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Jesus turns toward Jerusalem

Nov 04, 2014

In Luke 17:11 we find Jesus beginning His journey toward Jerusalem, where He was to die on the cross for the sin of the world.

It appears that He traveled slowly, teaching along the way. He took the road around Samaria along the road on the east side of the Jordan River to the river crossing near Jericho (Luke 18:35). This territory was known as Decapolis, the “ten cities,” nine of which were located east of the Jordan, and just one (Scythopolis) on the west side. Damascus was the northernmost city, and Philadelphia was the southernmost city.

It appears that it was in these cities that Jesus told the Kingdom parables recorded in Luke 15 and 16 as He journeyed to Jerusalem.

Crucifixion Prophecies Not Understood

When Jesus finally crossed the Jordan River at the north end of the Dead Sea, it marked a shift in His focus, for then He began to share more openly with the twelve about His crucifixion. Luke 18:31-33 begins,

31 And He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, 33 and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him, and the third day He will rise again.

Jesus had already shared this reality with the disciples as early as His trip to Caesarea Philippi (Luke 9:22), a week before He was transfigured on Mount Hermon. Yet it is apparent that He did not expound on this to make sure that they understood the reasons for His death and resurrection. Perhaps they thought He was speaking spiritually.

Luke 18:34 also makes it clear that the disciples still did not understand, even though they were already on the way to Jerusalem to witness these events.

34 And they understood none of these things, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.

God in His mercy often withholds from us the things that are coming, because we are not ready for such revelation until the fulfillment draws nigh. Even so, after having a few days to ponder Jesus’ words, they became “fearful” once they began the final trek up the mountain to Jerusalem (Mark 10:32). Apparently, Peter remembered this feeling of fear many years later as he dictated his gospel to Mark.

Apparently Jesus did not give the twelve a Bible study that would have proven His words. The disciples had no concept of the vast array of prophecy that was about to be fulfilled. Just as Joshua (Yeshua) had begun his formal ministry by leading Israel across the Jordan River into the plains of Jericho, so also did Jesus (Yeshua) cross the Jordan at the same spot to fulfill His ministry.

The Lazarus Factor

At some point along this journey to Jerusalem—probably just before He crossed the Jordan—Jesus received word that Lazarus was sick. John 11:5-8 says,

5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6 When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?”

Jesus’ words in verse 7 indicate that they were not yet in Judea. The Jordan River was the Judean border at that location. They tarried another two days there in order to allow Lazarus to die. When Jesus and the twelve arrived in Bethany just outside of Jerusalem, He raised Lazarus from the dead on the first day of the first month, or two weeks before Jesus’ crucifixion, as John’s account shows.

Hence we know that Jesus crossed the Jordan near the end of the twelfth month on the Hebrew calendar. He spent His final two weeks in Bethany, making frequent journeys to Jerusalem.

What Jesus Understood

In Luke 18:32 Jesus says, “He will be handed over to the Gentiles.” Luke comments further on this in his second book, where we read in Acts 4:25-28,

25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Thy servant, didst say, “Why did the Gentiles [ethnos, “nations”] rage, and the peoples [laos, “common people”] devise futile things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ.” 27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles [ethnos] and the peoples [laos] of Israel, 28 to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.

Two groups appear to be mentioned here: ethnos and laos. In this context, Luke appears to be distinguishing between rulers and the general population. Of necessity, because Rome ruled Judea at that time, there is also a contrast between nations involved in the crucifixion of Jesus. Herod and Pontius Pilate are grouped together and are contrasted to “the laos of Israel.”

This prophecy came from David’s words in Psalm 2:1, 2, which was, in turn, a reference to Cain killing Abel—the first martyrdom in prophetic history. This is part of The Genesis Book of Psalms. The passage looked back to Cain killing Abel, while it described David’s troubles, and also prophesied of the future when the great Martyr, Jesus, would be crucified.

Jesus also said in Luke 18:32 that He would be “mocked.” This would fulfill the prophetic incident in Genesis 21:9, 10, where Ishmael persecuted Isaac.

9 Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. 10 Therefore she said to Abraham, “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.”

We understand from Paul’s teaching in Galatians 4:22-31 that Jerusalem was Hagar, and that the religious leaders were the children of the bondwoman (Ishmael). Hence, when Ishmael persecuted and mistreated Isaac, it prophesied of Jerusalem persecuting the Heir, Jesus. Jesus said that He would “be mocked and mistreated and spit upon,” and so we read in Matthew 27:29-31,

29 And after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they kneeled down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. 31 And after they had mocked Him, they took His robe off and put His garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.

The treatment that Jesus received may, perhaps, reveal the manner in which Ishmael mocked Isaac many years earlier. We know that the conflict centered around the inheritance, for Ishmael no doubt believed that he was the true heir to the birthright. But God had already told Abraham that Isaac was to be the heir (Genesis 17:18, 19). Hence, it seems likely that Isaac may have asked Ishmael to do something for him, whereupon Ishmael bowed down with great fanfare, saying loudly and resentfully, “Yes, master!” in a mocking way.

We are not told any details in Genesis, but the fulfillment of that prophetic story in the crucifixion scene may shed light on this. The important thing to note is the conflict over who was chosen to rule, which forms the backdrop of both the type and the antitype.


This is the ninety-eighth part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in the Book of Luke


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