branches from trees and stripped their cloaks to lay before the King. If they had not done so the stones would have cried out! And still, in this setting’s intrinsic call for worship, Jesus chose a donkey for His Triumphal Entry.
Thinking on this has revealed in me an embarrassing pride—I don’t want to be a donkey. I have held back from laying down my life in abandoned worship and surrendered service because, in my eyes, I’m not good enough. I want to be a glorious, white stallion that properly represents her Lord.
But the stubborn truth is, Jesus chose a donkey. More than that, He said He needed the donkey. He needs me. He chose me, the weak, common-bred, lowly, inexperienced and unlearned one because He needs me. I reflect His glory not because of who I am, but because He chooses to use me.
Gladly, willingly serve your King. He needs you.
“Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” Luke 19:30-31
Image by JacLou DL from Pixabay
We came to a fork in our path and the signpost directed us left—obviously a mistake because it led to a dead end.
I long wanted to explore the Celery Farm in Allendale but, somehow, never got there. This was the day, one of the uncommonly warm winter days we’ve been enjoying in New Jersey. It was a longer trek than I anticipated (and definitely muddier) so I was ready to reach the car, which made the appearance of this dead end rather disappointing.
We went back to the fork and proceeded down the other path, which really made more sense because it was wider and brighter. But—surprise, surprise—it was another dead end, clearly indicated by the chain across a residential road. Hmm.
Once more, we returned to the fork and back down the path we first tried. Pressing past the “obvious” end of the trail, we discovered it didn’t end—it simply narrowed and turned. If we had turned back and not pressed on, we would have missed this:
It made me wonder, How many assumed dead ends would have led me to fresh discovery, if I had only pressed on?
Over the next several weeks we will look at various Easter travelers. Many of them faced apparent dead ends that seemed to indicate their hopes had been misplaced. In reality, the travelers were brought to a new, wide-open path that led them into the presence of God.
God’s paths always lead us to Him—the day by day paths He’s prepared for us, and the blood-bought path we follow into His eternal presence.
Don’t turn back. Press on.
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11