Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Road to Jericho

Friday – Roads of The Bible Pt. 4
Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Mark 10:46, 47
It happened on the Jericho Road.  You may not realize it, but there is much in the scriptures that happens on the Jericho Road.  In Luke chapter 19, it is on the road to Jericho that Zacchaeus climbs up the sycamore tree so he can catch a glimpse of Jesus and winds up hosting the Lord in his home.  It is on the road to Jericho that Jesus places his subjects as he tells the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10.  And it is on that same road in Mark 10 above where Jesus encounters Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.
Jericho road is a road of historic treachery.  It is a seventeen-mile road that connects Jerusalem to Jericho.  Over the course of those seventeen miles, the road drops an estimated 3600 feet. It is a steep, winding, descending, remote road that for centuries has been a place of robberies.  No doubt, it was the suffering associated with the Jericho road that inspired Jesus to use it as the stage for his lesson involving the Samaritan.
Three Men, Three Encounters
Including the story of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus practically paints himself into the plot as the man rejected by Jews who shows great mercy, we find three individuals who encounter Jesus on the Jericho Road:  Bartimaeus, who was blind and a beggar; Zacchaeus, who was short in stature, and hated as a tax collector; and the Samaritan man of the story, who was hated not for anything he had done, but simply for being born a Samaritan.
Each of these, though rejected by their world, find meaning and acceptance when they encounter Jesus on the Jericho Road.  Through these three, it becomes very easy for us to identify and relate, for we also have been rejected by men.  We too have been born with afflictions.  We too have known what it is to feel small, and less-than others.
A Lesson In Song
In his song “On The Jericho Road”, Don S. McCrossan stressed the concept of a one-on-one encounter with Jesus: 
“As you travel along on the Jericho Road does the world seem all wrong and heavy load?  Just bring it to Christ your sins all confess on the Jericho Road your heart He will bless. On the Jericho Road there's room for just two. No more and no less, just Jesus and you each burden He'll bear, each sorrow he'll share. There's never a care for Jesus is there.”
A Broader Vision
While we’ve gone to much length here to place ourselves on the Jericho Road, we are wise to look around us and see those around us who are lost, or beaten, or rejected, or cast aside on the Jericho Road.  It is here that Jesus’ message concerning the Good Samaritan comes into focus.  When asked who is our neighbor, Jesus replied: “Who was the one who showed true love to the man on the side of the road?” When the evidence pointed to the Samaritan, the instruction was given: “Go and do likewise.” (see Luke 10:25-37)
Prayer: “Savior, we were beaten, and broken, and lost; yet you took us in.  Help us to gather into our watchful care, those who are the downtrodden, and forgotten.  Make us your hands and feet, and arms.”
Scripture to claim:  
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

The Road to Bethel

And it came about when the LORD was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here please, for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel." But Elisha said, "As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel. 3 Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, "Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?" And he said, "Yes, I know; be still." 2 Kings 2:1-3

Studying Biblical history, we find that there may have been several places called Gilgal.  The name, meaning ‘circle of stones,’ denotes that it was likely a Holy site where stones had been erected as a place of remembrance of an act of God.  This particular Gilgal lay some 12 or so miles from the ancient city of Bethel, whose name bears the meaning ‘House of God.’  

In the passage above, we find something of a long goodbye shared between Elijah and his protégé Elisha, who would succeed him as the prophet of God. It is perhaps coincidence that we have Elijah, one through whom God has done many great acts, moving from Gilgal to Bethel, or ‘House of God’ as he faces his last day on earth.

There on the road to Bethel, Elisha is aware that Elijah’s time is very short and he refuses to leave the prophet of God’s side.  Elijah tries to make his own departure easier by commanding Elisha to stay put, but it is to no avail.  Elisha is not going to let him out of his sight.  

The story approaches an apex as Elijah asks Elisha if there is anything he can grant him before he departs.  Elisha is quick to answer: “I want a double portion of your spirit.”  Or essentially: “What God has done though you, may He do twice as much through me.”  The scene culminates, as Elisha is able to keep Elijah in his sights as he disappears into the whirlwind that has swept him away.  Taking up the mantle of Elijah, Elisha now assumes the responsibilities of Elijah and discovers that the same Spirit that worked through Elijah, now works through himself.

A Walk Through What Was…A Glimpse of the Not Yet
One of our long time members and myself had opportunity to be in our former sanctuary yesterday for a few minutes.  We were marveling at how the new construction is proceeding and how quickly phase four construction is taking shape…literally right before our eyes.  The long time member lamented however how he was a bit melancholy to see the sanctuary that he had grown up in be transformed.  This was the place he and his wife had gotten married.  Their children had been baptized there, and God had done so many great things there.  But then he added: “I know that God is going to be faithful to use this new administration space and youth space to do even greater things!”

Our View of the Road to Bethel
It doesn’t take long living in this world to teach us that life is also about letting go.  Perhaps we leave a region we have lived our whole lives in knowing that we may likely never return.  Or, we say good-bye to friends, and family members as they pass through death’s door.  We know because of Jesus, the separation is not forever, yet it is one we must endure and adjust to.

Certainly among other things, the Road to Bethel shows us that as life brings us transitions and abrupt changes, we are not to allow our lives and ministry to slow to a halt.  The mantle of ministry is ours to assume and continue on with. 
Prayer: “Lord, how grateful we are for the lives and love of those who have preceded us.  Help me today to faithfully serve in kind, and fulfill your purposes…as have those who have gone before.

Scripture to claim:  
“And Elisha said, "Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me."” 2 Kings 2:9b

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