The Pilgrim God: Reflections on the Story of Jesus

Introduction: "The Pilgrim God"

From the very beginning Jesus Christ was a pilgrim God with no place on earth to call his own. He was born to parents who were themselves "on the road". His first "house" was a stable because there was no room for him in any other place. As a member of the human race he had a chosen a special people, but he never chose a particular place on earth to be his own.

Of course his parents had a place in Nazareth but even they were not to see it for more than two years after the birth of their son. And while Nazareth may have been a home for Mary and Joseph to raise the child-Jesus, it was never a friendly place for the adult-Jesus once he began his preaching.

Jesus was born as a pilgrim and from the very beginning till the very end of his earthly stay he always seemed to be on the road or on the verge of moving on. It is somewhat appropriate, then, that when he appeared at Bethlehem, the first humans to pay attention to him were wanderers too:

... shepherds who (like so many of us) spent their lives tramping over hill and dale seeking greener pastures;

... wise-men from afar who (like so many of us) were drawn from great distances to strange places by the light of a distant star.

Probably the infant Jesus was a lot safer dealing with these wandering shepherds and traveling wise-men. In his later travels through the towns and cities of this earth, his worst enemies were those who were most "at home" in the places he visited. Thus:

... when he was newly born, it was the wise-men of his own clan who focused Herod's paranoia on him and the other Bethlehem babies;

... when he was a young man, it was home-town folk who threw him out of Nazareth;

... and, finally, in Jerusalem at the end of his life it was the resident "powers-that-be" who connived to kill him.

There is a sad truth in the statement he made in the midst of his public life that "the foxes have holes, but I have none." Foxes use their lairs to protect themselves and their brood. He had no such safe haven on this earth, nor could he promise such safety to the "brood" that would follow him.

Like a traveler staying in an inn on business, no matter how long Jesus stayed in one earthly place, it never became for him a home. His birth was like registering at an Inn for Travelers, an Inn that was this world itself. For him as for the rest of us travelers through time, the date and hour of his birth was but a check-in time.

And like all the rest of us, Jesus also had his predetermined check-out time, that moment of death when, as Augustine says, we weary travelers must vacate our temporary residence for those pilgrims who are to follow. Jesus was unique in his pilgrimage only in knowing exactly when he would die and what would happen in the meantime. But this knowledge did not make his trip any easier.

No trip is easy when you have no special place to call your own. And, I suspect, it was hard even for Jesus-God to be long on the road without a home.

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