Ascent of Jesus: from Galilee to Jerusalem

When we analyze the Gospel of St. Luke we see that Jesus’ journey to the Cross is presented as a single “pilgrim ascent” from Galilee to Jerusalem. One uninterrupted journey with the focus on the mission of God the Father entrusted to the Son.

We could also say that it is an “ascent” in a geographical sense. The Sea of Galilee is situated about 690 feet below sea level, whereas Jerusalem is situated about 2500 feet above the sea level. The Synoptic Gospel contains three prophecies of Jesus’ Passion as steps in this ascent. Steps that at the same time point to the inner ascent that is accomplished in the outward climb [The going up to the Temple as the place where God wished His name to dwell (Deut 12, 11; 14, 23)].

The ultimate goal of Jesus’ “ascent” is his self-offering on the Cross in obedience to the Father, which supplants the old sacrifices. It is this ascent probably that the Letter to the Hebrews describes as going up, and not to a sanctuary made by human hands, but to heaven itself, into the presence of God (Heb 9, 24). This path of ascent into God’s presence is through the Cross. It is the ascent of “loving to the end” (cf. Jn 13, 1), a loving obedience to the end, which is the real mountain of God.

The immediate goal of Jesus’ pilgrim journey is, of course, Jerusalem with its Temple, and the “Passover of the Jews” (Jn 2, 13). Jesus’ initial journey to Jerusalem is set out with the twelve, whom he had called, but they are gradually joined by an ever-increasing crowd of pilgrims (Mt 20, 29; Mk 10, 46).

The various events that happen during this final journey of Jesus increase the expectation of the messiah and focus the crowd’s attention upon Jesus in a new way. This turning point starts with the incident of Jesus healing a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. Once the crowd saw that Jesus healed this blind man, the Davidic theme and the accompanying messianic hope also started to spread among the people. This hope is further aggravated by the proclamation of the “hour has come” by Jesus.

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