"As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem" (Luke 9: 51: NIV).

Early in his ministry, Jesus revealed who he was: John, the writer of the fourth gospel, shows us Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath Day, and Jesus telling the healed man to carry his mat--on the Sabbath Day (John 5:5-10).

But those who insisted they knew best, said to the healed man, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat" (John 5:10b). And they persecuted Jesus (John 5:16).

When Jesus explained, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working," his critics "tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18).
 
Yet Jesus could not keep silent. He said, "Whatever the Father does, the Son does" (John 5:19c). Jesus wanted people to be aware of the relationship enjoyed by the Father and himself: Jesus said, "...the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does" (John 5:20a). And Jesus added, "...just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it" (John 5:21).

Jesus expanded: "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24).
Though Jesus was hounded, he steadfastly went on to preach and teach openly, to feed multitudes, to heal sick persons, and even to raise Jairus's dead daughter to life, also to raise to life his friend, Lazarus who had died.

Jesus' forerunner, John the Baptist, was murdered.

Jesus began to teach his disciples that he himself, "must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again" (Mk. 8:31-37). Jesus rebuked his disciple, Peter, who was trying to dissuade Jesus from this idea.

"As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem" (Luke 9: 5). Near Jerusalem, plotters teamed with Judas, one of the twelve disciples; and "Satan entered Judas. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officials of the temple guard and discussed with them how they might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him (Judas) money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present " (Luke 22:3-6).

With Judas's guidance, enemies of Jesus snatched him in the dark, condemned him in Jerusalem, took him out and crucified him at Golgotha.

But three days later Jesus was alive.

Some years afterwards, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews penned: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:2).

"For the joy set before him?" Joy? What joy? Could one of Jesus' great joys be, that in his love for humanity--that he shared with his Father--he might visualize all believing people of all times in heaven sharing joy for all eternity?

Prayer: You, Lord, did it for us. We praise you for the privilege of being settled in peace with you, awaiting our eternal home in heaven because of what you, Jesus, have done. You gave yourself for us, "the just for the unjust" so that you might bring us to God with joy. Guide us, we pray for all of our days, in praise and worship, in thought, word, and deed that we may pass on your joy. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

By Isabel Allison