He walked, the dust of the Jericho ground swirling up in little puffs around his feet. In silence, he walked. For hours, he walked, his fellow Israelites mutely trudging along with him. The trumpets blasted continually, the sound cutting through the stillness. The whole city watched with bated breath as the people marched in circles around it. For a moment, fear stole Joshua’s breath too, and he fought to remain calm as he walked and walked.
He walked, feet dragging up the mountain in Moriah. Every step increased his dread. In silence, he walked. For hours, he walked, his only son next to him. His son, whom he loved. His son, who had been the fulfillment of an audacious promise. Abraham’s nostrils filled with the sharp smells of freshly cut wood and fire. Isaac broke the silence with a question: “My father, I see the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham heard himself reply, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them continued up the mountain together. Abraham’s heart pounded as he walked and walked.
He walked, barely able to place one foot in front of the other. Behind him, the dirty path was speckled with droplets of blood. In silence, he walked. For what felt like hours, he walked with a stranger named Simon beside him, struggling under the weight of a heavy wooden cross. His nostrils filled with the crisp smell of freshly cut wood. Ahead of him lay Golgotha, the Skull Place. Behind him lay a lifetime of love and fulfillment of audacious promises. Behind him also lay a nightmare of betrayal, ridicule, and unbearable pain lasting hours upon hours. He struggled to keep breathing in and out, in and out. The whole city of Jerusalem watched as Jesus walked and walked.
He stopped, and the entire Israelite army stopped with him. Joshua knew they had circled back to the place where they had begun at dawn. They had reached the culmination; now was the time to follow through on the purpose that God had called them to. Joshua heard himself directing the people, “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction.” All around him, his family and friends and neighbors raised their voices, crying out with all their might to bring about the audacious promise God had made to them.
He stopped, and Isaac stopped with him. Abraham knew he had reached the place on the mountain where God had shown him. He had reached the culmination of this horrific journey; now was the time to follow through on the task that God had called him to. His throat tightening, tears stinging his eyes, he took the wood from Isaac and built an altar. Branch by branch, he constructed a death trap for his son. He felt a wave of determination wash over him, steeling him for the job ahead. He bound Isaac, his only beloved son, and laid him on the altar. With an ache so deep it split him in two, he raised his hand above his head, the knife glinting in the sunlight.
He stopped, and what seemed like the whole of Jerusalem stopped with him. He had reached his life’s culmination; now was the time to follow through on the purpose that his Father had given him. Jesus remembered his own words, prophesying this very moment: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” His breath whooshed out of him with each strike of the hammer, the nails plunging through flesh and muscle and bone with agonizing blows. They raised him up, and the jeers of the crowd mixed with the weeping of his mother in a confusing cacophony. He struggled to catch each breath in the eerily growing darkness. With one last ragged inhale, he called out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” He breathed no more.
And Joshua heard a deafening crash as the city walls of Jericho fell down flat.
And Abraham heard a crashing in the thicket where a ram was caught by its horns as a voice called to him from heaven, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
And with a deafening noise, the earth shook and the rocks split themselves. The curtain of the temple was ripped in half; the barrier separating sinful humanity from holy God was forever destroyed by the love of an obedient Savior. A Savior who walked with determination toward the purpose for which he had been called. A Father who did not withhold his son, his only son, from us.
Today, we walk. We, who love this Savior and call him our own, we walk. We put one foot in front of the other because we have been called by God to a purpose greater than ourselves. We follow in the footsteps of heroes in the faith who have taught us through trial and through victory how to persevere. We tread in the footsteps of Jesus, who demonstrated his great love for us by laying down his very life. We walk.