This oil painting, which I call "The Way", is poignant for me in more ways than one. It depicts a much sought after feature in the Galilean landscape, a marker that points to the trail that Jesus walked. Whenever we came to a crossroads, something like this pointed us in the direction we were to walk.
It reminds me of the words of Jesus. His words often caused a stir. They still do today. It is easy to generously claim that He was good person and possibly a miracle worker. However, His words aren’t easy to be bland about. They seem to offend more often than not.
The Bible records that He turned to His disciples to ask, while observing the crowds thinning out that once came eagerly to hear him, if they too would leave Him.
"From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou
hast the words of eternal life." Jhn 6:66-68
I've thought a lot about people's response to Jesus' words. His words were, and still are, offensive, primarily because they force a response. It is like shining a torch light in a darkened corner of a closet, seeing a mess and feeling angry because you know it ought to be cleaner, but you just aren’t willing to take the time or effort to clean it up.
His words are confrontational. Yet they ring with such authority that dismissing them is not an easy proposition. Peter's response to Jesus' question is also mine. "To whom shall we go? Thou has the words of eternal life."
Those who "walked no more with him" missed out on that eternal life – the zoe life of God that comes from responding correctly to Jesus' words.
On the Jesus trail, there were markers like the one above, with a cheery yellow arrow pointing to the way that He walked. This one was obvious, but there were some that were not that easy to spot, as they were overgrown with vegetation. In some cases the paint had faded in the sunlight. It was easy to get lost when you came to a fork in the road and you were unclear about which bend to take. Ask me how I know!
We talked much on the trail about Jesus teaching as He walked with his disciples. Considering the distances involved it comes as no surprise. I can imagine them striding through the countryside, their robes flapping in the wind with the breathtaking views of the Galilean countryside spread out like a colorful blanket on every side. It was logical then that Jesus taught as He walked, considering the amount of time that they must have spent together on these trails. It is also exquisitely apt that the all that the eye could behold became symbols that He scattered generously in His lessons - the birds, the fields, the seeds, the golden harvest, the trees, the lilies… It all fit perfectly like a complex puzzle that is intensely satisfying to tackle.
Getting lost on the most important journey of life is not something to be taken lightly. Those who turned away from Jesus then, and now, miss out on more than is immediately apparent. They never grasp the way life was meant to be lived here on this earth, in step with Him, with His help and provision. They also miss out on the life to come, the riches of which we can only imagine.
There is much contempt for the naïveté of Christians who believe in a glorious life to come. Call me simple if you like, but for me, as for countless others, it is easy to believe. How could I not, when every word of Jesus that I have trusted this far has proven to be true?
He has more than earned my trust for things to come - the good and the bad, the trials and the victories. He is completely trustworthy. Even the little details, like distances being "a day's journey"… affirms for me the veracity of the Biblical accounts.
If you feel lost in life, your way out is not a philosophy, or a religion of dos and don'ts - your way out is a person, Jesus. Welcome His words, trust in them and He will empower your way out of every mess, and into a quiet abiding peace. I learned on the trail that the earnestness of a disciple was best demonstrated by walking so close to the Teacher that he walked in the dust of the Rabbi's feet and never missed a word that was spoken.
There is no way then that you can get lost!