September 7, 2014.

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.”
(Luke 9:51-56)

A while ago I heard a good sermon on this passage where Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem, showing his determination, purpose and focus on finishing what he had come to this earth to do. Luke begins this section with “When the days drew near for him to be taken up.” Can you imagine knowing all your life when it was that you were going to die, and not only that, but that you were going to die by the cruel hands of men who reviled your name in a form of torture? On top of that, it was the will of your Father that you come and accomplish this task, so that a greater purpose might be served. All these things must have been on our savior’s mind at this time, yet he still set His face towards Jerusalem. He was determined to carry out the plan, even if that plan was though his suffering. He did it for you and me, and all mankind, while we were still in our sins. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, we brought to the table so as to leverage reconciliation to God. Just as in the days of old, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (ref. Gen 6:5).” Now you might say that there is some hope in mankind, some redeeming qualities, and I would agree; but none that would in anyway account for our sin. None that would wipe away the fall. None that can save alone.

So Jesus had to come, to offer a perfect sacrifice for our lives. We don’t have to believe in him. He’s given us that choice. You can choose not to believe in Christ, or even to believe that he shouldn’t have had to die in order to reconcile us. But that is in essence one of the very reasons He did die (and rose again!). To give you that choice. To give me that choice.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
(II Peter 3:9)

So Jesus set His face towards Jerusalem. He was focused on the task at hand. He was so focused that the Samaritan village didn’t receive Him because they saw His ultimate destination, and that destination wasn’t in Samaria, but in Jerusalem. They rejected him, but this did not interfere with His determination. He found another way, just as the prophet Isaiah set his face like flint in the face of adversity (ref. Isa. 50:7), so our Lord was unyielding to possible derailments. Thus He continued on.

His focus and determination sparked several conversations along the way that added to the lesson at hand:

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go andproclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 9:57-62)

He bid people to follow him in his purpose, but each had a distraction that held them captive. These were not things that we would call distractions. The burial of a loved one, the bidding farewell to friends and family. These are big things to us. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Is that the answer you would want to hear? Jesus was not in the business of giving easy answers. He had a purpose, and he set his face to accomplish that purpose. His followers had a choice to make. Their choice wouldn’t change what he was set to do.

This raises some interesting questions and lessons for us today. What can we learn from this story? Where should our focus lay? What did Jesus even mean when he said “take up your cross and follow me”? You see, if you have been taught an easy gospel, one of doing only things that are comfortable or things you like, so long as you believe in Jesus, I’m afraid you haven’t been taught by the words of Jesus himself. Jesus promised rest for the weary, but he did not promise an easy journey. He promised peace, thus implying the need for it. He promised to prepare us a place to go, suggesting that this world is indeed not our home, we are but weary pilgrims here. Where should our focus lay? Let’s ask some tough questions.

Are we focused? On what are we focused? Are we focused on the will of the Father?

Think about your life, what you do on a day to day basis. What do you focus on? What is your primary objective for the day, week and month? Does it have to do with things temporary or things eternal? Should it matter? How much focus does your job, school or that next toy you want to get take away from the focus on the will of the Father?

I’m not saying we should throw off all our responsibilities, pack up our things and wait on the hillside for Jesus to return. There were those in the bible who did this that Paul had to correct. What I am saying is that we should have focus, and our focus should be on things eternal, how we might live and spread the gospel through our everyday responsibilities. Could you talk to your coworkers about Christ? Maybe you could set up a small group bible study with some friends at school. Maybe all you can do at the moment is be Christ for the people around you, sacrificing self to meet the needs of others. Whatever it is, we need to find it, and set our face like flint to do it. Jesus didn’t give up. He accomplished what he set out to do. So too can we. After all, we have the power of Christ within us!

Take an honest look. What are you focused on?

Is our focus so evident that others can see our goal and purpose as the Samaritans did Jesus?

The Samaritans saw Jesus’ purpose. They could tell what he was going to do, and there was no question in his determination. Can we say this about ourselves? Do our friends know what our main purpose in life is? Do they know that we follow Christ beyond a passive acknowledge of Him only in times of extreme relevancy (such as someone asking us if we go to church)? If so, this is not the focus that Jesus had when he set his face toward Jerusalem. It was evident; no one had to ask what he was doing. He did not hide his purpose in anyway, but rather sent people ahead to make it known.

We sing a song sometimes, often considered a children’s song, called “This Little Light of Mine.” Perhaps you know it well, but have you thought deeply on the words?

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, let it shine

All around the neighborhood, I’m gonna let it shine
All around the neighborhood, I’m gonna let it shine
All around the neighborhood, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

These lyrics are based upon the words of our Lord, and should not be taken lightly.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
(Matthew 5:14-16)

Even though it is a children’s song, the concept the song portrays is in no way meant only for children. Perhaps it is even more fitting for adults, as we have to make the choices of what we do daily so that we might glorify the Father through our actions. The Samaritans saw what Jesus was focused on. Can you claim the same? If you were to ask your friends what was your main focus in life, what would they say? Be honest with yourself. It is not me you have to convince, for I have to ask myself the same question.

Are there any distractions (even those we might not call distractions) that are getting in the way of our focus?

Perhaps the hardest question that is derived from this section of scripture is realizing the implications of Jesus’ teachings at the end. He bid different people to follow him, and they each gave Him an excuse of why they couldn’t start right away. They didn’t even say that they could never follow Him, they just had to go do something first. On top of that, these excuses were hardly excuses, or so it would seem to us. I mean, a funeral? A goodbye? Isn’t that reasonable?

The problem was that the people had distractions that took away from the focus of our Lord. He had set his face towards Jerusalem, and if you were to follow Him, you had to take up his focus. There was no room for distraction. There was no room for other things to get in the way of the will of the Father. These people had distractions. They were focused on this temporal world and were blind to things eternal. I think we would be hard pressed to think of ourselves as otherwise.

So are we distracted? Ask yourself, what did you focus on most this week? Was it the will of the Father. Notice the question. I didn’t ask if you were ever focused on the will of the Father, because I’m sure you were at some point. My question was, on what did you focus most? Again, honesty is the only thing that will help you here as I am not the one who judges. The one who does, He knows the truth, regardless of our justifications.

I am not trying to beat you down with this post, but rather prompt some critical thinking in effort to refocus our lives. I will be the first to admit that my focus is not always where it needs to be. But that’s why we ask these hard questions, so that we can evaluate ourselves and make changes to rectify and refocus. Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem and did not sway until his purpose was accomplished. Will you set your face to do His will?

Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 5-7, Luke 9.

Let us labor for the Lord.


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