Magazine article The Christian Century

No Turning Back

Magazine article The Christian Century

No Turning Back

Article excerpt

I have decided to follow jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, No turning back, no turning back.

WHEN MY FRIENDS and I sang this song at church camp, we sang sincerely, often teary-eyed, seated on the ground with the cross illumined by candlelight in front of us. In those emotional moments, I imagined myself to be standing firm in the Lord as the Philippians were urged to do by Paul, who reminds them, "Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the, Lord Jesus Christ." In those moments, I was determined to set my face toward him. But my single-mindedness never lasted. It was mostly the allure of gossip or boys that sidetracked my determination then. I stopped so often along the way of following that I lost my way. Occasional flashbacks to those times and to the words of that song turned my attention to Jesus, but I have moved in fits and starts through adolescence and adulthood sometimes toward, and often away from, singleness of purpose.

In chapter nine of Luke's Gospel, Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem, where he will be arrested and condemned. He intends to travel with single-minded purpose. No turning back, no turning back. But along the way, even he stops to teach, to heal or to sit with those who love him. Today's text finds him confronted by Pharisees who warn him to move on quickly because the fox is at the gate--Herod Antipas is after him. In their heating lie lays out his plans: "I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work." I'm on my way to Jerusalem, he says. It's the end of the road for me.

The lament for Jerusalem that follows these words has been much discussed: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34).

The problem is simple. Jesus has not yet been to Jerusalem, except as a boy of 12 when he stayed behind there and scared his parents half to death, and then once when he was escorted there by the devil during his wilderness temptation. Perhaps Jesus is speaking, as did the prophets before him, of God's desire to gather Jerusalem's children. Or, since all good Jews are children of Jerusalem, perhaps Jesus refers to his own attempts to gather them to himself all along the way. Maybe he is thinking of the lawyer who asked, "Who is my neighbor?" or of Martha, who exploded in a fit of jealousy--or of the Pharisee who invited him to dinner and got a lecture about being clean on the inside. …

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