He Set His Face to Jerusalem

WHEN THE DAYS DREW NEAR FOR HIM TO BE TAKEN UP, HE SET HIS FACE TO GO TO JERUSALEM.
LUKE 9:51

In Luke chapter 9, Jesus is traveling south with the disciples after finishing his Galilean ministry. He had preached in many synagogues, taught in many towns, and performed many miracles. He had spent very day of the last year and half to two years with his twelve disciples. His words and teachings would become the doctrinal foundation of Christianity. He is now in the last six months of his life. The time has come for him to journey back to Jerusalem to be crucified, and so “he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The Latin Vulgate says he “strengthened his face.” This denotes courage, boldness, and firmness of mind.

We often minimize the fact that Jesus was wholly human as well as wholly God. We think that He was probably not as troubled by sin, temptation, and selfishness as we are, and living in this world was easier for him. But Jesus was as human as we are and he had to choose to obey his Father just as we do. He made the choice to go to Jerusalem with full knowledge of what awaited him there. It was not an easy choice. It was hard. He knew what going to Jerusalem meant. He predicts in Luke 18:32, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him…” When Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, he set his face to die.

He willingly chose to go to the cross for us—to take upon himself our sins, our shame. He states in John 10:18, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”He knew God’s purpose for his life and he was committed to carrying it out at all costs. His disciples were still ignorant and unaware of Jesus’ true purpose. While traveling to Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples took the shortest route, through Samaria, even though the Samaritans and the Jews despised one another.

They had journeyed through Samaria before. John chapter 4 tells of Christ’s meeting with the Samaritan woman. The woman became a believer as a result of her encounter with Christ. However this time, Jesus and the disciples did not get a warm reception. “But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:53) Public opinion of Christ was already changing. His rejection by the people had begun. His disciples, James and John, wanted to destroy Samaria because of their rejection. The “sons of thunder” lived up to their reputation.

“And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.’ For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.. And they went to another village.” Luke 9:53-56

Jesus’ message to his disciples and to us in this passage is clear. You too will be rejected by men. To be a true disciple of Jesus is to be an imitator of Him. He calls us to follow him down Calvary Road to Golgotha. We must crucify ourselves, our selfish nature, and our wishes for a comfortable life. We must allow the light of God’s Word to penetrate the darkest parts of our sinful hearts. We must be ready to give up our desires and wishes to serve God and one another. This is true discipleship ——to be ready and willing to “set our face to Jerusalem.”

Interrupted By God

Mark 15:20-22
After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him. They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross. Then they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull.

Simon, a Cyrenian, traveled from his home country in Northern Africa to Jerusalem for the Passover holiday. It was a long and arduous journey for him, about 800 miles. A large Jewish community had settled in Cyrene some 300 years earlier. They had an established synagogue and often traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival.

Simon planned for months to make this journey and it was going to be a costly one for him in both time and money. He traveled in a Roman ship from Alexandria to Joppa to land in time to reach Jerusalem for the Passover.

How excited he would have been to be traveling to the Holy City to celebrate one of the holiest of days with Jews from all over the world. He walked at a brisk pace as his mind was on getting to the city in time to find a lamb to purchase for his Passover meal and sacrifice. He made his way into the crowded city and was unaware of the events that had taken place that day. He looks up ahead as he walks along the road into Jerusalem and notices a throng of people coming towards him out of the city. He hears shouting, screaming, and crying from the people coming his way. He sees a bloodied man with a cross slowly making his way along the dusty road. The man is surrounded by Roman soldiers who whip him whenever he stumbles. A crowd of people are following; women wailing in grief, men shouting obscenities, and others looking on with curiosity. Someone calls the man Jesus and says he is a criminal.

As Simon tries to pass through the crowds he stops near Jesus who is having difficulty walking. Jesus had already been beaten multiple times, flogged, had his beard pulled out, spat upon, clothes torn off, and a crown of thorns place on his head. Extremely emaciated from the torture he received at the hands of the Roman soldiers, Jesus struggles under the weight of the cross. The procession moves too slow for the Roman soldiers and they grab Simon as he passes by and “press” him into service, assisting Jesus with carrying the cross.

