“As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’”
Throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is headed toward Jerusalem. When people are called and decide to follow Jesus, they are literally following Him to Jerusalem. I think that everyone that Luke introduces to us knows this. That is why some of them have to be warned, maybe to their great surprise, that Jesus doesn’t have a house (Luke 9:58). And this is why some of them are campaigning to get the top jobs in the kingdom (Luke 9:46-47). When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, there is going to be a great coronation and everyone wants to be a part of it and to be part of the blessed inner circle that will benefit most and first on that day. At least, that is what is imagined. When I was younger, I used to think that the problem was that the Jews were expecting a physical kingdom but Jesus was interested in a spiritual kingdom. But I no longer agree with this. The Jews were rightly anticipating the arrival of God’s kingdom as spoken about in all their scriptures. “And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.” Zechariah 14:9 (Emphasis added) The Jews were not expecting a rescue from the earth but a rescue for the earth. They believed that God had created a good world and when He reclaimed it for Himself, it would not be to destroy it but to renew it! That is why, as the crowds followed Jesus to Jerusalem, they anticipated a coronation and a kingdom. Jesus affirmed that part of their expectation. The places where their expectation needed serious confronting (as our own expectations do today) had to do with the nature of Jesus’ kingdom. How did it function? What were it’s guiding principles? How would God finally set the world right? Systems based on prejudice, pride, greed, self-aggrandizement and revenge had no place in Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom. And Israel, not always recognizing their own evil as we ourselves are prone to do, were not ready to be confronted by Jesus’ kingdom movement. They more or less expected simply to get swept along in the train of its’ glory. Nobody was prepared for the nature of the kingdom that Jesus had in mind.
Our culture has mentally separated the idea of God and Government and of Church and State for a long time. In the popular American imagination, Jesus is headed to Jerusalem to become a sacrifice for our sins so that we could go to heaven when we die, but Jesus is not headed toward a coronation. Or if He is headed to a coronation, it is to become king of heaven (as though Jesus wasn’t already king there!?). When we say that we have decided to “follow” Jesus, we mean that we have decided to acknowledge Him as God and give him worship. This is right and proper, but there is more. The people who followed Jesus in those first days also ended up worshiping Jesus as God, (though not before He was resurrected), but they also literally followed Jesus to Jerusalem, and when they did, they slowly began to realize that Jesus meant what He said when He told them that they must take up their crosses and follow Him (Luke 9:23). None of those early followers actually carried crosses to Jerusalem on that fateful trip with Jesus, but when they saw His crucifixion and then witnessed His resurrection, they began to understand that this kind of self-giving love was the engine of Jesus’ kingdom. If they really wanted to be at Jesus right hand and at His left hand in His kingdom (Mark 10:35-45), then they too would need to take up crosses and follow Jesus. This was and is true both metaphorically and literally, just as the kingdom Jesus established is both spiritual and physical. So where is Jesus headed today? The New Testament writers claim that Jesus has been established as king over the entire world and yet, the entire world does not know it. Undoubtedly, Jesus is leading us to go to the places where He is not yet known, and not named, to make them aware of the kingdom of self-giving love that heals and saves the world He so loves. Jesus’ kingdom is both spiritual and physical. Following Jesus is the same. Are you prepared to follow Him?