But then there was a change. It wasn't a conspicuous sign by the road which said, "Victorian State Border", but the information suddenly changed - "M 510". Looking from the other side of the sign, we saw exactly the same information. Whatever the immediate destination (and whichever direction you are travelling), it is assumed that the ultimate destination must be Melbourne. It is your distance from that destination that counts.
In states larger than Victoria, such a system of road measurement would be impractical - so to non-Victorians it seems rather odd.
In a way it reminds me of more than one person who has said to me, "You know, we are all going to the same place!"
Of course, it is true that the Creator has set before us all the one ultimate destination - though his Word also speaks of an alternative destination for those who don't make it!
The question is - how far are we from that ultimate destination? Is the distance getting less or greater? Have we reached a point where, not by our own hope-so but by God's road-markers, we know we have made it? Do we know and come to God by the One who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me"? (John 14.6).
For Jesus, the goal was Jerusalem. Wherever he travelled throughout the land, he knew that Jerusalem was to be the place where the task for which he had come would be completed.
In Luke 9.22, we hear Jesus saying to his disciples, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."
Later in that same chapter we read, "As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem" (vv. 51-53).
His goal was Jerusalem and all that implied for him. He had many other things to do along the way, but this final going to Jerusalem - and all the dire, painful, hateful things that would happen there - that was why he had come. Only as he went that way - the way of the cross - could he become "the way, the truth and the life" through whom alone anyone - including you and me - would be able to come to the Father.
When he came near Jerusalem, at the place where the road went down the Mount of Olives, the large crowd of his disciples began to thank God and praise him in loud voices for all the great things that they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" (19.37-38).
For the welcoming crowd, this was the moment of destiny - the fulfilment of the Jewish hope for the Lord's Messiah, the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel, the riddance of the foreign power, the start of a new era of peace and prosperity Yes, what were they thinking as they praised God that day? "God bless the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory to God!"
And what was Jesus thinking as Jerusalem drew nearer? "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God's coming to you" (vv. 42-44). And as he entered the Temple - "It is written, 'My house will be a house of prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers'." (v. 46)
This was Jerusalem. This was his goal. This was the place where the plot of his enemies would come to pass. This is where the will of his Father would be done.
Soon we see him taken before Pilate the Roman governor. Pilate concludes, "You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him" (23.14-16). Pilate was prepared to do something to appease the angry crowd - even though he was convinced of Jesus' innocence.
Stirred up by the Jewish leaders, the crowd was insistent, "But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand" (vv. 23-24).
Jesus' goal was Jerusalem. This was the kind of treatment he had expected there. This is where the Father's will would be done. That's it! This was his destination - for he didn't come to grieve over the city or to lose out to his opponents. He came, as always, to do the Father's will and, in doing it, to defeat the Enemy, to offer forgiveness, to open the Kingdom of heaven to all believers.
That is why Paul could write, "I tell you, now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6.2b)
This is the wonderful time of opportunity- the time to respond to the amazing grace of God, the time for evangelism, the time for service Jesus said many times that this time of opportunity wouldn't go on forever. At a decisive time in history - at the end of history as we know it - he would come again.
This theme is repeated many times throughout the New Testament. Jesus said the nations of the earth "will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other" (Mt. 24.30b,31).
Paul, writing about the resurrection of the dead, said, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power" (1 Cor 15.20,23-24).
In the Apostles' Creed we affirm that "he will come again to judge the living and the dead", and in the Nicene Creed, "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end."
The goal of Jesus' earthly ministry was in Jerusalem. The ultimate goal is the heavenly Jerusalem and the rule of God forever.
Some folk spend much time and thought trying to write time-table of those final events. But the approach should be much simpler. We prepare for the second coming of Christ by responding to his first coming - in repentance and faith, in worship and life, in fellowship and service, in obedience to his commission to go and make disciples
Let us sing our "hosannas" - knowing the crucifixion, receiving the good news and committed to be about the work of the Kingdom until the final return of the King.