Simon wants to protest but cannot. The Roman soldiers have the authority to compel anyone into service they wish. Simon was simply passing through. He does not know this criminal and has nothing to do with the events which have transpired this day. We would say he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.'” Luke 9:23

Simon had the privilege of being the first one to bear the cross of Jesus. He walked in the footsteps of Jesus as he made his way to place where he would be crucified. Simon carried the cross of the one who would bear his sins for him; the Lamb of God.

Simon was not looking for a Savior that day. He was merely heading into the Holy City to do “religion” as usual. For Simon religion meant following the rules and regulations passed onto him through the Old Testament scriptures and his family. But Jesus interrupted his life and he found himself heading in the opposite direction and face to face with the Messiah. He looked into the eyes of his fellow sufferer and saw the face of God; not the God of rules and regulations, but the God of love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

We do not know what happened to Simon after that day. There is no other mention of him in the Scripture. Tradition tells us that after his life was interrupted by the Lamb of God he became a devoted follower of Jesus.

Has Jesus interrupted your life or is it “religion” as usual for you this Easter season? The cross that Simon bore should have been his own; the death that Jesus died should have been ours. Simon looked into the eyes of Jesus, altered his direction and became a changed man. Have you?


The Strangest Story of All

C.S.Lewiscalls the Resurrection of Christ “The strangest story of all.” To Jesus’ followers it was the strangest story. Even though Jesus had told them he would rise on the third day, the disciples did not believe it.Mary Magdalene and the disciples at Emmaus testified to seeing the risen Christ and still the disciples did not believe. When Jesus finally appears to the 11 in the Upper Room, Mark says He rebukes them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.

Not much has changed in 2000 years. It is still difficult for people to believe that a man could rise from the dead. Many believe that Jesus was a good man, a moral teacher, someone who left us a good example to follow. But believing in Him as God, in the flesh, who conquered death it too difficult a leap.

One can certainly see this attitude in how the world celebrates Easter. Christmas is still somewhat about a baby’s birth, but Easter is now about bunnies and eggs. We celebrate the “Christmas season” but barely give Easter one day.  Yet it is Easter- the Crucifixion and the Resurrection-that sets Christianity apart.

The Resurrection changed everything-past, present, and future. Death has been robbed of its stronghold on us. Jesus walked into the jaws of that final, fierce enemy and conquered it.  The resurrection proves that Jesus was who he said he was. We can live today in the joy and power of a living Savior.  It is because of the Resurrection that we have hope and the promise of heaven. Death is no longer something to fear. We know that our bodies will be raised like Jesus’ was raised. We may close our eyes to life here but we open them to life forever. The Resurrection propels us into a life of courage and assurance.

What great assurance it is to know that we need not fear death for our loved ones who know Christ or fear death for ourselves. The Resurrection has left us with the sweet scent of heaven and the promise of a grand reunion with Christ and our loved ones.

There is a country song titled “Live Like You Are Dying, which speaks of living for today. As Christians we should live not like we are dying but fearless and free because of the power of the Resurrection.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  Hosea 13:14

“It strengthens our faith to revisit the Resurrection of Christ. We follow him not only because of his sinless life, matchless teaching and atoning death. We also follow him because he is the only religious leader in history with an empty grave. Little did Joseph of Arimathea know that the Lord was only going to borrow his tomb for three days. Someone ought to write on the grave of every Christian, “Borrowed only until He comes.” God has promised to do for us what he did for Jesus, and he expects us to live like it.”WayneE.Shaw

For The Joy that Was Set Before Him

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”      Hebrews 12:1:2.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Christ endured the cross and the shame for the “joy that was set before him.” He knew what God’s plan was for his life. He knew that he would have to endure the suffering and shame of the cross. Yet he chose to follow God’s plan. Because of his trust and    obedience to His heavenly Father, Christ was able to go to the cross. But he also did for the joy which would be his. He suffered for the joy of being seated at the right hand of the Father, and he suffered for the greatest joy of all —- saving you and I.

He suffered for the joy of imparting His righteousness to you and I; for giving us a mansion in heaven, or as C. H. Spurgeon says, “ for the joy of finding mansions in heaven for homeless souls.”

