Pilgrim Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Pilgrim

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A pilgrim is a person on a journey (pilgrimage) to a holy place, life's true destination. While the word itself is not found in the Bible, the concept is woven into the biblical story as a whole. God's exodus deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the promised land brings them though the wilderness, where Israel enters into covenant with God and is then tested on the journey. This epochal pilgrimage becomes a model or type for the Christian life. We are on a journey to God's promised land, the new heavens and earth. As the true Israel, Jesus recapitulates Israel's pilgrim journey. Quoting prophecy, Matthew shows how Jesus also goes to Egypt, the scene of Israel's slavery, and then returns to the land of Israel: "`Out of Egypt I have called my son'" (Matt. 2:15). The synoptic gospels all describe Jesus's forty-day pilgrimage into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Points to Ponder

Jesus the Ultimate Pilgrim Jesus is the ultimate pilgrim, leading his people to the Father's house. The book of Hebrews pictures Jesus as the "pioneer of out salvation" who faces and endures all the evils and struggles we will face in our journey: "It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father" (Heb. 2:10 - 11). The theme appears again in chapter 12, where Jesus once again is "the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2). We, then, should "strengthen [our] weak knees and make straight paths for [our] feet" as we continue out our pilgrimage in his footsteps (Heb. 12:12).

Pilgrimage in This World Pilgrims are always on the way, never quite at home where they are. Notice how Peter encourages his beleaguered Christian congregation: "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge" (I Pet. 2:11 - 12). This does not mean that we despise our life in this world or that we do not care about its welfare. Pilgrims, no matter how deeply involved in this world, never forget their destination, which informs the goals and patterns of life by which they live in this world.

Pilgrim's Progress Outside the Bible, John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, still a beloved literary classic, offers an extended fable of the Christian life as pilgrimage. Pilgrim sets out from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Pilgrim's way leads from the wicket gate of conversion through the enticements of Vanity Fair and the darkness and doubt of the Slough of Despond. Some Christians (as well as adherents of other faiths) engage in symbolic pilgrimages to specific sites they regard as holy or significant to their faith. Each year, for example, thousands of Christians undertake the famous pilgrimage, or camino, to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The struggles along the way and the prayers and fellowship with fellow pilgrims serve as a kind of spiritual discipline for the larger pilgrimage of life.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.