A Secret Trip to Jerusalem
IT IS the autumn of 32 C.E., and the Festival of Tabernacles is near. Jesus has confined his activity mostly to Galilee since the Passover of 31 C.E., when the Jews tried to kill him. Likely, since then Jesus has only visited Jerusalem to attend the three annual festivals of the Jews.
Jesus’ brothers now urge him: “Pass on over from here and go into Judea.” Jerusalem is Judea’s main city and the religious center of the whole country. His brothers reason: “Nobody does anything in secret while himself seeking to be known publicly.”
Although James, Simon, Joseph, and Judas do not believe that their elder brother, Jesus, is really the Messiah, they want him to show his miraculous powers to all those gathered at the festival. Jesus, however, is aware of the danger. “The world has no reason to hate you,” he says, “but it hates me, because I bear witness concerning it that its works are wicked.” So Jesus tells his brothers: “You go up to the festival; I am not yet going up to this festival.”
The Festival of Tabernacles is a seven-day celebration. On the eighth day it is brought to a close with solemn activities. The festival marks the end of the agricultural year and is a time of great rejoicing and thanksgiving. Several days after Jesus’ brothers leave to attend along with the main body of travelers, he and his disciples go secretly, staying out of the public eye. They take the route through Samaria, rather than the one that most people take near the Jordan River.
Since Jesus and his company will need accommodations in a Samaritan village, he sends messengers ahead to make preparations. The people, however, refuse to do anything for Jesus after learning that he is heading for Jerusalem. Indignantly, James and John ask: “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and annihilate them?” Jesus rebukes them for suggesting such a thing, and they travel on to another village.
As they are walking along the road, a scribe says to Jesus: “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you are about to go.”
“Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts,” Jesus responds, “but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” Jesus is explaining that the scribe will experience hardship if he becomes His follower. And the implication seems to be that the scribe is too proud to accept this mode of life.
To another man, Jesus says: “Be my follower.”
“Permit me first to leave and bury my father,” the man answers.
“Let the dead bury their dead,” Jesus replies, “but you go away and declare abroad the kingdom of God.” The man’s father evidently had not yet died, for if he had, it would be unlikely that his son would be here listening to Jesus. The son apparently is asking for time to await his father’s death. He is not prepared to put the Kingdom of God first in his life.
As they proceed on the road toward Jerusalem, another man tells Jesus: “I will follow you, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those in my household.”
In answer Jesus says: “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.” Those who will be Jesus’ disciples must have their eyes focused on Kingdom service. Just as a furrow likely will become crooked if the plowman does not keep looking straight ahead, so anyone who looks behind at this old system of things may well stumble off the road leading to eternal life. John 7:2-10; Luke 9:51-62; Matthew 8:19-22.
▪ Who are Jesus’ brothers, and how do they feel about him?
▪ Why are the Samaritans so rude, and what do James and John want to do?
▪ What three conversations does Jesus have on the road, and how does he emphasize the need for self-sacrificing service?