A few weeks ago my Regional Explorations class went on a hike from Jericho to Jerusalem. That may not mean anything to most of you reading this blog and it meant nothing to me before I completed the journey with my class.
The hike from Jericho to Jerusalem is significant because Jesus took this trip with his disciples in order to get to Jerusalem for the Passion Week, which would be the week of his death. Jericho is 800 ft below sea level and Jerusalem is 2500 feet above sea level. That means that Jesus, his disciples, and my class all had to walk up in elevation a total of 3300 feet before reaching the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. This is the vertical distance. The horizontal distance, as the crow flies, is approximately 15 miles. We however, did not walk as the crow flies. Our route was about 18 miles long. As we began our hike, we were in Jericho and in the wilderness. It was dusty and very windy. We passed by several Bedouins (tent-dwellers) on our way up and even a few camels. For each of our hikes, we are all given a passage to memorize on the hike that corresponds with the biblical journey. This time, we memorized Matthew 20:17-19 and Matthew 20:29-34. The first is this:
17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
The first section above was a very sobering passage as we made our way to Jerusalem. We were not on a normal hike. We were making the same walk that Jesus had except when we got to Jerusalem, we would be picked up by a bus and taken back to the Moshav for dinner. Jesus would arrive in Jerusalem and be betrayed. He would suffer, and he would be crucified. The disciples did not understand what Jesus was about to do at this point. They prove that they don’t understand with the very next verses in Matthew when James, John, and their mother request that they might sit at Jesus’ side. Jesus responds with a lesson concerning greatness. He teaches that in order to be great in the Kingdom of God, they must become servants to all, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v.28). It was as if the disciples were listening to Jesus tell riddles. They still did not understand. They could not see the cross, but Jesus could. In fact, there were several times during our hike from beginning to end when we could see Jerusalem from where we stood. Just think what it may have been like to be miles away from your death, but still to be able to look and see where it would take place. I would be simply terrified and yet Jesus used the time to teach his disciples. We continued on and began memorizing the second section of our memory verses:
29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him.30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
I am thankful that we had this passage paired with the first because it completes the picture of what Jesus was going to Jerusalem to do. He was still in Jericho when he performed this miracle, but he was in a hurry. His journey to the Passion Week had already begun and now there were two blind men bothering him to regain their sight. At first, they are told to be silent, but they continue to cry out. Keep in mind that they could not see Jesus. They only knew that he was passing by them because they heard. That is bold. After they cry out again, Jesus does what was unexpected from his disciples. He stops. He has compassion. He heals these two men. After they are healed, it says that they follow him. My teacher explained in class that he would not be surprised if they followed him all the way to Jerusalem. Jesus was not just going to Jerusalem to die. He was going to free a multitude of sinners from the bondage of death. He would open the eyes of the blind. The disciples were still blind, but even they would be give sight in due time that they might see the glory of the Lord and follow him.
We were almost to Jerusalem, and we were tired. We began to make our final ascent to the Mount of Olives. At this point we had been walking for about 8 1/2 hours. We had just walked 17 miles and now we had to walk the last mile at an intense incline. Previous to this hike, when I read in the Bible that Jesus traveled from Jericho to Jerusalem, it meant very little to me. I had no idea how tiring such a journey would be. I realized that Jesus was tired. He stayed tired for the final week of his life as well. Matthew 26:36-46 says that he stayed awake all night before his death to pray to his Father. The hour was at hand. He told the disciples to keep watch with him, but they fell asleep. We usually criticize them for sleeping on such a night, but which one of us can blame them, knowing how tired they must have been. Jesus even tells them that their bodies were weak. He knows that they were tired. He himself was tired. After finishing our hike, I went right to bed. If someone told me to take my rest later on, I am sure I would have acted as the disciples had. My flesh was weak and I would have listened to it in the same situation. For Jesus, death was before him. His flesh was certainly weak, but his spirit was willing. He willingly freed multitudes of men while he was tired. This was the walk to Jerusalem and this is our God.