The journey to realize Jesus can be a long one for some people…
We, Christians, often have an impatience within us when it comes to other people seeing the truth of who Jesus is, and subsequently, hopefully, giving their lives to him. Our desire is often to get someone “over the line” of salvation, with no appreciation for the journey they must take in order to see Jesus for who he is.
Journeys to Jesus can be long and difficult.
Take Mary and Joseph for example. The Scriptures tell us that, due to a census being taken, they had to leave Nazareth and travel to the town of Joseph’s ancestors, Bethlehem. That journey was not a walk down the block, or a walk down the road to a nearby town. Bethlehem is about 90 miles from Nazareth. Not only that, but it’s not the easiest of journeys.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. – Luke 2:4
Note my underline in Luke 2:4 where they “went up” from the town of Nazareth to Bethlehem. If you look on a map, it can be curious that they actually traveled south to get to Bethlehem, we would culturally say, “they went down to Bethlehem.” This “went up” points to entering the Judean hill country where they would walk the 90 miles to Joseph’s roots. That journey could have taken them 4-8 days on foot, depending on many factors.
Imagine a couple of teenagers, not married, embarrassed and likely hiding the fact she is pregnant out of wedlock, making a trek through the mountains to Joseph’s homeland one of hiding, heads low, no eye contact, no camping with others around the fire at night. They must travel alone and keep their secret. I can hear the unwanted questions from fellow travelers now, “When is your wife due to give birth?” “Well, ummmm, pretty soon.” This journey would have been arduous at best, and quite possibly dangerous at times, especially at night. It would have been fraught with pitfalls and possible struggles. But the journey was necessary for Jesus to be revealed.
Often, we won’t allow people to take the journey we find them on. We want behavior, circumstances, orientations, and decisions to change overnight so that they can “look” like they want to follow Jesus. Perhaps they are in the middle of a 90 mile journey to eventually see Jesus face to face. Things on their journey won’t look safe, or comfortable, but it may just be necessary for them to “birth” God out of the pain and the struggle. Their own birth pains will start at some point, and then hopefully when they see the face of Jesus in their journey, they will be overtaken with the love and grace found at the end when they come to see him face to face.
We try to hard to push people to the end of the journey, as if to hurry Mary and Joseph along….”faster, faster”….we might say. The quicker we get to Bethlehem, the quicker Jesus comes into their life. This is a strategy we often take, but rarely see Jesus doing in the gospels. Rather, what if we did what Jesus did, we might try walking with them, being present, taking the hard road with them, and then sharing in the revelation to come later. It’s not fast, it’s long, It’s not easy, it’s hard. But that’s the journey Jesus took into this world, and also the way he journeyed out of it. Allow others the same journey Jesus took.