For several years I was appointed to serve as a page at the District Assembly. The job entails being alert to those on the platform as well as to those who are setting in the sanctuary. I would see someone lift their hand and I would go to that person and get their message and deliver it to whomever it was to go to. And I would be on the alert to carry messages from the platform to the office workers or to whomever else they wanted to send a message. Often I had to help distribute materials—alternate seating forms, information packets, etc. It required me to walk all over the auditorium while the session was in progress. It was a busy job, but I enjoyed being able to move around instead of having to sit in the pews for long stretches of time. This one year Dr. V. H. Lewis was the presiding General Superintendent.
Dr. Lewis was always an intimidating person. He could look really stern and his voice could sound pretty gruff. He said of himself that he had learned that whenever he entered a room he had to take the initiative to approach people and shake hands because people were so intimidated by his presence that they would not approach him first. Before he arrived at Assembly we who would be working as pages talked about proper protocol.
Thinking we knew Dr. Lewis, we worried whether or not we should walk in front of him when we were delivering messages, etc. But our worries were alleviated when Dr. Lewis arrived and gave us instructions. His words to those of us who were pages: “The shortest distance between two places is a straight line.” We didn’t have to worry about detouring around Dr. Lewis—He wanted us to get the job done as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Background: Isaiah 50:4-7 NIV
Text: Luke 9:51 NIV – As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
I love the Family Circus cartoon where Little Billy is instructed to come straight home from his friends, but the cartoon shows the path he -took—to smell the flowers, to watch the butterfly, to step in the puddle, to throw the rock. His straight path was actually a zig –zag all across the neighborhood!
It is so easy to allow ourselves to get side-tracked. Often, when I am doing research on the computer, I happen across something totally unrelated to what I am researching, but curiosity causes me to take a detour from what I am supposed to be doing!
And then we come to the words in our scripture: “…Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Bible Commentaries believe that this statement is a direct reflection of the verse in Isaiah where it says of God’s Servant, “.Therefore have I set my face like flint…” (See Isaiah 50:7).
The context of this phrase in Isaiah 50:7 is in a prophetic passage pointing to the Messiah. It speaks of His suffering and describes vividly the suffering that Jesus was about to face in Jerusalem. I’m amazed when I realize that this Passage in Isaiah was written some 700 years before Jesus. And that reminds me that God has known from the beginning the cost His Son would have to pay for our redemption.
Now, in Luke’s Gospel we see a 700 year old prophecy becoming a reality. “…Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
Let us see if we can discern the Message the Holy Spirit wants deliver to us today from these words.
I. THE JOURNEY TO THIS VERSE
a. There is a recurring phrase in John’s Gospel that is related to this passage. On numerous occasions Jesus is quoted as saying, “My Time [or “my hour] has not yet come…” (See John 2:4; 7:6; 7:30; 8:20…) These statements demonstrated that there was a time or hour coming –an appointment, if you will, with His destiny.
b. Shortly before this verse in Luke 9:51, we read how Jesus attempted to prepare his disciples for what was to happen when they reached Jerusalem. He told them how he would be arrested and beaten and spit upon and finally crucified. That was His destiny, but the disciples could not comprehend what he was saying. But Jesus knew full well what He was about to face.
c. The path to destiny is a path that comes at a price. In the Old Testament, Joseph is noted as being the Savior of His people. As the second in command over Egypt he provided a place for his family to live and food for them to eat. His actions saved them from starvation during the severe drought that had come upon the land. But how did he reach his destiny? The path to his greatness took him into slavery and prison and severe times of testing. But he always remembered who he was and he always kept his eyes on God whom he trusted and refused to dishonor with his actions. We like to celebrate the accomplished athletes who are successful in their particular arenas. But their success comes from the stern discipline of practice—usually at the expense of other activities that their peers might be doing. But they keep their eyes on the goal and refuse to slack off.
d. I wonder how many of you have considered your destiny—the purpose of your life, the mission God has entrusted to you?
e. Jesus went about the countryside, preaching in the villages and synagogues, along the sea shores and on the mountain sides. He kept busy healing the sick and confronting those who had strayed from the Royal Law of Love and made their religion a religion of creeds and rituals. But always as he went about doing good to others, he knew that “His time”, His moment of destiny, lay ahead.
