When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)
This last Sunday at Calvary Community Church, we spent the whole sermon looking at this one verse. Better yet - we spent the whole sermon looking at Jesus, and what we can learn about him from this one verse.
Why? Because I could not get past that verb in the second half of the sentence, "he set his face to go to Jerusalem." I couldn't stop thinking about what that meant and means, and what it told me about Jesus.
He fixed, or established.
He firmly committed, stood fast, settled in his mind. He fixed his decision so that he will stand immovable. He strengthened his resolve.
"To set" is often used in a sense that presupposes that those who are thus strengthened are under assault and in danger of becoming uncertain in their commitment, so that the effect of the strengthening is the impregnability of belief in spite of the troubles which have to be endured. (So say the lexicons.)
In other words, people like this, Jesus in this instance, are an "ever-fixed mark," as Shakespeare once penned of love.
They are not wafflers.
They are not wishy-washy.
In this moment, the God-man (fully God, fully man) is settling in his mind (and heart and soul) that he will embrace the mission that our Father has given him in Jerusalem. Namely, to die on a cross, bearing the sin of all mankind, so that all mankind might be saved.
You see, it is in Jerusalem that Jesus' troubles await. "What kind of troubles?", you may ask. Well, read Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 slowly, word by word, phrase by phrase. Let those words create a picture in your mind. Close your eyes and see it. Feel it. Because I imagine that is what Jesus is doing in Luke 9:51. For Jesus knows this text, understands this text, and at this point in the story, is acutely aware that what this text describes is what awaits him in Jerusalem.
So I ask again - what do you see in this moment in Luke 9:51? You see Jesus.
But also fully man.
Who has nerve endings.
Who feels pain.
Who understands what is at stake (the salvation of the world).
A man who settles in his mind that he will go to Jerusalem.
You see an ever-fixed King.
It is what I thought about all last week, and have not yet been able to stop thinking about. And I love Jesus for this! I exalt Jesus for this! He is stunning, courageous, noble, and majestic before me in this moment as he resolves to obey the Father and save us!
This last Sunday night I was talking with someone about the sermon, and this person offered the question to a few of us, "What do we need to do? How do we need to be fixed and established like Jesus?"
As the discussion progressed, I began to think about the question. After a short while, I responded this way, "What is it that you think or feel you need to do?"
You see, my main hope for our people this past Sunday was that I really wanted them to simply see Jesus. To rejoice because of Jesus. To exult in Jesus. To experience joy, simply because he is. Because of who he is. Because of what we learn about him in this moment. To "turn our eyes upon Jesus, and look full in his wonderful face, so that the things of earth would grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace."
Sometimes I think we move too quickly to what we should do in response to what we read, see, or hear. It is a pretty common formula, and a Biblical one. And I am not against action in response to truth (James 1:22). Goodness, we are going to see just a little further on in Luke's story that Jesus will use his resolve as it relates to the mission as a foundation for calling others to be equally resolved when following him (Luke 9:52-62, which just happens to be the text for this coming Sunday's sermon).
But, could I ask you, Mr. Can-Do American, Mrs. Get-er-done Minnesotan, to pause for a moment? I would like to suggest that you don't move too quickly to DO.
Rather, take some time to gaze upon Jesus. Don't list all the things you should do in response to Jesus, just soak on Jesus. Don't look at him, and consider how you should change to be like him, just meditate on him.
I think sometimes we are so consumed with what we should do as we look at Jesus, that we aren't really seeing Jesus. And maybe if we simply focused on him in that effort - the effort of merely beholding - a big part of the transformation we so long for would occur.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV)
So until Sunday (at the very least), here is your delightful to-do: Simply behold the glory of Jesus, and be transformed by the Spirit.
See you Sunday.