03.01.17 Coming Home (Ash Wednesday) Luke 15:11-24
Jesus was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, but when it was time to go home, he went to Jerusalem. In the very famous hinge in Luke’s Gospel (9:51) we’re told, “When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
No prophet or a prophecy was required to know that Jesus was on a collision course with the Temple. There the Priests were aligned with Rome. Jerusalem was the junction of these two streams of power: Political and religious.
In Jerusalem, Jesus would be betrayed by a friend, abandoned by his disciples, and falsely accused, tried, and convicted. His body would be tortured, then hung in public humiliation and excruciating pain as a human warning poster.
Jesus would die in Jerusalem; his body placed in a cave, and expected to return to dust. One of the first truths of the Bible comes from the opening chapters where it says, “from dust we were created, and to dust we will return.”
Lent is often referred to as a “journey.” It is indeed one leg of our homecoming, a time we intentionally walk with Jesus towards Jerusalem—toward his cross, towards his death and resurrection which is our death and resurrection.
Remembering this is sobering. It weans us off our drunkenness.
The Prodigal Son was drunk with “dissolute living.” We rightly imagine feasting, parties, and luxury. It’s like going on vacation, the purpose of which is forgetting home for a while.
Eventually the Prodigal desires to come home. And to his surprise, he receives a joyful welcome with a festive reception.
Likewise, Jesus came to a far country and served in the mud and muck of our lives. (Yes, we’re the pigs in this story.) He was motivated by divine love.
Jesus enjoyed much of his time with us. His first miracle prolonged a wedding celebration by providing more wine. He hosted a party at Zacchaeus’ house. Of course his healings led to celebrations. Jesus enjoyed feeding thousands at a time. He was friends with prostitutes, and was accused of drunkenness. His time in the far country with us was a joy to him.
But eventually Jesus heads for home, and he turns his face to Jerusalem. His earthly journey culminated in death, as ours does too. But unlike the Prodigal, when Jesus looked to home he anticipates the joyful reunion with his Father. It does not come as a surprise.
This is what awaits Jesus on the other side of his sojourn with us. It is what awaits us on the other side of our sojourn with Jesus.
Lent is the time we join Jesus on his journey, when we walk with him towards his home, where he goes to prepare a place for us, so that where he is, we may be also. “Walk with me,” Jesus says. “Come home.”