If Christ can endure the shame, suffering, and agony of the cross for our homeless souls, shouldn’t we be able to endure suffering for His sake?

Yet send even a little suffering our way and God will find us crying out for relief. He will find us praying, “It is too much, Lord!” or “It is not fair, God!” Our suffering in this world pales in comparison to him who was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

This Easter season, take a fresh look at the cross. Stand there at the feet of your suffering Savior and worship Him anew. Marvel at His great love for you.

Do not turn away from His suffering, for it is that suffering that you were healed. Worship Jesus Christ, your Savior and pray as William Gadsby did,

Now, for the love I bear His Name,

What was my gain I count my loss;

My former pride I call my shame,

And nail my glory to His cross.

Grant, O Lord, that in your wounds I may find my safety, in your stripes my cure, in your pain my peace, in your cross my victory, in your resurrection my triumph, and a crown of righteousness in the glories of your eternal kingdom.

Jeremy Taylor, in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, compiled by Dorothy M. Stewart

Mary At The Cross

She stands at the foot of the cross. He hangs there in agony between two common thieves. Pilate had put an inscription above his head, mocking him, which said JESUS OF NAZARETH , THE KING OF THE JEWS.  She wants to look away but she cannot take her eyes off him. She wishes she could leave but she is riveted to this place,Golgotha, the place of the skull.  She no longer knows how long she has stood here, watching her Savior, her son, die the death of a thief.  Her heart feels like it is being torn apart piece by piece with each labored breath he takes.  She remembers that day in Jerusalem when she andJosephtookJesusto the temple and were met by Simeon.  The old man’s words now haunt her;

“Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed– and a sword will pierce even your own soul…”

She is grateful for the support she receives with the presence of the other women,Mary Magadalene, and her sisterSalome, and Mary the wife of Clopas.  Her son’s beloved disciple,John, is also by her side. She watches as soldiers divide his garments into rags and cast lots for his robe.  She remembers that rags were all she had to cloth him with after his birth.

She winces every time she hears the taunts of the crowd. The religious leaders are especially cruel. “He saved others, let Him save himself!”  They of all people should know better. These leaders and teachers who say they love God and know his prophesy taunt the One who has come to fulfill it.  She recalls the angel’s words to Joseph,

“And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”

 She has not always understood the words spoken to her by others and Jesus concerning His life. That day inJerusalem, he spoke words to her that she did not understand. They thought they had lost Jesus and he had been missing for three days. She had been so worried, so anxious when she had realized that he was missing.  She felt a mixture of relieve and anger when they found him in the temple. She remembers turning to him and saying,

“Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”

Jesusvery calmly answered her,“Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

Even now, in His darkest hour, He is about His Father’s business. She looks up at her beloved son. Her mother’s heart wishes that she could do something or that God would do something. She yearns to take away his pain, to wipe his brow, to tend to his wounds! She would even sacrifice herself if she could.  But that is not God’s plan and she knows that Jesus’ purpose, his mission has always been to fulfill God’s plan.   This is His Father’s plan for her redemption.  Just as God must sacrifice His Son for others, so must she.

Jesus turns to her and says,

“Women, behold your son.”

He then says to John,

“Behold, your mother.”

She realizes that he is no longer her son. She must give him back to God, but she has always known that he was hers for just a little while.  He is God’s forever. He is God. He is her Savior.

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

what a great sacrifice God made when he allowed His son to die for my sins.  I could not imagine sacrificing my son for anyone or any reason.  Yet God in his grace and wisdom, planned from the beginning of time to do just that.  It is my hope and prayer this Easter that you will reflect on the great sacrifice of the Cross. Christwas as human as you and I, yet He was always about his Father’s business.  He suffered a physical, emotional, and spiritual agony that we will never experience, that we might have redemption.  Yet we often go through our daily lives forgetting this great sacrifice.  By not living daily in His will and being about our Father’s business, we too mock Him and spit on Him.  Because the cross and the grace of God cost us so little, we often forget how much it cost God.  He has redeemed you at a great price!  He has set you free! He has paid your ransom!  Now—- go live like it!  And be about your Father’s business!


