The Road to Jerusalem
Jesus is walking to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Our stories are about the people he meets along the way and how being with Jesus changes their lives. Our stories lead us to Jerusalem and beyond.
Passover is the most important Jewish religious holiday. Jesus like many other Jewish people of his day are going to Jerusalem to celebrate in the great Temple.
By now many people have heard of Jesus and want to see him, hear him preach and teach, and ask for his help.
The Journey to Jerusalem:
Baptism & Wilderness
The world Jesus lived in was very dry – mostly desert wilderness. The desert is constantly moving and changing place. The wind comes and moves the sand. You might see one shape one day and not be able to see it again the next day. In the desert a little bit of water would look like a lot. People and animals searched out the water for life.
In this desert there is a great river – the Jordan. People and their animals gathered by this river to drink its life-giving water, to bathe and wash in its stream.
Maybe you remember the story of Jesus’s baptism. He was baptized by John, a prophet of God – remember prophets? They hear the word of God and speak it to the people.
When John brought Jesus up out of the Jordan River those nearby saw something amazing. The clouds parted and some people said they heard a voice, “This is my son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Whose voice was that? God’s?
Jesus didn’t take a big bow or start signing autographs like some people might do if they had just been named as the son of God. No, after Jesus was baptized, he went away from everyone he knew into the desert. Jesus walked into the desert with nothing.
He was so hot during the day and so cold at night. And he was so hungry. But he was not alone. God was with him, and so was another. The Tempter.
The Tempter came along and teased him. He knew Jesus was hungry, so he said, “Hey Jesus if you’re really God’s son turn these rocks into bread,” Jesus said, “Listen, we live by more than bread.”
So, the old Tempter tried again, he teased Jesus that if he really was the son of God, couldn’t he just fall off the highest tower of the Temple and have his angel friends save him. Jesus said, “No you should not tempt the Lord.”
The Tempter was treating Jesus like some kind of circus trick and Jesus was getting tired of it, so when the Tempter gave it one last shot and took Jesus to the top of a mountain and said that if he only would worship him, the Tempter would make him king of all the nations. Jesus was really steamed, and he said “NO, you shall worship God only.” And the Tempter left him.
After this Jesus begins his journey. He gathers his disciples around him and begins to do many wonderful and mysterious things. But now, today, he is with us on the road to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of the Passover.
This is Lent – what is Lent? 40 days just like Jesus’s time in the desert, 6 Sundays plus Easter
How do we mark time in Lent? Maybe your Lenten Puzzle will help you.
The People Jesus Meets:
Jesus and the children
Jesus was baptized by John, in the Jordan River, and named as God’s beloved. He went into the desert and was for 40 days alone and teased by the tempter. When he came out of the desert and gathered his disciples around him and taught the people.
Jesus is said to have done miracles and was asked many questions by those who were with him every day, and by those who only talked with him once.
He is on the road to Jerusalem with many other people who are going there to celebrate the feast of the Passover. We’ll talk about what that means in another lesson – maybe some of you remember about the Passover?
Jesus and other faithful Jewish people are going to Jerusalem because that is where the Temple is and that is where God lives. Not like us – not like having a church on every corner. For Jesus and his family and friends God lives in one place – the Temple in Jerusalem.
So, they are all on the road to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover in the Temple. In the place God lives.
Why do you think that children would come out to meet Jesus? What do you think they asked him? What would you ask him? What would you tell him?
When Jesus was one the road to Jerusalem and the children came to see him, his friends - the disciples, tried to keep the children away from him. The disciples told the children that Jesus was too busy, that he didn’t have time for kids. Have adults ever said that to you?
But Jesus saw what was happening and heard what the disciples said. He came and pushed them aside and said “Let the children come to me, do not stop them, for to children belongs the kingdom of God”
What do you think he meant by that? Jesus said that people must know God as a child. What do think that means?
How do we know the stories of Jesus? From the words of the New Testament. From the Gospels. Maybe you’ll want to read a Bible story today – this one is from Mark 10:13-16
Maybe today you’ll want to make your paper chain, or add links to it – write a question you would ask Jesus on a link or two
And it is always fun to sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”
Why are we going to Jerusalem? To celebrate the feast of the Passover. What is Passover? What does it mean? It is the celebration of the Jewish slaves’ freedom from bondage in Egypt. It was in the time of Jesus the most important Jewish holiday – and it still is today. Our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Passover every spring – just like we celebrate Easter.
We are all on the road to Jerusalem. Jesus is on the road too, and many people are following him, asking him for help, and just wanting to see him, to touch him, to just be on the road with him.
There was a blind man on the road to Jerusalem. Hi name was Bartimaeus. Because he was blind, he couldn’t work, and because he couldn’t work - he had no money and no home.
So, blind Bartimaeus sat by the gates of the city of Jericho and begged the people that came and went for pennies, for food, for compassion. But most people just walked by.
Because when Jesus lived people believed that illness or disability was a sign of sin. If you were blind you or your parents had sinned. So, no one wanted anything to do with the blind man.
But Bartimaeus had heard about a wonderful man that was on the road - Jesus. So, as he sat by the gates of Jericho lonely and sad, he heard the great sound of feet walking by him, and he heard a different sound in one set of footsteps. He heard the sound of Jesus’ feet. He called out, “Jesus, son of God – Help ME! And the people around him told him to be quiet. But he kept on shouting. Jesus saw the man, really looked at him and said to the others, "he isn't sinful."
Jesus asked him what he wanted. Bartimaeus said, “to see.” Jesus told him that he could see. And Bartimaeus opened up his eyes and saw everything around him. He was so happy that he jumped up and followed Jesus – helping share the good news with all who would lesson.
