Sometimes the best view you get of the world is from above. Here’s a picture taken from a plane in the 1930s or so of the road up to Jerusalem from Jericho and the Jordan Valley. I add another from the ground of the road outside Jericho from more recent times.
Both pictures tell us the road to Jerusalem is a climbing, winding road. It wasn’t easy to take when prophets like Isaiah and John the Baptist knew it. Of course today it’s easily managed by car or bus. But in those days, walking or on a donkey, you didn’t always know what to expect when you went through deserts and mountains and some fertile areas where crops were grown.
Isaiah and John the Baptist knew this road very well and they used it to explain our way to God. First, it’s an image that says life will never be easy. On that road you’re going to get hungry, tired, even wonder whether you will make it or not. Unexpected things can happen: you may get robbed like the man did in the parable of the Good Samaritan. That happened on the road up from Jericho to Jerusalem, remember. You might be blind, like the two blind men from Jericho who couldn’t find their way.
But if you want to get to Jerusalem and enter the house of God, you have to take that road. Jesus took it when he went up to the Holy City. He began in the wilderness.
The message of Isaiah and John the Baptist, so beautifully expressed in our first reading for today (Isaiah 35,1-10), is that God will bring us there.