–By Elizabeth Ahlman
And taking the twelve, he 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 delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said (Luke 18:31-34 ESV).
Whether you’ve been on the three-year lectionary, which celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord this past Sunday, or you’ve been on the 1-year lectionary, which has been walking through a Pre-Lent set of readings after celebrating the Transfiguration three weeks ago, there’s a definite shift that happens between the Transfiguration and the start of Lent. I was reminded of the starkness of the transition by a friend who posted this line from “‘Tis Good, Lord, to Be Here” (Lutheran Service Book 414): “But since Thou bidst us leave the mount, Come with us to the plain.”
As the disciples descend that mount, there is much to ponder. In the Pre-Lenten readings of the 1-year lectionary, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday includes sayings from Jesus that will continue to make them ponder even more, and confuse them to no end. This past Sunday the reading from Luke records Jesus’ third passion prediction in Luke. Now that they have come down from the mount, they are going to be walking on the plains, and even down in the valleys. These will not be plains and valleys of which they have dreamed or which they understand, but plains and valleys in which Christ’s final work will be done.
So Christ leads them forward and once again predicts: “everything that is written about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked…they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” After the high mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration, Jesus prepares His disciples — and us — to descend onto the plain and to set our faces towards the cross. Throughout Lent, we will all accompany Jesus on the way to cross and tomb. We will hear proclaimed and remember and absorb again the great sacrifices He made for us, laying down His very life so that we might live.
We will hear proclaimed and remember and absorb again the reality that even as Jesus has taken us on this road to Jerusalem, He accompanies US on our hills and into our valleys. He teaches us to bear our crosses, the crosses which mark us as children of God. And while the meaning of these crosses is often hidden from us, the promises are not. No matter what we face in life, even those persecutions that come to us because we bear the name of a dead and risen Christ, we know as the disciples did not yet understand the end result and the promises that lie therein. We know that because Christ bore the cross, our crosses will pass away. Our crosses cannot tear us from our Lord, but rather draw us closer to Him as He accompanies us on the way. We have the promise that He is with us always and that because of His journey to Jerusalem, on which He took all of us, our sins were borne away upon the cross; our crosses made to be not instruments of death, but instruments of molding making us to look like Him in all things; our deaths turned into resurrected life; our valleys lifted up.
Lord Jesus Christ, teach us to bear our crosses and remind us that You bear them with and for us, so that we may ever endure whether in the plains or on the mounts and finally be brought to resurrected life in You; for You live and reign with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.