The key issues for all of those who encounter Jesus in Luke’s Gospel are these: Do they know why he is on the road in the first place? And, will they follow him as his disciple? This Lent, Jesus asks those same questions of us.
We read a lot of poetry at school, but among my favourites were the vivid narratives in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.
There was something fascinating about the characters en route to Canterbury that Chaucer portrayed—pilgrims on their way to visit the shrine of Archbishop Thomas Becket. These included such memorable individuals as the much-married Wife of Bath and the “verray, parfit gentil” Knight. But—no doubt somewhat prejudiced by a sense that I was being called to be a minister—my favourite pilgrim was the poor Parson, who preached the message of Christ but first followed it himself.
But Chaucer was by no means the first author to use a journey as the motif for introducing his readers to a variety of interesting people. He had long been preceded by Luke, the beloved physician and author of the New Testament’s third Gospel. From chapter 9 verse 51 onwards, Luke records all the events in Jesus’ life in the form of a journey to Jerusalem. This travelogue eventually brings us to Calvary and to the empty tomb.
Jesus issues a challenge to anyone who would follow him along the road to Jerusalem. At the great turning point he says:
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (9:23-25)
The key issues for all of those who encounter Jesus in Luke’s Gospel are these: Do they know why he is on the road in the first place? And, will they follow him as his disciple?
This Lent, Jesus asks those same questions of us.
The Disciples Who Noticed The Mark
I must have “seen” Ash Wednesday before having any idea of what it was. In my childhood, sometime in February or occasionally in March, I would notice someone with a dirty mark on their forehead—and then another person, and then another. It must have meant something, surely? (We were Scottish Presbyterians. Lent was not something we observed!)