We learn early on in life to distinguish road signs and landmarks.
When our parents took us to our favorite places, we’d look out for beloved signs that indicated to us where we were on the journey.
The reading from Isaiah (35:1-10) offers us an image of a highway, streaking through the desert. It will be called a Holy Way, he says.
A highway in the ancient world was built by a king or an emperor. The chief purpose of such roads was to take the king’s armies from one place to another. A highway was always the result of an oppressive tax levied on the people. A highway was an instrument of empire—a means of travel for armies, and a route for the processions of conquering kings. Processions meant to terrorize and control the population.
In Jesus’ day, the Romans had built thousands of miles of highways, many of which still exist. There was no question that the Roman roads were instruments of conquest and occupation.