“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
In this passage, Luke tells us that Jesus’ time on earth is coming to a close and that He would soon ascend into heaven. With that in mind Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” in order to complete his assigned mission, to suffer and die for the sins of God’s people. Other translations use the phrase ‘Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem’ or ‘he was determined to go to Jerusalem’.
Christ’s suffering and death is also in view in the words of the ‘suffering servant’ through the prophet Isaiah:
Jesus was a ‘man on a mission’, who knowing exactly what awaited him in Jerusalem, ‘set His face like flint’ to carry out that mission. He did not shirk the duty for which he had been sent.
I ask you, which of us, if we knew what Jesus knew, would we steel our wills in obedience, knowing we would be arrested, scourged, and crucified although completely innocent of any wrongdoing?
You might think that a silly question, but is it?
I offer to you that it is most certainly not a frivolous question, but one that is asked in all seriousness.
While it goes without saying that no believer has ever been given a mission that comes anywhere close to the Savior’s, there is for every believer a singular ‘call to duty’ that bears certain similarities. Furthermore, it is Jesus himself who issued the call with a few words spoken to his followers after his resurrection. The account is found in John, Chapter 20:
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” A (John 20:19-21. ESV)
Bible commentator, Albert Barnes (1798 –1870) explains what this means:
“As God sent me to preach, to be persecuted, and to suffer; to make known his will, and to offer pardon to men, so I send you. This is the design and the extent of the commission of the ministers of the Lord Jesus. He is their model; and they will be successful only as they study his character and imitate his example. This commission he proceeds to confirm by endowing them all with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus know knew what was in store for Him in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, he “set His face” (resolutely determined) to go there anyway (See Luke 9). He “set His face “like a flint”, as the prophet Isiah describes the suffering servant. Jesus was not appalled by the dangers – he was determined to brave all, and go up into the midst of his enemies – to die – to complete His mission!
As Jesus followers, we are also sent. We are sent into a world that is as hostile to the gospel as it was in Jesus’ day; to a people whose minds are just as set against God and who by nature cannot see or understand the message we bring (See Rom 8:7 & 2 Cor 4:4) We are promised persecution and hatred (John 15:18-19), assuming of course that we never waver from the Biblical gospel – the one that addresses our sin and the need to repent and believe.
The first disciples accepted the call of Jesus, as did Paul, Silas and many others throughout the history of the church. And they have been, and are, persecuted for their faith and stance for the gospel, to this day.
Here in America, we know nothing of real persecution. Nevertheless, some are now asking ‘when’, not ‘if’ it is coming, given what we have seen over the past couple of decades that has been rapidly escalating in recent days.
Nevertheless, Jesus’ words to his followers still stand and will stand until he comes back to claim his bride and judge the earth.
“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
Good Christian, you who call yourself a ‘soldier’ of the cross, what will you do with the call to duty? We have only two options my friend – go AWOL (absent without leave), in other words desert, or heed the call and like our Savior, the suffering servant, set our faces like flint to the task!