Set your face to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-56)

follow-throughLet’s take just a few quiet moments and I want you to do something which will help you get the most out of this message. I want you to write down something specific that you know God has called you to do. It could be anything. It could be going back to school, starting a new business, fasting, spending more time in prayer, witnessing to your neighbors, serving the poor, speaking up for disenfranchised people, fighting against injustices, volunteering. I’ll give you a few minutes to write it down and then I’ll get to the message.

For today, I want to pull a few verses out of context in order to make a very important point. Let me re-read verses 51-53 for us. I chose this passage because it speaks to an issue that faces all of us – setting goals and being committed to accomplishing those goals. They aren’t the same. One of these is easier than the other and doesn’t really require any special effort on our parts. It doesn’t require any faith. The other one does require effort and faith. It comes with a lot of foreseeable challenges and some un-forseen challenges. It’s hard and sometimes it will cause you to re-evaluate the things you value most in this life. Will you be content with knowing that God has a goal for your life or will you commit yourself to His will and watch Him accomplish – through you –  what He has created you to be and do? Will you set your face toward Jerusalem?

Here, in this passage, Luke’s narrative starts to shift. Before here Jesus was in Galilee doing all sorts of miracles and teaching the kingdom of God. Now, Luke tells us, Jesus understands that Galilee is not the goal, it’s time to move away from Galilee and head to Jerusalem where He would complete the mission He was on. So, when the time had come for Him to be received up, He set His face toward Jerusalem.

Now it’s important to note here that Jerusalem is not the goal. Luke says that the goal is for Jesus to be received up. What’s going to happen in Jerusalem? Why is it important for Jesus go to Jerusalem? Matthew tells us why. In Matthew 16:21 Matthew tells us that “from that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem,” and here is the goal that was set for Jesus, Jesus was going to Jerusalem to “suffer many things from the elders and the chief priest and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” The goal for Jesus – His purpose in this life – was to suffer, die, and be raised from the dead, so that you and I could be forgiven for our sins, have eternal life, and so that we could join Him in His mission to save the world. In Mark 10:45 Jesus tells His disciples that He came for this purpose, “to give His life as a ransom for many,” that includes you and me and the entire world. The good thing about having goals for our lives is that goals help to give us direction, they help to steer us toward what we want as well as away from want we don’t want. When Jesus’ disciples wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans what did He say? He said, “look, that’s not why I’m here! I didn’t come to kill people. I came to save people.” Knowing what the goal was helped Jesus stay away from getting involved in things that wasn’t part of the mission. Things that didn’t help Him accomplish His goal.

Now, here is where setting goals can get a little tricky. We may know what God wants from us, we may even agree with God that it is good. We may even want what God wants for us to have, but often times, the disconnect between knowing and getting what God wants for us is follow through, commitment, obedience. Jesus said that, “no one having put their hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” But when the time had come for Jesus to be received up, He set His face toward Jerusalem.

To say that Jesus “set His face” toward Jerusalem basically means that He dug in His heels. It means that He harden His mind – He was stubborn when it came to doing anything that was not part of the original plan. Think about Pharaoh, when Moses went to him to release the Children of Israel it says that his heart was hardened (fixed, strengthened, firm). And from that story we know that it didn’t matter what God did, Pharaoh was determined to not let Israel go! Or, what about in Nehemiah 6:1-3, when Nehemiah is rebuilding the wall and onlookers and enemies tried to get him to deviate from the mission, what did Nehemiah tell them? “I am doing a great work, so that I can not come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah followed through. He was committed to accomplishing what God had called him to. Here in Luke’s gospel it’s the same idea.

Jesus sends His disciples ahead of Him in order to make preparations for His journey, but when they came to the Samaritans Jesus was rejected. Now Jesus could’ve wasted time trying to convince the Samaritans that He was a good guy and didn’t understand why they didn’t like Him. He could’ve become consumed by their rejection of Him and failed to accomplish His goal. Or, He could’ve allowed His friend’s anger and hatred of the Samaritans to get in the way of what He was supposed to do!

This is where you and I often times fall short of reaching our goals. This is where we miss out on the things God has for us. We may know what God expects of us or for us, but we allow people’s opinion of us to stop us from accomplishing our God-given mission. Sometimes we let hurt feelings or flattery interfere with the thing God has called us to do. Sometimes we are distracted by things that have nothing to do with what God wants from us! We let people who don’t know or understand the mission God has us on to convince us to take a detour, or not follow through. We don’t set our faces toward Jerusalem.

Earlier I asked you to write down what you think God has called you to do. Now, I want you to write down why you haven’t done it. What is it that has gotten in your way and prevented you from doing what you know God wants you to do? Is it people? Poor time management? Is it fear? Is it doubt?

Here’s the reality, you will always have “Samaritans” in your life who will reject you and try to get in the way of you accomplishing your God-ordained goals. You will always have people who don’t understand what God is calling you to do and they will tell you that you’re crazy. They will say that if it was them they wouldn’t do that. What you need to tell them is that – it’s not about them! This is about you being obedient to God and following through on what God has called you to do. Basically, when that happens you have two choices, 1) you can either let other people and other things interfere with what you know God wants for your life or 2) you can go to another village.

Don’t waste your time with things and people who are not part of the mission God has you on. Set your face toward Jerusalem and watch God work a miracle in your life.

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