Last Sunday, “Palm Sunday,” we walked down the Mount of Olives hill with Jesus and into Jerusalem. Noisy crowds, dusty streets. In hindsight, we should have known what to expect, because he told us. It’s been a long walk… a long walk from the north of Palestine to Jerusalem in the south. He walks on desolate country roads, through villages, sometimes with crowds, sometimes just with his disciples, occasionally taking time to be alone. “He went on teaching from town to village, village to town, but keeping on a steady course toward Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:22) It was mostly the same long walk Mary and Joseph took just before he was born. He and his people have made this long walk many times.
Folks from other cultures walk much more than we do – most of us anyway. Last year, I started “walking” on an elliptical machine and I watch the display to tell me the distance. I get to a certain mile marker and stop, or I watch a clock. You don’t talk to people much when you’re on the machine. You walk, you finish, and you haven’t really gone anywhere. I know people in other places who would think that this is a ridiculous way to get exercise. Why not just walk to the places you need to go?
Jesus is so much more purposeful – he walks for a reason. He’s also more flexible, more open; he wants to be in Jerusalem around Passover time, but seems to have allowed for the unexpected and wasn’t in a hurry. It’s about a 10-day walk, but he may have taken longer as he teaches, heals, and has meals with outcasts. He knew what was at the end of this long walk – although his disciples couldn’t quite grasp what he was doing this side of the cross, they knew what would happen in Jerusalem and tried to talk him out of it – he understood the purpose of it. He was busy saving as he walked, preparing to save us all on that cross at the end of the journey.
Maybe that’s a healthy way to think of Lent: our own long walk with Jesus. The long walk toward Jerusalem with Jesus teaches, heals, and creates fellowship with those who are not in our circle. We have much to learn from Jesus; there’s a message for us disciples in the long walk toward Easter, and the vital, essential purpose we have: to bond our ourselves, our families, and our community to the One who is saving and walking with us.