On that very first Christmas day – Jesus’ earthly journey began. His journey was destined to become the greatest journey ever undertaken by anyone, in the history of the world. Though Jesus Christ was born of heaven and earth, He didn’t come to lead a mighty army, like Alexander, or rise to the throne of a physical empire, like Caesar. He didn’t have to – for His mission was not to divide and conquer with the sword, or rule a few generations with a rod of iron.
Rather, Jesus Christ came with all the authority of heaven, to do for us what no human king or conqueror ever could. Of all the rulers, generals, presidents, and prime ministers to ever rule, only Jesus accomplished the heavenly goal – to provide redemption for the whole world. He did not come to die for a few believers in a far-away place – but for all generations of people, from every nation, until the end comes.
His journey is indeed amazing, I pray you will take the time to read about it, and in the end, that you will make the singular decision that His life, His sacrifice, and His victory over sin for you, compels you to do.
His journey begins: My heart turns toward the journey Joseph and Mary had to undertake, over many difficult miles, to journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to participate in the Roman census. Even though Mary was long into her miraculous pregnancy, there was no avoiding the journey, for Caesar had issued an edict – a decree that all the world should return to the place of their birth, so a census could be made of all peoples, in every nation.
Some things never change. Taxation is one of them. When Caesar issued his decree, he didn't take into account how difficult it would be for a woman, heavy with child, to make that arduous journey, sometimes walking, sometimes riding on the back of a donkey, over dusty roads, and miserably long hills. He never considered how hot it would be during the day, or how cold the wilderness would be at night.
For a woman in her condition, the journey had to be brutal, at best. Even for pregnant women in our day, undergoing a long journey, while riding on the soft seats of a modern car is a difficulty when THEY ARE THAT FAR ALONG in pregnancy. But for Mary, it had to be especially hard.
Regardless of what Caesar’s edict required of young and old alike, there was no alternative. Caesar was not a merciful man, he has a dictator, ruling a harsh world, and nobody faired well, if they defied the king.
So the journey commenced, not at a time of convenience, but at the exact time ordered, regardless of its difficulty upon the mother of the soon coming King. The 80-miles that separated Bethlehem from Nazareth would normally take 4-5 long days, under the best conditions. Even then, a person had to be in good physical condition to hike 15-20 miles a day.
But this journey would be different, for Mary and her 'betrothed' husband. Even with his constant help, the journey would probably take two weeks, for a pregnant woman as far along as Mary. Two grueling weeks minimum, if they took it slow enough to avoid a late-term miscarriage.
World leaders seldom consider the common man, or expecting mother when making decisions, going to war, or levying taxes. They only consider the needs of their nations. That is to be expected, after all, their burden is far greater than any of us could ever understand.
But I am so grateful, that in all of our difficulties, and throughout the course of our daily struggles, there is One who not only understands, but promises to go through our journey with us, once we make Him our Savior & Best Friend.
The Child, who the weary mother was carrying in her womb, over all those dusty, difficult miles, would be born in an unsanitary little barn, in a faraway town, separated from the comforts of home, and the warm embrace of family and friends.
Nobody in that town even knew their names, other than what was scribbled onto the census scrolls, but there was one coming into the world, that fateful, wonderful night, who would know every name, understand the longings, needs, and hopes of every heart, and who would never shy away from meeting those needs, and caring for every individual heart - no matter it cost Him.
And cost Him dearly, it most certainly did. From the initial stages of the journey, even before His birth, when a baby's mother should be at home, to endure the customary difficulties of child labor, Jesus' mother was traversing many lonely miles, endangering herself, and the Blessed Child, with the rigors of the journey.
But for the only begotten Son of God, the process of making a Way for all people to be freed from sin, and released from iniquity, was going to require more difficulty than the treacheries, and discomfort of a long journey, late in his mother's term.
Every day would be a time of preparation, a funneling as it were, toward that momentous day, when on the grand stage of Israel's capitol city, Jesus would finally fulfill the requirements for the culmination of the journey - for us.
