On the road is where people mingle, meet, and interact.
He introduced himself as Santa Clause in the middle of the Frankfurt, Germany terminal. It was 2-in-the-morning-ish but you couldn’t tell from his demeanor. He had a banjo. He was was a missionary headed to India to spread the gospel by banjo-ing. It was 2011.
A few years later, wandering down a crowded walkway at the International Conference of Missions, I bump into a portly man sporting a grey beard and a familiar banjo. It was Santa Claus. He says “I remember you!” It was odd because of the two of us, I figured I would be the one more easily forgettable. Had I not gone out on the road, I never would meet such interesting people.
The same can be said for Jesus. Luke 9.51 reads:
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
The NIV renders the phrase ‘resolutely set out’ translating a greek idiom. The greek literally reads: he “established his face toward Jerusalem”. The idea is that he would not be deterred from making his way to Jerusalem. This verse begins a section of Luke that would be called the Travel Narrative by scholars. The reason is that Jesus is continually traveling up to Jerusalem. Along the way he keeps meeting people. Also of note is that the material contained in Luke 9-19, the Travel Narrative, is largely unique to Luke and not found in other Gospels. What fascinates me is what these people who meet Jesus leave with.
Some left with teaching. “As they walked along the road…” (10.57), “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and loks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” (10.62) They learn the cost of following Jesus. He teaches them about prayer, the how and the why (11) and on worry (12.22ff). As he “went through towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem…”(13.22), “he said to them, ‘make every effort to enter through the narrow door…” (13.23ff), teaching them the difficulty of salvation. “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said…whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (14.25,27,33) He touched on eternal life (10.25; 18.18); hypocrisy (12.1); and the Sabbath (13.15). Some meet Jesus on the road and need some wisdom. His message is clear, “here’s how to be a disciple!” which is the perfect message given that the stage is a road, where discipleship is shown.
Some left with healing. There were some that shown up on this road with some physical baggage that needed to be handled. There was the man who had the demon (11.14); a crippled woman (13.11); a man with swelling (14.2); and the Ten Lepers (17.11). He was on his way to Jerusalem, but it was never beyond his time to show mercy and compassion to these people. Healing would always have a place and time on this road. These people knew that meeting Jesus would change their lives. That is why the last healing, the blind beggar in Jericho, was one that was instigated by a man shouting out Jesus name and causing a scene. When all you have known your entire life is blindness and begging, Jesus is your only viable option and you would do what you could to get to him. (18.35)
Some left with a story. This travel narrative is full of stories. Jesus is constantly telling these short stories that make a point. Jesus knew that stories stick with people so he uses this method to change people. The stories are the ones that everyone grew up with…
- “There was a man who had two sons…” (Luke 15)
- “A certain man was preparing a great banquet…” (Luke 14)
- “The Kingdom is like a mustard seed…” (Luke 13)
- “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them…” (Luke 15)
- “Two men went up to the temple to pray…” (Luke 18)
And there are others on the road. A parable is a simple story with a deeper significance. Each of these stories were meant to teach a truth to the person(s) there. The prodigal son puts the love of God and the pride of righteousness on display. The great banquet is a meal open to anyone who will respond. The mustard seed is 12 men who changed the world. The lost sheep is the persistent love of God. The Pharisee and Tax collector offer insight into pride and hubris. I’m going to borrow a term from Aristotle to describe the literary device that Jesus employs. The term is anagnorisis which means “discovery”. Nearly every story begins by our identification with the hero of the story, the good son or the Pharisee, but by the end of the story, we realize that we have problems. In an instant, we discover that maybe we don’t have it all together.
So there he is on the road. Wandering back and forth between the countryside and Jerusalem. He is meeting and walking with any who would take the time to come to him. What is it that you need to meet Jesus on this road about? Do you need teaching? A reminder concerning worry, prayer, discipleship? Maybe it’s healing? Do you need his power to overcome depression or addiction? Maybe it’s a story? Perhaps you just need to meet him to get a good story?
Its time we get out and meet him on the road.