When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. – Luke 9:51.
Through times of difficulty, the pursuit of our purpose gives us both the direction and the endurance to continue moving forward. This truth is seen clearly in the movement of Jesus toward his death in Jerusalem. His crucifixion, ordained from eternity past, did not come about as a contingency plan, for God never has an emergency. The death of Christ was agreed upon before creation, long before guilty humanity and a sinful world limped along in a universe gone wrong. Jesus was born for this; the cradle pointed to the cross, and the cross pointed to the tomb.
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:17-18).
When the time came — when his death bringing redemption and reconciliation drew near — Jesus made his way toward Jerusalem and would not be swerved from his purpose. “He set his face…” How many times did he and his disciples make this walk over the last months of ministry? How familiar were the curves of the path, the landmarks along the way, the homes and faces of those they passed on every trip south? This time was different. This was no ordinary trek to the holy city; this time, it was war that lay ahead — a battle for eternity. Through the shedding of his blood he fought for and bought back those who were enslaved to sin.
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
He knew what was ahead because he knew why he was sent. Not only that, the sufferings of the Messiah had been foretold long before this final walk to Jerusalem. Just because it was prophesied does not mean it was comfortable. Jesus agonized over the physical torture and spiritual anguish he would face on the cross, but in the end, embraced the fullness of the will of his Father for him, pain and all.
I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame (Isaiah 50:6-7).
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
“He set his face…” does not mean that he cared little or was unfeeling in the playing out of the plan. His resolute heart could ignore anything lesser and care most about that which truly mattered: the will of his Father.
His act of dying for us extends beyond a one-time salvation experience and reaches into the details of how we live daily. Christ setting his focus upon the cross was not only substitutionary (he took our place), but also exemplary (he showed us how to sacrifice our lives). He showed us how to live, and we only truly live when we die daily. If we belong to Christ, we are “dead men walking” every day as we set our faces toward him and his perfect purpose for us.
Have you set your face toward the things of God?
Are you unswerving from the revealed plan of God for your life or are you distracted and living with divided loyalties?
Do you trust God’s purpose for your life, even if it leads through seasons of pain?
Would you allow God to search your heart for anything that would reduce your focus and renew a heart of surrender to him?
We will depend upon God (and not our own hearts) to direct our steps as individuals, families and as a church. – Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
We will continually seek God’s revealed will for us from his Word. – Isaiah 30:21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
We will press on regardless of the difficulty, knowing that we are in the process of being made like Christ – Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.