The King would surrender His life for the people. The Savior would take His place, in the annals of history, performing the singular act that no other man or woman could ever fulfill: to die as a sacrificial offering, for the sins of all the people, in every nation, for consecutive generations, until His duly prepared, and much-anticipated return.
The final days of Jesus' journey was more difficult, pain-filled, and extreme than for any passage ever endured by man or woman in history. The BIble makes that point very clear. The King of all, was beaten beyond recognition, spat upon and mocked, His face more closely resembled raw burger, than human flesh. His back was lashed so brutally with a Roman whip, that His skin, and muscles would have hung in bloodied strips, mercilessly torn by that nine-tailed torture device, laced with metal, bone or glass.
Beaten 39 times, many men had died from the shear anguish of the whip alone. A human body can only endure so much, you know. But having the flesh torn off your back, shoulders, neck and legs, as you are bent forward, and tied tight over a pole, and brutalized to the point of death, by a highly skilled, and merciless Roman, must have filled Jesus' body with unthinkable, unbearable pain.
Even then, the journey was not over, for the man, Christ Jesus, who was "born to us a Savior," still had to walk several miles, in His unthinkable condition, carrying the weight of a rough-hued Cross on His bloodied, and tormented back.
Up that dusty road, through that jeering crowd, step by step upward through those seemingly endless streets, the journey had to seem impossible, even to the very Son of God. For though He possessed access to all the supernatural power and authority of His heavenly kingdom, his physical limitations were just as great as yours and mine. Jesus was, after all, human - and He was locked into the limitations of the human body, the same as we are.
Onward, through the heat of Jerusalem, Jesus continued to make the climb toward the top of Golgotha hill - the Place of the Skull. But even though Jesus gave it all He had, His physical strength was not up to the task, and He gave out part way along the journey. Falling to the ground, and crying out in pain, Jesus could not summon the physical strength to carry His heavy burden one more step.
A Roman soldier, standing guard as Jesus struggled to regain His feet, looked at the people lining the streets, and spotted a strong man standing in the crowd. Not much is known about Simon, except that he was probably of African decent, and was undoubtedly strong enough to fulfill the task at hand.
Simon the Cyrene, was randomly selected by the soldier to help Jesus carry His Cross of death the remainder of the way. We don't know a lot about Simon, but he appears to be a simple passer-by. But we do know, that a Roman soldier spotted him in the crowd, and forced him to assist our Lord in the final segment of His journey on earth. And for that, I am sure that Jesus was grateful. After all, the rough timbers of the Cross would have been heavy, and with Simon's help, their weighty beams would no longer be pressing as severely into the torn flesh of His shredded back and shoulders. Jesus must have breathed a sigh of relief. Even in that condition, any lessening of pain, even the slightest relief, would have been appreciated.
Jesus knew every step He took, up that winding road, led Him closer to His death. He understood there would be no escape from the task at hand. That is why He had struggled so, in the Garden, the night before: trying to prepare Himself for the unimaginable terrors of the coming day.
Now His journey was drawing to a close. What began in a tiny, out-of-the-way location, those many years ago in Bethlehem, was culminating in the animated streets of Jerusalem.
The Son of God, who had clearly informed the world that He had been sent by the Father to become the Way itself, was now ascending the final hill of His life on earth, and was only moments away from being cruelly nailed to a Cross, raised high into the sky for all to see, suspended between heaven and earth – to become a sacrifice for the sins of us all.
Mockingly, Jesus would be crowned with a thorny wreath, one that would rip his scalp to the bone, and hang underneath a sign that deliberately mocked His authority before all the world: Jesus, King of the Jews.
Though the people of Israel didn't recognize His Lordship on that day, blinded as they were, by their own sins, and the spiritual darkness of a wayward nation, Jesus was in fact, born their King, and would die their King. Not because it was easy, or convenient, but because it was required for a Righteous man to pay the sin-debt of the undeserving – so they through Him might be allowed to live.
There was no other way for the bondage of the sins of all people to be dealt the necessary, final blow, than for Jesus to be raised into the scorching heat of the day, on a Roman Cross, not only to die for the Romans and the Jews, but for all people everywhere.
