51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
Today’s devotion isn’t pleasant. As we continue to accompany Jesus through the week leading up to his death, we think of that very thing: death. When Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem,” he was facing the city where he knew his suffering and death would take place. He was steeling himself for the long journey to the tomb. Our focus for today is to face mortality- the mortality of dear Jesus and our own mortality.
All of us are aware that our earthly life is temporary. Sometimes the temporariness becomes more real to us. Our earthly mortality is understood more clearly in times of illness, in the fear that illness may return, at the loss of a loved one, in a near-miss or accident that could have been worse. We tend to think of our mortality more often as we age, too.
In these times, we are grateful for the promise of life eternal, of life that will be filled with joy and love, of life that will be even better than this earthly life. And yet, we still have worries and sorrows, don’t we? We wonder if we will be able to see all our dreams and purposes fulfilled. We can’t bear to consider our temporary farewells to loved ones. We hesitate to even imagine if we will suffer. We worry about our loved ones grieving and hurting. We know we will be fine “on the other side” but it’s the getting there that seems so hard.
Now imagine how Jesus had to face his earthly mortality straight on. He was only about 33 years old. He had done so much in his short ministry, but there was still so much to do. He had dear friends, devoted followers, and a loving family who would miss him. He would have to bear the most terrible suffering, and then be hung on a cross to die. I wonder how much he knew. We do know how much he agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was God’s son, but he was human. His fears and deep grief were real. We know that Jesus fully understands what we feel about our own death.
We are so fortunate to be living in the time after the resurrection of Jesus, to know that he was raised to new life. Today we are blessed to know that death is not the end, it is only the beginning of a beautiful life that we cannot even begin to comprehend. But today… let’s remember with profound sorrow and deep gratitude what Jesus went through to show us that.
Our reminder symbol is a nail. May we consider the crucifix nails that held Jesus as he suffered and died so that we may face our own mortality with peace, hope and even joy.
I am so sorry for all of the suffering you had to endure.
I am so sorry for the way you hung on a cross to die.
I am so sorry that you had to knowingly face all of this in the long days beforehand.
I am so sorry for the agony, the grief, the doubt, the terribleness of it all.
I say “thank you,” but it seems so inadequate.
But thank you.