Luke 9:51 (autumn, AD29)
“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.“
Older translations refer to him “set[ting] his face”. The Greek words ‘prosōpon stērizō’ literally mean, ‘his face set to turn resolutely in a certain direction’.
Why did he have to set out ‘resolutely’. Why not just…‘go’?
The short answer is that Jesus knew exactly what was coming to him. Where we risk persecution and suffering, there was no risk for Jesus – it was a certainty.
Jesus’ obedience wasn’t automatic, he had to work for it. On one hand, unlike us, he had no desires to disobey his Father in any way. But the humanity of his body and mind meant that the prospect of intense and prolonged physical, emotional and spiritual torture was appalling to him. He had a very strong desire not to have to go through it.
We are not following and worshipping someone who ‘laughs in the face of danger’ or who felt no pain. He felt everything, and far more deeply than we do, losing as he did far more than we have ever had.
We are not following someone who, when he had to travel half the country to his slow, painful death, thought nothing of it and whistled as he walked. The agony to come filled Jesus with such dread that he had to make his journey ‘resolutely’, or he would not have made it at all.
It won’t cost us as much as it cost Jesus, but God requires that same resolution of us. That same, setting of the face. Your face may want to point in other directions, towards a life more serene, relaxed or uncomplicated, free of the risk of opposition. Your face will not naturally point to Jesus – you must set it that way.
We cannot live a Christian life without setting our faces to Jerusalem, so to speak. We cannot bring glory to God without being resolute in our approach to evangelism, resolute in our focused hatred of our own sin, resolute in our prayer and Bible reading, resolute in serving others. Because whilst some of those things are natural to us, we all have discouragements and barriers to living fully for God.
The one who gave everything for you has already done it, and joy accompanies those who do as Jesus did.