Because Jesus saw beyond his blindness, the man now could see.
I wonder how it would feel to see for the first time – what would you want to see first?
Who are people you think no one looks at? Maybe the homeless, those who are different from us?
See someone different from you – give them a smile.
The Rich Young Man
We are all on the road to Jerusalem. Walking there to celebrate the Passover. Jesus is walking with his friends and disciples. Many people are coming out from nearby towns and villages to see him, to meet him, to ask him questions. Jesus has met children, people who are sick and blind, people who are sad and people who need to know that God is with them.
One person that comes out to see Jesus is a rich young man. He has many questions. He wants to know what reward he will get by being good.
He sees Jesus and calls to him – “Good Teacher, what must I do to earn God’s favor?”
Jesus responds, saying, “Don’t call me good - Only God is good. And you know the answer to this question – follow the Ten Commandments.”
The young man looks relieved and tells Jesus he has lived by the Ten Commandments all of his life.
But Jesus knows that there is more to this young man’s questions. He looks at him with love and hope.
Jesus tells him he lacks one important understanding. Jesus tells him that he must sell what he owns and give the money away. After that he can follow Jesus. Jesus told him that if he let all his stuff get in the way he would have as difficult a time following God as a camel getting through the eye of a needle.
This is not what the young man expected to hear. He was sad because he had a lot of stuff and didn’t want to sell it. He didn’t want to have to give anything up to go with Jesus.
So, he just walked away.
I wonder what Jesus thought? Maybe he knew this would be how the man would act. Jesus didn’t have any problem with the man having things – Jesus wanted to remind him not to let his stuff get in the way of his walk with God. I wonder if the young man ever figured that out?
Maybe today you’ll want to start a collection for a charity – maybe CARITAS or Family Lifeline – they help people build better lives. Check them out on the web for what they need to help others.
Do any of you know what taxes are? Taxes are what working adults pay to the government to provide a better life for all of us. Taxes when used for the best are good things. But sometimes, taxes can be misused. People can make others pay more money only to make themselves rich.
This is what Zacchaeus did. Zacchaeus was a tax collector, he made other people pay him taxes that he was supposed to give to the government. But Zacchaeus was not honest. Zacchaeus made people pay extra money that he took for himself. And the people knew what he was doing, but they couldn’t stop him.
So, the people hated Zacchaeus. I won’t use the word hate much, but in this case it is true. They didn’t mind paying what was owed, but they knew when Zacchaeus was stealing.
When Jesus was passing by the town where Zacchaeus lived everyone went out to see him. Even Zacchaeus went. But Zacchaeus was a very short man, and he couldn’t see past the others lined up to see Jesus.
Do you know how it feels to be too short to see something that you want to? Have you ever had lots of tall people in your way when all you wanted was to have a decent view of a ball game or a parade or a movie?
Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, so he climbed up in a tree. From his place in the tree, Zacchaeus could see everyone that passed by, and he was sure that he could see Jesus. And you know what - when Jesus walked by it was like he knew Zacchaeus was up in that tree, Jesus said, “Zacchaeus you come down.” And let me tell you everyone, including Zacchaeus held their breath.
But Jesus went on to say even more amazing things, he said, “Zacchaeus you come down because today I will eat lunch with you at your house.” Everyone was mad and amazed at the same time. Here was Jesus going to eat with this no-good cheating tax collector Zacchaeus.
Why would Jesus do this? Jesus has a way of seeing past the things we do out of weakness and turning them into strength. He had Zacchaeus come down out of that tree because he knew that Zacchaeus wanted to be a better man. And because Zacchaeus knew that Jesus believed in him, Zacchaeus made a promise to give away half of all that he had, and to pay back all the money that he had taken four times over.
Maybe this is a good day for a walk outside – maybe climb and tree!
And sing the song – “Zacchaeus was a wee little man.”
Today we are almost to Jerusalem, almost to our destination. Today we will reach the gate to the city. The gate to Jerusalem. All the people on the road, Jesus among them are almost to the city of the Temple where they will celebrate. Many of the people in Jerusalem heard that Jesus was on the road and they came out to meet him. They were shouting “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” The King - many people thought Jesus was a king that would come and raise an army and defeat all their enemies. Was Jesus that kind of king ? Jesus was given a donkey to ride and the people crowded around him as he neared Jerusalem, crying “Hosanna in the highest,” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” They put down purple cloaks on the road - purple is the color of kings - and lined the road with palms as welcome to their king, to welcome Jesus. Jesus enters Jerusalem. Many people tell him not to, but he enters the city.
When the Sabbath is over and the morning light comes faithful women go to the tomb where Jesus lays to properly bury his body. Mary who was his mother, and Mary his dear friend, and Mary Magdalene who was his beloved come to the tomb. But they find it empty. Instead of a body they find an angel. The angel tells them something unbelievable – to not be sad, that Jesus is not here dead but that he has been called into new life. Two of the Mary’s run off to share this great news with the other friends of Jesus. But Mary Magdalene who was his beloved stayed behind. And it was to her that this new life Jesus first appeared. And he told her to not be afraid, that he was indeed living a new life, one that she would someday be called to. Jesus was called by God to live through death, not like Lazarus who was called out of death into life, Jesus was called into a new life. And Jesus and God share this call and gift with us. We are all Mary at the tomb and have this wonderful invitation from Jesus to live a new life, to be changed by what we see and hear and learn. We are an Easter people so a story that can sound very sad is instead full of life and hope and the sure knowledge that God is with us, that we are the body of Christ full of hope and goodness.