For The Joy That Was set Before Him

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”      Hebrews 12:1:2.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Christ endured the cross and the shame for the “joy that was set before him.” He knew what God’s plan was for his life. He knew that he would have to endure the suffering and shame of the cross. Yet he chose to follow God’s plan. Because of his trust and    obedience to His heavenly Father, Christ was able to go to the cross. But he also did for the joy which would be his. He suffered for the joy of being seated at the right hand of the Father, and he suffered for the greatest joy of all —- saving you and I.

He suffered for the joy of imparting His righteousness to you and I; for giving us a mansion in heaven, or as C. H. Spurgeon says, “ for the joy of finding mansions in heaven for homeless souls.”

If Christ can endure the shame, suffering, and agony of the cross for our homeless souls, shouldn’t we be able to endure suffering for His sake?

Yet send even a little suffering our way and God will find us crying out for relief. He will find us praying, “It is too much, Lord!” or “It is not fair, God!” Our suffering in this world pales in comparison to him who was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

This Easter season, take a fresh look at the cross. Stand there at the feet of your suffering Savior and worship Him anew. Marvel at His great love for you.

Do not turn away from His suffering, for it is that suffering that you were healed. Worship Jesus Christ, your Savior and pray as William Gadsby did,

Now, for the love I bear His Name,

What was my gain I count my loss;

My former pride I call my shame,

And nail my glory to His cross.

Grant, O Lord, that in your wounds I may find my safety, in your stripes my cure, in your pain my peace, in your cross my victory, in your resurrection my triumph, and a crown of righteousness in the glories of your eternal kingdom.

Jeremy Taylor, in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, compiled by Dorothy M. Stewart

He Set His Face to Jerusalem

WHEN THE DAYS DREW NEAR FOR HIM TO BE TAKEN UP, HE SET HIS FACE TO GO TO JERUSALEM.
LUKE 9:51

In Luke chapter 9, Jesus is traveling south with the disciples after finishing his Galilean ministry. He had preached in many synagogues, taught in many towns, and performed many miracles. He had spent very day of the last year and half to two years with his twelve disciples. His words and teachings would become the doctrinal foundation of Christianity. He is now in the last six months of his life. The time has come for him to journey back to Jerusalem to be crucified, and so “he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The Latin Vulgate says he “strengthened his face.” This denotes courage, boldness, and firmness of mind.

We often minimize the fact that Jesus was wholly human as well as wholly God. We think that He was probably not as troubled by sin, temptation, and selfishness as we are, and living in this world was easier for him. But Jesus was as human as we are and he had to choose to obey his Father just as we do. He made the choice to go to Jerusalem with full knowledge of what awaited him there. It was not an easy choice. It was hard. He knew what going to Jerusalem meant. He predicts in Luke 18:32, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him…” When Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, he set his face to die.

He willingly chose to go to the cross for us—to take upon himself our sins, our shame. He states in John 10:18, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”He knew God’s purpose for his life and he was committed to carrying it out at all costs. His disciples were still ignorant and unaware of Jesus’ true purpose. While traveling to Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples took the shortest route, through Samaria, even though the Samaritans and the Jews despised one another.

They had journeyed through Samaria before. John chapter 4 tells of Christ’s meeting with the Samaritan woman. The woman became a believer as a result of her encounter with Christ. However this time, Jesus and the disciples did not get a warm reception. “But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:53) Public opinion of Christ was already changing. His rejection by the people had begun. His disciples, James and John, wanted to destroy Samaria because of their rejection. The “sons of thunder” lived up to their reputation.

“And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.’ For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.. And they went to another village.” Luke 9:53-56

Jesus’ message to his disciples and to us in this passage is clear. You too will be rejected by men. To be a true disciple of Jesus is to be an imitator of Him. He calls us to follow him down Calvary Road to Golgotha. We must crucify ourselves, our selfish nature, and our wishes for a comfortable life. We must allow the light of God’s Word to penetrate the darkest parts of our sinful hearts. We must be ready to give up our desires and wishes to serve God and one another. This is true discipleship ——to be ready and willing to “set our face to Jerusalem.”