The pace quickens, the heart beats faster, the expectation amps up. Yes, soon you will be flopped down on your own favourite armchair or comfy couch.


There’s nothing like it after a long journey. As my family used to say, with a sigh, when we drew up at the front door:

“Home, at last, the harbour passed”.

Whatever that meant!

Journey’s end.


Pilgrimage is a great picture of the Christian life. Here in Hebrews 3,4 (our reading this week) the author applies Israel’s wilderness wanderings, using Psalm 95, to illustrate the journey to the heart’s true home in Christ. Like the Israelites freed from their slave masters in Egypt, so the believer in Jesus has been liberated from the power and fear of death. Yet, we are not there yet. Jesus (which is the same name as Joshua) has opened up a way into a boundless promised land, an inheritance for us overflowing with goodness and beauty. Yet, this remains a future promise to be enjoyed beyond the horizon of this life.

Of course, we now enjoy its first fruits and foretastes, but the best is yet to come.

Our battle to remain on the pilgrim path to the promised land does not hold the physical jeopardy faced by the Israelites in the desert. At the place they named Meribah (the backdrop to Psalm 95) they faced starvation, and dehydration and fell out with one another. Of course, such “Meribah” – which means “bickering” remains a major demoralising factor in our Christian journeys today.

No doubt the “Hebrews” written to here faced their challenges. The writer is a realist and makes it clear: the way of Jesus is tough. These Hebrews faced intellectual challenges as they held to new-fangled minority beliefs in the face of powerful religious political and philosophical views. They endured social discrimination and isolation.

And of course, like every other human on the planet – stuff, happened, in their lives.

I am sure we can add our own disruptors that push us off the pilgrim path. The bad actions of Christian leaders continue to rock and disillusion many of us. While others carry the pain of their own bad church experiences.

(If you feel up to it brace yourself and have a look at Matt and Beth Redmans’ sad and salutary documentary about Mike Pilavachi and the toxic aspects of his leadership of Soul Survivor.

The Hebrew pilgrims are given two options: progress or regress. (Heb 4:1). If you are not stepping forward, you are slipping backwards.

The writer to the Hebrews is an encourager, but he is also a realist. (Heb 13:22) The terrain is tough is his message. However, his appeal is that we might focus our attention on what we are gaining and where we are going.

And on the journey, there is work to be done to keep us on track:

  • Dig up bitter roots.
  • Don’t let hurt fester.
  • Don’t let your heart be hardened by resentment.

The Camino Frances is the most popular of the pilgrimage routes to the destination of Santiago de Compostella in Northern Spain. At 500 miles it takes a month to walk. Many years ago, I heard a pastor tell his story of entering retirement by walking the way. His comment always stuck with me. “Traveling from east to west,” he said, “I was always journeying toward the sun.”

The great glory and energy that radiates its light daily into our world was always in his field of vision.

That in so many ways is the message of Hebrews 3,4 and indeed of the whole book. Keep your eyes on the prize, consider all things rubbish compared with the surpassing worth of Jesus.

Or as the author of Hebrews says:

Fix your eyes on Jesus. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Keep on keeping on!

Talking of pilgrimages… If you want to explore pilgrimages in the UK my friend and Baptist pastor has just launched a guided pilgrimage ministry: