by Michael E. Brooks
“Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea” (Exodus 13:17,18a NKJV).
A basic geometric principle is: “A straight line is the shortest distance between two points.” However, experienced travelers have learned that this does not always mean that it is the quickest or best route to a destination.
Looking at the route maps on airline schedules reveals that passenger density / cost efficiency, jet stream locations and other considerations effect actual paths taken more than simple mileage. Even when in the air, and especially when traveling by other means, it is not often possible or most efficient to go “as the crow flies.”
For example, in Bangladesh the many rivers and scarcity of bridges and ferries means that one often has to go a long way around in order to reach a particular place, even though the destination and point of departure may be geographically very near one another. But “you just can’t get there from here.”
Jesus made a similar point in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13,14).
Here his emphasis is on ease of travel, not distance or time, but the lesson is very nearly the same. The easiest, shortest or most convenient way is often not the best way. Sometimes it does not lead us to where we desire to go. Sometimes it exposes us to unnecessary danger. Sometimes it does not adequately prepare us for our destination.
In any journey, a prudent traveler will focus on three related facts.
First, he must know his location at the beginning of the trip.
Second, he must choose his destination.
Third, he must ascertain a route that takes him where he wants to go, at a cost in time, effort, and money that he is able and willing to spend.
Only then is he prepared to embark.
Jesus invites us to travel to “life” (Matthew 7:14). He reminds us that we are in a location of peril and danger –- at risk of losing our eternal souls (Luke 13:3). If we wish to escape this fate, we must move. And Jesus teaches us the route by which we may reach safety. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Following Jesus may not be the most convenient or easiest route we can travel, but it is the only one that takes us to our desired destination. Therefore, it is the best and shortest route.
Jesus invites us to travel to life.