Rejected by all, Jesus hung on that tree, the weight of His body causing immense pain in His hands and feet – where the nails had torn ragged holes in His flesh, and the agony of it all, was meant to slowly bring upon the condemned, the conditions for death to take Him in the end.
Except there was one small glitch: No matter what the Romans did to Him, death couldn't take Him. That was a complete impossibility. Why? For a person to die, it requires the separation of the human spirit from the human body. And Jesus’ Sprit was not human – it was eternally divine. Though unseen, His indomitable Spirit was the main difference between Jesus and the rest of us.
Never forget: Jesus' Spirit was eternal - remember that. He was, is, and always will be ‘God of very God.’ While His body may have been no different than our own flesh, that was the “human half” of the equation. The “God-half” was the unseen, the part that possessed the power of eternal life. And for that reason, nobody would ever, or could ever take His life from Him. Jesus had to willingly lay His life down.
And that's just what Jesus did. Crying out in anguish of body and soul, abandoned by the Father in that climactic moment, for the sole purpose of suffering death, Jesus surrendered His life - or more accurately - He out-breathed His eternal Spirit into the awaiting hands of the Father. And that, I hope you understand, is the only way the human element of the journey could possibly end.
Jesus cried, "Father, Into Your hands I commit My Spirit!" And just as though He exhaled a normal breath, Jesus released His Spirit unto God.
In one glorious moment, the journey was over - it was complete - it was finished!!! Sin's curse had been broken, it's hideous, unbreakable reign ended, in that one, singular moment of time, just when it seemed like Satan was winning the day, Jesus dismissed His Spirit - as the final step in a long, and painful journey! And in so doing, accomplished for us, what no other power, no other king, no other earthly or heavenly ‘being’ could ever do.
In that moment, for the first time since Eden, mankind was free. The divide between God and man, initiated by the sins of Adam, had been bridged. Sin was finally conquered, and the Way had been made, once, for us all.
Never was another journey undertaken, like that journey. And none ever will be. For the price of Redemption has been paid – eternally paid – so there is no need for another sacrifice, or payment to be made by anyone. In one moment’s time - Jesus Christ, the Lord of heaven and earth, accomplished everything needed for our salvation, healing, and the release from every human bondage.
Write it down: The journey was for you - the journey was for me. It had nothing to do with paying the price of Jesus’ own sins. He needed no sacrifice for sin, because He was sinless. Coming from God, and being God, He could not sin – for God is sinless, and eternally holy.
You and I have a different storyline, however. We need a Savior – desperately. For without One, we are eternally lost, separated from God, and hopeless.
So … what we do in response to our Lord’s ‘Redemptive Journey’ will determine the final stage, or destination of our own journey. I pray you will recognize the personal element in His journey – the part that includes you in it. He did not do what He did for Himself. Jesus came to meet YOUR needs, to deal with the sin issue in YOUR life, and to reveal His mercy for YOU. What YOU do in response to His journey, however, will determine the outcome of your own.
My prayer for you - is that YOUR journey will not end like many blind-eyed individuals throughout history, who went to their appointed grave cursing God, or rejecting His call. But rather, that YOU will be wise, like those who came to worship him at the beginning of His journey, and like millions upon millions of others throughout the course of time, who willingly surrendered their hearts to Him, and joyously became the recipients of His divine grace.
Like those who have gone before us, and untold numbers of fellow believers around the world, there is no more blessed journey ANYONE could ever undertake, than the journey that begins with Jesus by your side, and continues forever – with Jesus in your heart.
His journey to awaken every heart, and transform every life by His amazing grace continues from generation to generation. Will you join Him in the blessedness of the Way, and enter once and for all - upon the only pathway that is abundantly blessed, both in this world, and for ages to come?
I guarantee you – upon the surety of the Word of God - that you will never look back with regret, once you set your feet to the Way, for the journey with our Lord is filled with wonder, joy and gladness – more than we even knew existed, in our days of darkness and death.
Isn't it time you started your journey with Him - today?