II. THE CRITICAL ELEMENT IN THIS VERSE
a. While we know that Jesus made at least 3 trips to Jerusalem during his public ministry, he spent most of his public ministry in Galilee. He organized his disciples into teams to cover the many towns and villages to preach to them that the Kingdom of God was at hand. While His boyhood home had been in Nazareth, the adopted home during his public ministry was Capernaum. A carpenter by trade, he was also comfortable with the fishermen on the Sea of Galilee where he spent much of his time. But those days were fulfilled and this verse reveals a major turning point in the ministry of Jesus. His time was at hand. His destiny was in Jerusalem. And the challenges to make it to Jerusalem were great.
b. The description in Isaiah that says, “He set his face like flint..,” gives us a clue to the depths of determination at this point in Jesus’ journey. Flint is a hard brittle rock. Earlier cultures used flint for knives and arrowheads and spear tips. And when flint is struck against steel, sparks fly. The early “flint-lock” guns depended on the spark to ignite the gunpowder to launch the bullets. So this description that “he set his face like flint” suggests an uncompromising, determined decision that anticipated resistance and obstacles.
c. The Renown English Pastor of Metropolitan Tabernaclei in London, Charles Spurgeon, in one of his messages talked about the challenges Jesus faced as He resolutely set his face towards Jerusalem. There were those in the general public who wanted to make Jesus their King to lead them in overthrowing the Roman oppression. There his friends who rebuked him for talking about the coming persecution he faced and urged him to follow a safer path. There were his disciples who in the final hours betrayed him or denied knowing him or forsook him as he was arrested and taken away. And there was the awareness of the unworthiness of those he came to save—they rejected him, mocked him, and eventually crucified him—why would anyone be willing to face the horror of crucifixion to save people who were so unworthy of his forgiveness? And, yet, in spite of all these and many more things that could have distracted him, “Jesus set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem.”
d. From this moment on, there were no detours, no turning back. Jerusalem was his destination and his destiny. He determined to not let anything sidetrack him from that goal! There was a Cross waiting for Him—there were the souls of mankind hanging in the balances.
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS VERSE
a. The intensity of the Resolute, flint-like determination of Jesus is again revealed in the Passion of Christ that began in the Garden of Gethsemane. We read in Luke 22:42-44 of His struggle to stay focused: “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
b. Those who know the geography of Jerusalem and Gethsemane tell us that it would have been a very simple thing for Jesus and the disciples to have slipped away before the mob came to arrest him. But Jesus had set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem. And that meant facing the crowd, enduring the torture and hanging on the Cross. I can see Jesus gritting his teeth with that chiseled face refusing to turn back from His destiny.
c. And, as a result, Jesus paid the price for our sins by shedding His Blood and giving His Life in our place. “He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
d. In Ephesians 5:1 we are told to “Be Imitators of God…” The determination of Jesus to go to Jerusalem and his refusal to turn back from his destiny serves as an example and inspiration for us. I believe it was Steven Covey who in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, who reminded us to “Put the First Thing First,” or as someone has paraphrased it, “Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.” I’ve quoted before the saying attributed to our denomination’s founding father, Dr. Phineas F. Bresee, who admonished Christians with the saying, “Nothing to the right; Nothing to the left; but Jesus only.”
e. What is our Mission? The Purpose of our life is “To Glorify God.” And our mission is to be His witnesses, His ambassadors, and “To Make Disciples of the Nations.” Everything we do as individuals and as a church should be conditioned by the questions, “Does it glorify God?” “Does it help others find their way to God and Salvation?
“Jesus set his face resolutely [like flint] to go to Jerusalem.” There He paid the price so that we could be reconciled with God and have eternal life.
I challenge you today, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to set your face resolutely to go to heaven, and on the journey to do all you can to help others find their way to God.