Our Old Testament reading this morning from Jeremiah talks about a journey. A journey which exiled Israelites will take from their captive city of Babylon back to their homeland, back to Israel, back to Jerusalem. Jeremiah describes this journey as one which will be flat, straight, through a desert but yet they will be walking alongside brooks of water. It’s a peaceful journey with no surprises as God is the One who is leading them.
This journey of the Israelites is much different than the journey which Jessica and I went on through the Trail of Tears State Park in Jackson, Missouri. You see we decided one nice fall day back when we were dating that we would take some time and enjoy the great outdoors. We didn’t do any research of the trails before we got there and needless to say, our journey through the woods was not flat or straight, but it did at times go alongside the waters of the great Mississippi River. It was not the joyful journey over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house either. Our journey, our trails involved steep hills, slippery slopes, and very uneven terrain. It involved bugs, humidity, and no park benches to stop and rest on. What was envisioned as a peaceful hike through the woods turned out to be one of the most grueling, painful, and exhausting walks we have ever been on.
For the disciples of Jesus, the journey with Jesus is not that flat, straight journey alongside brooks of water. At times, it is more like a modified version of hiking through the hills of Southeast Missouri. Ever since Jesus was transfigured, was changed for a moment in front of three disciples on the top of a mountain … the road, the journey of Jesus has been going to Jerusalem.
Along the journey, as they pass through Galilee, Jesus avoided crowds because Jesus was teaching his disciples about how he was going to be betrayed into the hands of sinful men. How he was going to be killed by these men but then after three days he will rise. Mark tells us that the disciples, “did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it” (9:32). Not a smooth walk through their homeland.
They journey to Capernaum and there have the hill to get over of who is the greatest among them … only to hear Jesus tell them that “if anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and servant of all” (9:35). Then he grabs a young child and put him in the midst of them. Talking about having your feet swept out from under you.
Jesus journeys from there to the region of Judea and across the Jordan. There he is challenged about divorce and rebukes people for not allowing the little children come to him. It’s here were Jesus encounters the young rich man who is asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. The young man believes he has climbed the mountain by following the commandments, but then gets spun around on the next bend of the trail as he is told to give up the idol of his stuff.
Then this morning we hear that Jesus and his disciples have reached Jericho.
The road to Jerusalem … it’s long and winding. It navigates hills and valleys, forests, and farms, cities and suburbs and small fading towns. Along this road there are all kinds of different people. Each of the people Jesus encounters is feeble and frail in their own way. Along this road are those who hurt and those who have been hurt. There are those who suffer and those who cause suffering. There are powerbrokers and the broken by power. They stand together … but yet … they stand alone. They stand alone on this road and beg. They beg with their words, their eyes, and with the desires of their hearts. These people line the road in hope, searching for something or someone to help them.
Along this road is One who can help. He sees the people along the road who can’t help themselves. He hears those who cry out. He walks this road from the Mount of Transfiguration to Jerusalem, hearing, gathering, and healing along the way. He instructs and invites and binds together all who call out for His mercy. Jesus, the Lord of all creation, is the restorer of body and soul.
This road Jesus is on to Jerusalem, it turns today. It turns right into Salem, right into our church. Here Jesus calls you and me. He calls you and me to follow Him, not just to the top of the next hill, not to the next curve or park bench, but he calls you and me to follow him all the way home.
Our gospel reading this morning draws our attention to a specific spot along this long road. It’s the place where a blind man, where Bartimaeus sits to beg. He sits by the road in darkness without any hope. He has nothing to offer but a cry for help and he would not be silenced when he heard Jesus was near. His faith would not let him.
But this reading isn’t about him. The reading is about the One who heard him. It’s about the Son of David, the fulfiller of the prophet Jeremiah we heard from earlier. This man is the One who would bring home the blind and the lame. This is His road. Ever since the beginning of time, He has been traveling this road. And the people alongside the road … well, they are His people.
Jesus asked Bartimaeus … “What do you want me to do for you?” It’s the same exact question which Jesus asked of his disciples a few verses before our reading. Bartimeaus’ request was easy … he wanted to see. So with nothing but the words of his mouth, Jesus has mercy and gave Bartimaeus sight. But that isn’t all that he gave him. With this vision came salvation. And with salvation, there came a place for him on the road with the One who healed him. Bartimeaus now walks with Jesus. Journeying with Jesus, Bartimeaus found himself walking with others.
Walking with others, Jesus continues on toward Jerusalem. The destination for Jesus has always been Jerusalem. Numerous time he tells the disciples he must go there, not to be glorified but to suffer, to suffer at the hands of sinful men. The road to Jerusalem is a road to death.
But not only for Jesus. No, it is a road of death for all who follow him, who journey with him. For all who have been baptized and believe, Paul says, have been baptized into Jesus’ death (Romans 6:3). But Paul also goes on to say that yes, you have been buried with Christ in his death, but just as “Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).
So this road, this journeying with Jesus doesn’t end at the grave. The road goes through the grave and back among the feeble and the frail, back among the weak-hearted and the slow to believe, back among the power brokers and those broken by power. Along that road from the grave, our risen Christ continues to call, continues to gather people to him, and he continues to heal. Jesus continues to restore and heal those who cry out for His mercy.
This road Jesus journeys on … it comes right down here into our midst, into our church this morning. From this road Jesus calls you and me to come and follow him. As we get up to follow Jesus, we don’t do it alone. We journey with Bartimaeus, we journey with the disciples, we journey with all the company of stragglers who have cried out for mercy and found peace and salvation in Jesus.
This road which comes here to us doesn’t end at this rail, at this altar. It does a hairpin turn, a sharp turn back to the doors leading out into the community. It goes through hills and valleys, forests and farms, cities and suburbs and even small fading towns.
Journeying with Jesus continues for you and me over the rough terrain of this life until we reach the smooth and straight path in the new Jerusalem, the new heavens and earth to come. The trails overgrown with plants and bare roots, which have rocks sticking up out of them … they turn to streets of gold where the cries for mercy are no longer heard. Instead, there is joy, happiness, and jubilant song. We journey with Jesus, with our Lord, our Rock, and our Redeemer. As we journey with Jesus, He gives us eyes to see, to really see those around us who are in need. Until this road, until this journey reaches its final destination … Jesus through you continues to call more and more people to walk with Him. He continues to open our eyes to those who walk with us.
So come … strap up your laces and let’s go on a journey together. Let’s journey with Jesus, helping others along the way so that they too may know and believe in Jesus as their Savior. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.