Sunday, June 30, 2019
When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.
I’ve got a question for you this morning, a quick opinion poll. How many of you believe that today’s current technology makes certain things easier? For example, how many of you prefer a washing machine to a washboard when doing laundry? How many of you like keeping in touch with family and friends on Facebook or Instagram? But, the big question: how many of you also believe that we can misuse technology in ways that the inventors of these various technologies didn’t even think about when they invented them? I was recently sent a Facebook article about screens in the sanctuary. It was a very thought-provoking article. Which made me, for the most part, rethink asking for them in our sanctuary. Too much technology, can cause our focus to change.
For example, did you know that there are websites out there dedicated to helping you get online friends and followers for your social media accounts? These companies will create fake usernames or pay real account holders to follow you and like you on various social media sites.
For instance, on the site Socialyup.com you can buy 500 likes for $30 or 20,000 likes for $699. For $10, a company called FanMeNow will find you 1,000 Twitter followers and for $1,750 you can buy a million followers. Think of that, a million followers for only $1,750! That sounds like a bargain if you’re wanting to become a celebrity. But that’s not all.
If you need to beef up views for your YouTube video, for $150 you can buy 30,000 views from a site called 500views.com. For $3,100 they’ll make your video go “viral” by getting you a million views. Think about it: No matter what social network you’re on, you can buy your way to popularity.
It’s a shame Jesus didn’t have this technology in His day. In fact, you’ll notice in this passage in Luke 9, it looks like Jesus couldn’t even buy followers for His ministry. And the few followers He did have didn’t understand His ministry at all.
In verse 51, we read that Jesus “set His face to go to Jerusalem.” Jerusalem, the capital city of the Jews, was the place where religious and political power met in ancient times. Jesus’ disciples thought He was going to Jerusalem to establish His earthly kingdom there. They were excited. In fact, in verse 46 just before this, they had been discussing which of them would be greatest in Jesus’ kingdom. To them, Jerusalem meant power and status. But Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem knowing that this would be the place where He would suffer and die.
The disciples didn’t understand where Jesus was leading them. If they had known, they probably would’ve thought He was leading them backwards. “What do you mean you’re going to Jerusalem to suffer and die?” But Jesus was moving forward by obeying God’s will and fulfilling God’s plan for the salvation of humanity and the redemption of creation. That’s why this opening verse about setting His face toward Jerusalem is so important for us to understand.
My professor who taught the Gospel of Luke and authored the CPH commentary of the same, told us that the defining moment in this Gospel is right here in this verse. It was at this point in Jesus’ ministry, that the plan of salvation would begin. The passion of the Christ begins here.
When we look at the verse which I’ve chosen for this message, the words: “He Himself set His face” refers to Jesus’ prophetic role. Because when God sets His face against a person or a city or region, it meant that God is showing His wrath. Or the reverse is true, when God “makes His face to shine on you and be gracious to you. (Numbers 6:25). Which, of course, we hear at the end of the service and will no doubt hear again today in the benediction, and it’s God placing His love and forgiveness on us.
Believe or not we live in a 24-hour buffet of choices. With so many of our choices being manipulated by the next thing that goes viral on social media. We’re bombarded with messages that make us think we might be missing out on something newer, something better. How do we discover what’s most important in life? And once we discover it, how do we commit our lives to it? Just like when Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem.
Don’t you wish sometimes that God would just grab your head and turn your focus back toward Him? So that we never ever have to be reminded of where our focus should be.
I think that’s what Jesus was doing in this passage in Luke 9. He was trying to help people refocus their lives on the things that really count. It’s a fascinating story. Luke’s Gospel tells us that as the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And He sent messengers on ahead who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for Him; but the people there didn’t welcome Him, because He was heading for Jerusalem.
When James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” It’s amazing how “out of sync” His disciples are sometimes with Jesus’ plans for the world. Luke tells us Jesus turned and rebuked James and John. I really prefer the word reprimanded rather than rebuked, nobody uses rebuked anymore, if we ever did. Then He and His disciples went to another village.
As they were walking along the road, a man said, “I will follow you wherever you go.” You have to really appreciated how Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Like what? He tells another man to, “Follow Me.” But he says, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus reply, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Everyone of those quotes have been used for everything ranging from “I'm justifying my actions,” to “you’re not the boss of me.”
Look at all the players in this passage. They were all focused on their own agenda to the extent that they either misunderstood or rejected Jesus completely. What a contrast to Jesus’ determination to complete the work God had given Him, no matter what it cost Him.
Jesus never hid the demands of the Kingdom from those who wanted to follow Him. That’s why he had so much trouble getting followers. Unlike in social media, you can’t just follow Jesus by buying 500 likes for $30. Following Jesus means setting your face toward Jerusalem. No other priorities. No going back. So, what does that kind of resolve look like for Jesus-followers today?
Setting your face toward Jerusalem means wanting God’s will more than your own plans.
A fellow pastor and good friend of mine had a sense that God was calling him to lead the deaf mission work in Macau, China, along with his wife, he resolved to go no matter what it cost him. He stopped here a few years ago looking for funding, as he met with myself and Jack Schimmelmann, we could tell that he had set his face toward Jerusalem. He wanted to follow God’s plan for his life rather than his own. I happened to meet up with him in Mobile last week and even though he told me that he initially feared going, it has been the best and most fulfilled he has ever felt. And his funding seems to have increased so much that he plans on continuing on in Macau for at least another two years. You may even have seen the newsletters he sends, and I post on the bulletin board.
Setting your face toward Jerusalem also means submitting to God’s will fearlessly.
God challenges us, as His servants to live boldly and publicly as His servants, using His resources and unafraid of His enemies, confident in the future as His future.
Would you live differently if you were confident in the future as God’s future? Would anything change about your life? Setting your face toward Jerusalem means submitting to God’s will fearlessly.
Finally, setting your face toward Jerusalem means sharing your faith in Jesus confidently, so that others can come to know God. You never know the impact your faith story can have on others. You never know whose life will be changed because you were faithful and unafraid in sharing the love of Jesus.
I know the pain parents feel at the loss of their daughter and my granddaughter, having seen and experienced it first hand, but I also know the hope and joy that we have in knowing that Abby is living a new life with Jesus.
Setting your face toward Jerusalem isn’t easy. It means giving up your own agenda and comfort to follow God’s will. For Jesus, Jerusalem meant humiliation, and defeat and death. But for the human race, for you and me, Jerusalem meant reconciliation with God and eternal life. “For God so loved the world. . . ”
Do you believe in that love enough to set your face toward Jerusalem too?