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The Journey to Jerusalem (1): Setting the Scene

Graeme Hutchinson


The major section of Luke's Gospel (Lk 9.51 to 19.28) covers between three and six months of the Saviour's journey to Jerusalem. The material is mostly unique to Luke and is referred to as 'the travelogue' or 'the going'. The precise chronology is difficult to pin down. We know, for example, that the Saviour resorted to Jerusalem for the feasts (sometime around October for Tabernacles, Jn 7.2, 37 and later – possibly December – for Dedication, Jn 10.22). In response to Jewish threats, He moved eastward to Perea (Jn 10.39-40) where He gave important ministry on various issues including divorce and remarriage (Lk 16.18; cp Matt 19.1-9). During this time He travelled to Bethany and raised Lazarus (Jn 11.1-44), before moving northward to Ephraim (Jn 11.53-54). Following a brief visit further north (Lk 17.11) the Lord moved south and east, for His entry to Jerusalem was via Jericho (Lk 18.35-19.28).

The focus of these articles is on the teachings of the Lord and we will blend the narrative from both Luke and John. The introduction outlines the summary points from Luke's 'travelogue'.


Luke stresses the dedication and commitment of the Saviour (Lk 9.51 – 'steadfastly' means to be resolute and is translated as 'fixed' in 16.26). The description reflects the portrayal of the Perfect Servant in Isaiah's prophecy (Isa 50.7). This is remarkable when we consider how the shadow of the cross became more apparent with each step (Lk 12.50). It also explains the emphasis the Saviour placed on the need for perseverance in the Christian pathway (Lk 9.59-62) – a characteristic which marked the early Christians (Acts 2.42).


The section underscores the importance of prayer. For example, the Saviour is active in His own prayer life (Lk 10.21-22; 11.1) and He also refers to its necessity for disciples as part of their ministry (Lk 11.2-13; 18.1-8). The lesson is twofold. The Gospel that emphasises the humanity of the Saviour (Lk 3.23-38) is also careful in highlighting how He resorted to prayer and supplication. But it equally illustrates how the Saviour, physically separated from heaven, longed to spend time with the Father. Prayer is much more than an opportunity for supplication – it is a God-given privilege to spend time with our heavenly Father.


With Calvary only months away, the teaching for the disciples is much more intense than before. For example, the previous section of Luke's Gospel (Lk 4.14 – 9.50) covered a longer period but the emphasis was much more on miracles and the public display of the Saviour's Messianic claims. In this section, the material covers more private education – the disciples are taught vital lessons on the coming Kingdom. This includes insight into its character, with the description as a locked house, which is firmly shut to the outsider (Lk 13.25); a great supper with many invited (Lk 14.15-16), and a nobleman returning from a far country to receive His kingdom (Lk 19.11-12). Entrance is based solely on humility (Lk 14.11; 18.16-17) and repentance (Lk 15.11-24; 18.9-14), and there is tremendous honour for the inhabitants (Lk 18.28-30; 19.17-19). Though the present-day believer looks forward to the Lord's imminent return for the church (rather than Messiah to establish His kingdom), the teaching on subjects such as evangelism, kindness, prayer, faith, riches (and much more) remain highly relevant.


Luke delighted in recording scenes of happiness. His Gospel, for example, begins and ends with a note of 'great joy' (Lk 2.10; 24.52) and the same holds for the largest section of His Gospel (note, in particular, Lk 10.21 where 'rejoiced' means to be exceedingly glad but there are other references such as Lk 15.6, 9, 24). Such joy also spilled over to expressions of worship for the Lord and His ministry (Lk 13.13; 17.15-16). The section is therefore an antidote to what we experience in the world, which is invariably sorrow and heartache. It also presents the challenge of ensuring we worship God with a loving and joyful heart (Isa 25.9).


Running parallel to the scenes of joy was the animosity directed toward the Saviour. The Jewish leaders resorted to a combination of scare tactics (Lk 13.31), fault finding – that reflected badly on their legalistic mindset (Lk 14.1-6) – and murmurings (Lk 15.2; 19.7). On other occasions, the Saviour's ministry led His enemies to wicked derision (Lk 16.14) and He was ultimately crucified at Jerusalem (Lk 18.31-34). Notwithstanding the intensity of the hatred, the Lord remained calm, gracious and forgiving. He sets the standard for believers today as we interact with the world (1 Pet 2.21-25). The section is also a warning against apparent popularity, for despite the crowds that followed the Saviour (Lk 14.25; 18.35-36), they remained largely indifferent to His teachings.


The 'travelogue' retains the unveiling of the Saviour as the 'Son of Man' (Lk 11.30; 12.40; 17.26; 19.10). However, He is inexhaustible and hence there are other references to Him such as 'Lord' (Lk 9.54; 10.17), 'Master' (Lk 10.25; 12.13; 18.18) and 'Jesus' (Lk 10.30; 14.3). Note also that it was in the parables that the Saviour gave the most vivid descriptions – 'master of the house' (Lk 14.21) and 'a certain nobleman' (Lk 19.12). Such revelations of the Son are important to contemplate as we worship Him.


Evangelism is an important theme in Luke's Gospel. The key aspects of the message are covered, including its source (found alone in Christ, Lk 9.56); its scope (embracing adult females, males and also the children, Lk 13.10-13; 19.1-9; 18.16); its spread (a divine message promulgated by servants who themselves are recipients of grace, Lk 10.2); its strength (able to totally and immediately transform the individual, Lk 13.13; 18.40-43); its satisfaction (bringing joy to the Father, Lk 15.20 and to the recipient, Lk 19.6); its solemnity (failure to trust the Saviour has very sobering consequences, Lk 16.23-26) and its simplicity (accepting the divinely inspired Word of God remains the only way to salvation, Lk 16.27-31). But a crucial aspect of salvation is that it represents the door to further blessing – something that Martha had to learn in terms of her devotion to Christ (Lk 10.38-42).


Although the Saviour's pathway led to Jerusalem, the ultimate destination was heaven (Lk 9.51). There are repeated references to the city, and its significance historically and prophetically is important to grasp (Lk 13.34-35). Notice that the reference to Jerusalem marks not only the boundary to the section (Lk 9.51; 19.28) but also the midpoint (Lk 13.22). The Saviour also ministered on how He remained safe until His arrival into Jerusalem (Lk 13.33; 18.31-34). The believer is equally safe until such times as our service on earth is brought to an end. In Christ, we cannot be safer.


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