I’ve been in the Gospel of Luke since last summer, studying it under the tutelage of Bob Williamson, an incredible Bible teacher. I include the link to his website for you because it is a rare thing that a teacher of his caliber so freely gives of his work. I highly recommend him to you!
It was some while back that I came to understand that Luke 9:51 is a pivotal point for Jesus. It’s the point where, as the scripture says “When the days drew near for him [Jesus] to be taken up [i.e. to ascend to heaven], he [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus is going to move away from ministering in Galilee and move toward Jerusalem and the cross. In the Greek, “to set his face” means ‘to decide firmly, to resolve, to make up one’s mind definitely.’(1) In other words, there was no turning back. Jesus knew where he was going, what he was going to do, and his mind would not be changed. God’s plan, a plan do die and rise again so that humanity would have the opportunity (if we believe) to receive forgiveness of our sins, to be reconciled to God and each other, and to receive eternal life. A new way of being was about to come forth. But it would require the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ “who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2b).”
And this morning, this “Good Friday” (not sure when it ever received the name “good”), I have found myself reflecting on the events of that day over 2000 years ago. I have been reflecting upon the actions of Jesus and the thoughts or wishes of others around him. I was reminded of how Jesus shared an intimate meal with his disciples, describing for them what was to come and why. And instructing them to continue, in remembrance of him, breaking bread and drinking wine. (The Lord’s Supper.) In that same story, found in Luke 22, we find the disciples arguing about who would be the greatest and Jesus instructing them to “serve” others. But wrapped up in that instruction to serve is this truth: the way they are to serve others, the way we are to serve others, is in the power of Jesus’ name and in his authority that he has entrusted to us. It’s his power and authority, not ours.
Other things I was reminded of this morning included my desperate need for Jesus. My need for him to pray for me – for us – like he did for Simon that “our faith would not fail” and that “as we repented and turned to him again” he would release us to “strengthen” our brothers and sisters. And not only our brothers and sisters (meaning those already in the household of God) but those who are lost, hurting, searching, and crying “Hosanna,” which means “save me please.” It’s a cry of desperation; a cry to be set free. And I am utterly convinced that no human can be fully set free apart from work of Jesus Christ. No one.
And in the times we are living, there is no shortage of people who are seeking for settlement of soul. For a place to be anchored. For truth to be made clear. And like Herod, there are those who are longing to see Jesus perform a miracle (Luke 23:8). But here’s the thing: He already did. That’s what the cross and subsequent resurrection of Jesus is – our miracle! It’s the place where we discover there is hope and that we can now have Jesus with us always because of the indwelling presence of Holy Spirit. The cross demonstrates for us that we are invited into a new kingdom with a different set of values (love God and love others), and the Bible shows us how.
In truth, it is hard for me to imagine that someone died in my place. It’s hard for me to imagine being brutally beaten for another so they could be set free. It’s hard for me to imagine being innocent and carrying the weight of the world’s curse. Today, as I reflect on Jesus, the one who resolutely set his face to Jerusalem because “God so loved,” I get down on my knees and ask God for his love to wash over me. I bow my knee before Jesus and, in amidst my tears, I pray for the grace to live a life worthy of that which I have been saved from and called to. And I thank him for loving us enough to not change his mind.
I love you Jesus! I accept your offer, and I am yours, now and always. Be the Lord of my life as long as I live.
(1)Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 359.