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In biblical times, geography often had profound theological and spiritual significance. The journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, described in the Gospel of Luke, offers a striking example. On a modern map, Bethlehem and Jerusalem are south of Nazareth. Thus, one might expect the description of their journey to be that they “went down” from Nazareth. However, Luke records it differently: “Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem” (Lk 2:4).

This phraseology is not merely geographical but holds deeper significance. Bethlehem, near Jerusalem, is indeed at a higher altitude than Nazareth in Galilee. Consequently, travelers moving from Nazareth in the north to Bethlehem in the south were physically climbing up in elevation.

The Physical and Spiritual Ascent

The expression “ascending to Jerusalem” symbolizes both a literal and metaphorical ascent. Jerusalem, situated on a high hill, required a literal climb for those approaching it. This climb was particularly arduous for those walking the ancient roads leading to the city. Yet, the phrase also captures the spiritual journey to the heart of Jewish worship – the temple of God, often referred to as “the Mountain of the Lord’s House.”

Prophetic Visions of Jerusalem

The prophets of the Old Testament envisioned Jerusalem as the spiritual pinnacle of the world. From this city, the Lord’s instruction would emanate to all nations. Isaiah prophesied: “In days to come, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it” (Isa 2:2). Similarly, Micah echoed this vision, stating: “Many nations shall come, and say, ‘Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, that we may walk in his paths.’ For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Mic 4:2).


For Christians, the concept of “going up to Jerusalem” can serve as a metaphor for our spiritual journey. Just as the ancient pilgrims climbed the physical and spiritual heights to reach Jerusalem, we too are called to ascend in our faith and relationship with God. This ascent is not without effort; it requires dedication, perseverance, and a heart set on the things of God.

The journey to Jerusalem represents a call to draw closer to God, to seek His guidance, and to follow His ways. It is an invitation to leave behind the mundane and ascend to a place of greater spiritual awareness and connection with the Divine.

As we reflect on the journey of Joseph and Mary and the prophetic visions of Jerusalem, we are reminded of our own spiritual journeys. The path to deeper faith may be challenging, requiring us to overcome obstacles and climb steep spiritual hills. However, the reward is great. As we “go up” to our own spiritual Jerusalem, we find ourselves in closer communion with God, receiving His instructions and walking in His paths.

Let us embrace the journey with faith and determination, always seeking to climb higher in our relationship with God. As we do, we can be assured that His word and guidance will lead us, just as it flowed from Jerusalem to the nations. May we continually strive to ascend spiritually, drawing ever nearer to the heart of our Heavenly Father.

In our daily lives, let us remember the significance of “going up to Jerusalem.” May it inspire us to seek higher ground in our spiritual walk, to strive for a deeper connection with God, and to embrace the journey with faith and perseverance. For it is in this ascent that we truly find the fullness of life in Christ.

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