They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
It’s time to get moving. Not just us – though certainly we are ready after our lengthy meditation on Jesus’ encounter with the rich man J – but also, and more to the point, Jesus. He is heading with his disciples to Jerusalem and the cross. And he is out ahead of them.
That is, I think, always the way it is. Jesus is out ahead, leading the way. He beckons us to the cross – down the peculiar road of the kingdom where you give up all claims to having defined or established yourself on your own – but he always leads the way. He will not ask us to go somewhere he has not already been, and he will not abandon us to go anywhere difficult without him. Indeed, the whole of the Christian life, promise, and hope might be summed up by saying that “Wherever we may be, Jesus has already been; and where is now, we will someday be.”
Mark describes some of those who follow as amazed; others as afraid. Or perhaps many are some of both. Do they sense what is coming?
Jesus is leading, but the road is still difficult. Moreover, almost every element of our culture counsels us against it. Deny one’s self? Put others first? Be dependent on grace, mercy, and forgiveness? Extend the same to others when they appear to have done you wrong? Risk suffering rather than embrace security? Madness.
The madness of the kingdom. And so Jesus goes ahead.
If we find it difficult, we may take some comfort in discovering that Jesus’ first disciples found it no easier to follow than his latest. And so Jesus tells them what will happen. And they don’t believe. So he tells them again, and they don’t want to believe. And so he tells them yet a third time, here, on the road to Jerusalem.
And they just can’t believe what they hear. And so he goes on ahead. He always will, leading us to the place we cannot go on our own, to bring us through death into life.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to follow. In Jesus’ name, Amen.