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The Longest Journey

“The longest journey is the twelve inches from your head to your heart.”

John Ortberg

Have you ever thought about that? If Ortberg is right, the longest and the greatest journey you will ever take can be done without a plane, train, or automobile.

Jesus traveled by foot. While heading toward Jerusalem, the place where he will die, he stopped to visit some friends, Mary and Martha. Mary and Martha had a very special relationship with Jesus. We know about another day when he came to see them after their brother, Lazarus, died. Jesus raised him from the dead. Imagine that.

During this visit on the way to Jerusalem, as has been the case before, Jesus interacts with Mary and Martha personally and in different ways. Both are on the journey Ortberg talks about. Soon their minds will be blown and their hearts will be stricken as Jesus is crucified.

In this story, Luke tells us that Martha is distracted. Her mind is occupied with all the things that need to be done. Reflecting on this, Eugene Peterson says that to be distracted is to not be paying attention. To be distracted “is to be without an anchor, pulled this way and that by whoever and whatever.” *

Sound familiar? I think most of us can relate to Martha - the distracted one. If you look carefully, you see that is the thing for which Jesus challenges her. Her desire to serve others is a good thing. Jesus tells his friends and followers how important it is to serve one another. Martha’s problem is that she is distracted - without an anchor. Living this way is how you can burn out or lose your way as you are worried or upset about many things.*

Moses spent 40 years trying to guide the Israelites on their journey. It became clear that they were like Martha and would not make it. Moses turned to the next generation and prepared them to enter into the promised land. They struggled as well, distracted by the allure of the lives of others and the reality of their sin.

Moses told the Israelites that God wanted them to write His words on their hearts. (Duet 6:6, 30:6) There is a difference between hearing words and taking them in. There is a difference between knowing the right thing to do and doing it. There is a difference between believing in God and trusting in God. They needed to take in what God said and what God had done and was doing for them and let it go from their heads to their heart. Whatever rules your heart has the power to transform you.

Blaise Pascal wrote, “The great barrier to happiness is our refusal to accept that we are at fault.” It is easier to be distracted. It takes time and effort to see and acknowledge where we are at fault.

We need an anchor. We need something to guide us. And that is where Mary can help. When given the chance to be with Jesus, Mary sits at his feet and takes it all in. Martha wanted to do something for Jesus. Mary wanted to be with Jesus. Jesus tells us that her efforts to do this will not be taken from her. As it turns out, Mary is the "practical" one.* While Martha is listening to the tasks all around her that she feels need to be done, Mary is listening to Jesus. She is taking in all that Jesus says. Mary is letting it go from her head to her heart so that she can learn to be like Him.

St. Augustine expressed this journey of the head to the heart well. He said we need to let God reorder our loves so we love what He loves. We need to learn what God loves - to lay aside our projects and take up God’s projects.** We need to learn to live as Jesus lived - “to live all the details of our lives in the company of Jesus.”*

Jesus not only stopped to visit friends before he died in Jerusalem, He told his followers how to order their loves. Jesus said that after he goes away, he will send us an advocate. We will have an anchor. The advocate is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help us understand how to live as Jesus lived. The Holy Spirit will pour God’s love into our hearts*** so we can experience companionship with him and transformation through him.

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Rely on me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if that we not so, I would not have said it. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you there so that you may be with me. (John 14)

Jesus wants to be with you. He wants to be your anchor. He wants you to walk with Him, and talk with him, and listen to him. He wants you to know him in the very center of your being. He wants to be in your minds and beyond - all the way to your heart.

He has already overcome pain, suffering, and death itself to be with you. Now it’s your turn. Take the time to be with him. Let his love go all the way to your heart. It’s the longest journey. It changes everything. If you want, you can stay with him forever.


*Eugene Peterson A Month of Sundays: Thirty-one Days of Wrestling with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

**Dallas Willard said that this is the easy yoke of Matthew 11:30 “The easy yoke is to lay aside your projects and mine and to take up God’s projects.”

***Roman 5:5


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