Several years ago a man of Jewish faith asked if he could travel to Israel with our next Holy Land tour group. As we talked about the trip he mentioned that it was his hearts desire to "make aliyah", that is, to ascend to Jerusalem. I had studied the Hebrew concept of "making aliyah" and knew that millions of adherents to Judaism moved to Israel every year. "Aliyah" is the English transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning "ascent", a verbal description of "going up" to the Torah or the Temple Mount. Every Jewish person was challenged to either physically move to or visit Jerusalem, or submit to the laws and precepts of the Jewish Torah. At his old age his determination to "go up" to the Holy City inspired and challenged me. All of us should should seek to move our spiritual lives to another level. Moving to higher ground should be a life goal.
"Going up" to Jerusalem was a geographical challenge as well. Jerusalem is approximately 2,500 feet above sea level, 1,000 feet higher than Nazareth in the North, and 3,700 feet higher than Jericho, just 17 miles south. The first time our group traveled from Jericho to Jerusalem we were all startled by the rugged, mountainous climb. In the Jewish system Jerusalem was the pinnacle of most life pursuits. The visible image of it's vaulted setting certainly made the idea of "going up" spiritually a vivid goal.
Jesus was determined to "go up" to Jerusalem. In his tracking of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem Luke made note of their "going up".
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.
Luke 18: 31, ESV
And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
Luke 19: 28, ESV
Certainly his passion for reaching Jerusalem gave he and the disciples the courage, strength, and determination to endure the hardships of the journey. But, there is even more about the "up" references. Right up front Luke had identified another "up" distinction. He had written---
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
Luke 9: 51, ESV
Many have interpreted the "taken up" reference in this verse as descriptive of his coming ascension to heaven, after the resurrection. In the context of Luke's account, however, it must apply to his being "taken up" on the cross in death. Jesus was intent about arriving in Jerusalem. He was purposeful and passionate as well about his being lifted up on the cross in death for mankind. The Apostle John had written it as well---
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
John 12: 32, ESV
Today is Good Friday, the day when millions of Christians world-wide remember his death on that cross in Jerusalem. It was his passion to go there---both Jerusalem and the cross---because it was the will of his Father in heaven. Remember what he said---
My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work"
John 4: 34, NIV
And, on that Good Friday, more than 2,000 years ago, from that cross he had said, "It is finished" (John 19:30, ESV). His passion took him "up", and we are the beneficiaries of his truth and grace. You see, that Jesus went "up" to Jerusalem, and was lifted "up" on the cross are not the final "up" in Luke's record of Christ's passion. In his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, he wrote Peter's words on the day of Pentecost---
This Jesus God raised up and we are all witnesses.
Acts 2: 32, ESV
Up to Jerusalem. Up on the cross. And, up from the grave. Glory! I'm praying his passion will produce some resolve and determination in me to live "up" to his example.