“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51 ESV).
The time was drawing near for the completion of the mission and the purpose of Jesus’ life. Yes, there was to be his resurrection from the grave and his ascension to heaven. Before these, however, there was betrayal, rejection, beatings, and the cross. The time was drawing near for Jesus to take upon himself the sins and the guilt of the world. He was going to know a suffering beyond the severe physical suffering of the cross, a suffering beyond our comprehension. The Son was going to cry out to the Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Earlier Jesus told the disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22 NIV1984). Jesus knew what was waiting for him in Jerusalem.
Yet he set his face to go. He resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He determined nothing was going to deter him from accomplishing what he came into this world to accomplish. Willingly, voluntarily, Jesus determined to brave the suffering soon to come. So he set his face towards Jerusalem, to go into the midst of his enemies–to die.
Luke’s words paint a picture in our minds and hearts of Jesus’ face filled with resolve. We see Jesus strong with faith and determination to set out on the journey to the cross, to laying down his life for us. Looking at his face we see in his eyes and in his heart such courage and unselfish sacrifice. In awe of this man, of the Son of Man, the Son of God, our hearts are filled with a mixture of praise and tears. His courage to make such an unselfish sacrifice came from the depths of his faith and love.
In the picture Luke paints for us we see our Lord’s face, are able to look into his eyes and into his heart. In his heart we see his faith in his Father. Revealed is his confidence in his Father’s love for him, and his confidence of his own love for his Father. His face and eyes reveal his unrelenting determination driven by his faith and love to obey and please his Father.
The apostle John records Jesus’ words of faith in and love for his Father. “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38 NIV1984). “I love the Father” (John 14:31 NIV1984). The apostle Paul speaks of Jesus’ faith in and love for his Father as revealed in his journey to the cross. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8 NIV1984)
Jesus knew the suffering that was waiting for him, knew what he was walking into when he entered Jerusalem. Yet there he is, standing, looking south towards Jerusalem. There is on Jesus’ face resolute determination to go to Jerusalem, to go to the cross. In his face we are able to see the concern, perhaps some anxiousness, in his eyes, in the creases caused by the firmness of his face. There was no turning back, only a resolute going forward. Looking at his face and into his heart, within his faith in and love for his Father, we see something puzzling and unexplainable, his deep love for humankind.
Jesus expresses his love for humankind. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NIV1984). The apostle Paul sets the love of our Lord Jesus Christ before us as an example to imitate. “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2 NIV1984).
When Jesus’ love is truly seen our hearts are filled with joyous thanksgiving for such love for us. There rises within our hearts a joy mixed with tears at the thought of Jesus’ love for us costing him and his Father so dearly. A joy mixed with tears, because the Son and the Father loved so deeply as to see us worthy of such undeserving sacrifice, grace, and love.
Reflecting on the determination of Jesus to go to Jerusalem, the eighteenth century preacher and commentator Matthew Henry exhorts his readers. “How should this shame us for, and shame us out of, our backwardness to do and suffer for Christ: we draw back, and turn our faces another way from his service who stedfastly (sic) set his face against all opposition to go through with the work of our salvation.”
How deeply moved our hearts should be to live with determination to take up the cross of self-denial. As disciples of Christ let us resolutely set our faces toward Christ, to walk the journey of life in his footsteps in love for and obedience to the Father.
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV1984).