An Easter Journey
Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem
When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
Luke 9 : 51
Jesus visited the towns and villages and saw how worried the people were - 'like sheep without a shepherd'. Wherever he travelled crowds came out to see him and he taught them many things about the Kingdom and the Father. Luke tells us that he then 'set his face' to go to Jerusalem. It was his last journey and he must have known what is was that would happen to him there.
Hanging over the lands of Galilee and Judah like a dark cloud was the Roman Empire. Judah, where Jerusalem lay, was governed by the Roman Pontius Pilate; Galilee was ruled by one of Herod the Great's sons - appointed by the Emperor. Their prime concern was the collection of taxes - as much silver as could be collected without rebellion but also oil and wheat. It caused deep resentment among the country peasants many of whom suffered from unemployment, debt and regular food shortages. There was a longing for a new King David to arise and overthrow the Romans returning the land to its golden age.
When Jesus was a young child Herod the Great died. All over the land there were uprisings in what was known as THE ROBBER WARS - a bandit called Judas used violence to attack the town of Sepphoris and armed his followers; a former slave called Simon claimed kingship and plundered Jericho; a shepherd called Anthronges, said to be tall and strong like David, was hailed as king. Many lives were lost in the bloodshed including those of Roman soldiers. The Empire's response was swift. The governor of Syria, Quintilius Varus, marched through the land with an army of professional soldiers. In every village and town suspected rebels were rounded up and over two thousand crucified as both punishment and warning. The town of Sepphoris, a few miles from Nazareth, was burned to the ground. Mary and Joseph would have seen the flames in the night sky.
When Jesus travelled from town to village in Galilee Pontius Pilate was governor in Judah and Herod the Great's son, Antipas, ruled Galilee. At the slightest sign of rebellion both were brutal.
Because Jesus attracted crowds wherever he went and because much of his teaching was about a new kingdom many of those in positions of power and authority were suspicious.
Jesus made up his mind to travel to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover. The city would be full of crowds and pilgrims. Pilate came in with soldiers for the duration of the festival to ensure peace and crush dissent - these were violent and uncertain days. Jesus will have known that it would be his last journey and that when there he was to bring about a fulfilment of ancient hopes. Perhaps this is why Luke chose the words he used -
When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.'
Luke 9 : 51
'...his venality, his violence, his thefts, his assaults, his abusive behaviour, his frequent executions of untried prisoners, and his endless savage ferocity.'
(a description of Pontius Pilate by Philo of Alexandria c. 42 - 50 a.d.)