Jesus’ mission to earth had its “ups and downs.” There were the multitudes who flocked to hear Him preach the Kingdom of Heaven, repentance from sin, and the love and forgiveness of God. He gave healing to the sick, the lame, the blind, the lepers and the demon-possessed. Crowds followed Him everywhere He went. But there were detractors as well, and strong opposition from “the powers that be” in the form of the Jewish religious establishment. Sadly, too, some earlier followers got disappointed when His preaching proved too strong and forthright for them and “many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him” (John 6:66).
Jesus saw from the start the route and goal of the mission to which He was sent by the Father, and He was determined to carry it out to the end. And “when the time was come that He should be received up, He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). This refers to His impending arrest, trial and crucifixion, which He knew He had to undergo, to give His life as “a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), in fulfilment of His mission “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). His disciples tried to dissuade Him from going. In the garden of Gethsemane He struggled in prayer, if it were possible, for the Father to remove “this cup” of extreme suffering from Him –till His sweat rolled down like “great drops of blood” (Luke 22:42-44). But, He had already “set His face” towards the goal of mankind’s redemption and there was no going back.
There was the sublime moment on the mountain top, shared by disciples Peter, John and James, when Jesus was “transfigured” (transformed in appearance) with white, glistening clothes - and there appeared Moses and Elijah – two of the greatest men of God in the Old Testament – in conference with Jesus, on the mission He was to accomplish at Jerusalem. It was such a glorious moment that Peter wanted to set up camp for them to stay on! (Luke 9:28-37).
But the disciples were “brought back to earth” by the reality that awaited the Saviour, as they came down to the “valley floor” - to an immediate need and task at hand, and more to follow.. to the “grime and grind” leading to the Cross. And how He wept over Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).
Yes, “I want to live above the world, Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled.” At the same time, “Down in the valley with my Saviour I would go, Where the storms are sweeping and the dark waters flow.” May God grant us grace sufficient for both.
Elder Phua Chor Kok