St Luke 18: 31 – 34
Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon.After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’ But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
What’s in a direction? Jesus and his friends are going ‘up’ to Jerusalem, and often in the Bible people are described as going ‘up’ to the city, regardless of where they start from. East, west, south, north, Jerusalem is always up. Perhaps this is because as a city on a hill it is literally higher than the surrounding lands, but it could also be that because of its status as a holy city, home of the Temple, Jerusalem is ‘up’ in a deeper sense. It was where people went to celebrate festivals and encounter the living God.
We use up and down language all the time. Traditionally on the railways in the UK ‘up’ was in the direction of London, and ‘down’ away from it, while no dramatic courtroom scene on film or TV in which the accused is found guilty is complete without the instruction to ‘take him down!’ It’s also in how we think of the earth. Mediaeval maps put Jerusalem at the centre of the world, but now we usually have north at the top and south at the bottom, and some map projections make the countries of the northern hemisphere look bigger and so more important than those in the south. Looking at a map with south at the top* can be a disorientating experience, forcing us to consider if our assumptions are actually correct. In the book of Acts a group of Jesus’ followers are accused of ‘turning the world upside down’ and this is what Jesus is doing here in speaking of his coming sufferings; even his friends were not ready for the idea a messiah could suffer and die.
Are we called to turn the values of our world upside down? And if so, how can we travel ‘up’, in the footsteps of Jesus on the road to the cross, growing closer to the God that we worship?
* for some examples see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South-up_map_orientation
Up or down,
left or right,
north or south,
we give thanks that whatever direction we travel
you travel along with us;
help us to find the direction
that leads us closer to you,
and brings us into deeper fellowship and connection
with the people we share our lives with.