Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem. For him, it represents both unconscious momentum and conscious decision. Intuitively aware of the probable result, he goes anyway. The disciples only discover this along the way. They never quite understand the ‘cost’ of following Jesus until payment is demanded. It is at Jerusalem ~ called the city of God, where the divine glory dwells in the Temple. It is also a place of looming adversity and conflict. Why? Because Jesus is not a threat to spiritual religion if it is truth-seeking. Yet, he is a threat to worldly power. Because, confronted by his genuine spiritual authority, worldly power appears as what it is ~ empty, yet falsely alluring.
On his journey, Jesus senses what lies ahead. For him, Jerusalem will mean one thing ~ challenge ending in death. For others, a journey to Jerusalem need not be anything like what it will bring for him. But for him, it is his vocation, his calling. He must walk the Messiah path toward the holy city, to fulfill the prophet’s words that God will come suddenly to his Temple. Walking this path will expose him to conflict — conflict brought by those who attach themselves to the periphery of holiness… to the accessories of religion.
Like an immense rock, Jesus is so grounded in himself, and in his calling, that he cannot be shaken, or lured from following it. Centered in his godly identity, his presence and words have the power to shake everything else. He is like the brilliant summer sun, splaying its dazzling rays upon wax candles and dark chocolate, causing them to melt. Jesus has this effect on some people, who shy away from him… at least until they gather enough courage with like-minded others, to try to do away with him.
The Spirit-of-God-power working through him has been for the good: healing infirmity; casting out demons; bringing sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf; releasing lepers burdened by pain and isolation. These are signs of the Kingdom breaking into the world with new power. The message about these things comes to be called Good News. And yet, this Spirit-of-God-power in him will soon challenge more than outward symptoms of fallen humanity. Soon he will challenge the foundations of another kingdom, the kingdom of darkness. This is why the demons cry out at him, “what have you got to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” Indeed, what have you to do with us, Jesus?
So Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem. Luke wants us to notice how Jesus’ vocation becomes the template for our vocation. Jesus shares with us and with everyone his own calling. This is his vocation to walk through this world as someone beloved by God, as God’s holy one. The Father’s words to him at his Baptism signaled this. And our heavenly Father says the same thing to everyone who accepts the gift of Jesus’ vocation at Baptism – you…you…you are my chosen, my beloved, upon whom my favor rests. As we follow him, Jesus shares with us the purpose and power of his vocation.
The image above is of James Tissot’s painting, He Went Through the Villages on the Way to Jerusalem. This post is based on my homily for Sunday, June 30, 2019, which can be accessed by clicking here. Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which specifies the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.
“Yet, he is a threat to worldly power.” This reminds me of Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire. Sylvia Keesmaat, co-authored with Brian J. Walsh. (InterVarsity Press, 2004)..