By T. R. Robertson
Jesus is bound and determined to join the Passover pilgrimage. He could make the safer choice and stay with his friends in Bethany. But no, he wants to join the crowds in Jerusalem, the city where the Jewish and Roman leaders are eagerly awaiting an opportunity to arrest him.
The walk from Bethany to Jerusalem is less than two miles, no more than a short stroll for the disciples. After all, for three years we’ve been walking back and forth over the whole of Palestine. My spiritual legs are chiseled and toned from all the miles I’ve traveled with Jesus.
I take a lot of walks with Jesus and his disciples. My favorite way to pray is through my imagination. I pick up my Bible and turn to a section of the Gospels. Wherever Jesus and his disciples are going, I follow along.
They always seemed to be on the way to somewhere. Most of the Gospel narrative is about Jesus talking to his disciples, teaching crowds of followers, and speaking one-on-one with people he met along the way. But Jesus wasn’t interested in just talking. He was always on the move, walking toward his destiny.
Imagine the conversations Jesus and the disciples had during all those long walks. That’s exactly what I do when I pray, using my imagination to chat with them about what they—we—are seeing, doing, and hearing. As we sit around a campfire in the evening, I ask Jesus questions about the people we encountered and the things he said during the day.
Entering Jerusalem with Jesus
“Say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly’” (Mark 11:3).
On this day, at the beginning of Passover week, we’re all walking toward Jerusalem. Except Jesus, who is riding a borrowed colt.
The only social media in this era is word of mouth, but the news of Jesus’ approach quickly goes viral. As we walk toward the city, we see a mob coming toward us, eager to greet him. We watch, astonished, as they begin stripping off their outer garments, laying them out on the path in front of Jesus. Others add palm branches, forming a royal carpet.
According to John, the disciples don’t understand the significance of what is happening (John 12:16). Their conversations are likely more about the logistics of crowd control.
Lord, I’m often slow to see what you’re doing in my life and in my community until later, when I see the results. Help me to see events the way you see them, so I can be fully involved in your mission as it is happening. Work through your Holy Spirit to tenderize my heart so I’ll rejoice with those who rejoice and not allow my cynical nature to take over.
How great to be present to hear Jesus’ amazing teachings this week. But how unnerving it is to listen to him repeatedly hint about his impending death. This morbid fascination of his puts us all on edge.
The constantly lurking religious leaders despise him, but he seems to not care. The crowds treat him like a pop star, but he has to know that many of them will be shouting, “Crucify him” days later.
Even the disciples, the people who knew you best, misunderstood you. And yet you were still willing to be sacrificed for us all. Lord, create a heart in me that’s willing to sacrifice myself for others, even for those who misunderstand me or hate me.
In the Upper Room with Jesus
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).
As much as I imagine I would enjoy sharing this experience, for the disciples it was especially precious. They had all grown up with the Seder as a vital part of their family life. It was time for the extended family to draw together and share this important meal.
And now Jesus was essentially saying to his disciples, you are my family.
I call you Father. I know I’m an adopted brother of Jesus. But, Lord, I want to feel so close to you that our relationship truly is like a family. I want to share life with you, to laugh together, to share memories. Do you remember that one time . . . ? Of course you do. But can we talk about it anyway?
Imagine the sensation of having someone wash your feet: warm water, gentle hands, a soft towel. Then picture that it’s Jesus at your feet, stripped down to his inner garments, dragging a basin of water from one pair of dirty feet to the next. I’d have been as shocked as the disciples were. This just wasn’t done. Would I have balked at the King of kings handling my grubby feet? Would I have said something about it?
Lord, teach me to embrace submission and servitude like you did. Plant that attitude so deeply into my heart that it becomes my default mode of dealing with everyone. Help me to see, Father, who in my life needs me to wash their feet. Help me to be willing to join them in the mess of their lives and to get myself messy while serving them.
With my knowledge of how the story plays out, could I have sat by idly and watched while Jesus talked with Judas, nudging him to get on with what he’s planning to do? Would I have felt embarrassed for Peter when Jesus put him in his place, predicting his denial?
Judas and Peter didn’t turn their backs on Jesus as a whim. Something in their lives apparently wasn’t quite right, hadn’t been right for a while.
Lord, search my heart and help me to root out the hesitations, the small betrayals in my character. Dig deep, Lord, and force me to see where I’m getting dangerously close to a tipping point between loyalty and duplicity.
On the Way to Destiny with Jesus
“Come now; let us leave” (John 14:31).
Even on this last night, it appears most of Jesus’ final conversations with the disciples took place after they left the upper room. This adds some depth to their conversations.
I can picture myself walking stealthily with them through the dark streets and byways of Jerusalem, avoiding people who would turn us in to the authorities. As we’re huddled in a darkened corner, I hear Jesus say, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18).
I join them as they walk through a vineyard, while Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches” (v. 5)
Lord, as I walk with you through my daily life, give me your eyes to see how ordinary things declare your glory. I want to feel your presence with me no matter where I am, whatever is going on around me.
And then, finally, I join Jesus and the disciples at Gethsemane. How I would love to get down on my knees in the garden, to pray alongside Jesus. I fear, though, I’d be among those he had to rouse from slumber.
Lord, I’m 60 years old. I know how tired I get after even a normal day, let alone those days when I’ve pushed myself to be about your business. Give me the stamina I need, Father, to stay alert for the divine opportunities you put in my path every day.
I envision waking up with a start, feeling ashamed for having fallen asleep again. There’s barely time to rub the sleep from our eyes when the soldiers come. Peter reacts, swinging his sword.
But Jesus doesn’t fight. He allows Judas to kiss him. He surrenders.
And the disciples run.
There have been too many times when I’ve run from getting involved in the difficult things you wanted me to do, Lord. Too often I’ve used my busy calendar as a place to hide from your invitations. I’ve felt compassion for people in need but have assuaged my conscience with tossing some spare change at them instead of stepping forward and getting involved.
Never let me forget, Father, how wonderful it is to take a walk with you and your disciples, to carry on conversations while we’re traveling together on the way to fulfilling your mission. It’s so much greater to walk with you than to run away from you.
T. R. Robertson is a freelance writer in Columbia, Missouri.