The Determination of Jesus
What kind of person are you? I wonder whether you easily change your mind, whether you readily change course, or whether, having made up your mind, you are resolute and nothing can make you rethink.
Now being resolute can be a real advantage – others know exactly where they stand with you don't they? And yet sometimes our resoluteness amounts to little more than stubbornness and we generally are somewhat critical of those who are just plain stubborn.
As we hear what the Bible has to say about Jesus we find that he was resolute, very resolute indeed. Quite early on in his ministry he declared:
Jn.8:29 "I always do the things that are pleasing to him."
Then in prayer towards the end of his life he could speak to his Heavenly Father and declare:
Jn.17:4 "I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do."
As Easter is fast approaching I want this morning to direct your attention to how Jesus conducted himself as the first Easter drew near for him.
Jesus had been engaged in public ministry for some two years. During those two years he met with growing enthusiasm amongst the people but with increasing hostility from amongst the ruling classes. Then as the implications of his teaching became clearer and more exacting the enthusiasm of his followers waned and there were large scale desertions from his cause.
The inner core of the Twelve continued to follow him but still did not have very clear notions as to just who he was and what he had come to do. These disciples were however capable of flashes of inspiration. When Jesus asked them who they thought he was, Peter replied:
Mt.16:16 "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
With that declaration the preparatory phase of Jesus' ministry came to an end and from now on he turned to a single-
Rejection, suffering and death
No sooner had Peter made his declaration concerning Jesus' identity than Jesus began to teach his disciples in categorical terms what was to happen to him in the near future.
Jesus would not be surprised by what would take place. Events would not somehow overtake him and leave him a helpless victim of circumstances – no, he knew why he had come and he knew just what lay ahead for him as he set about fully accomplishing the will of his Father. He would go up to Jerusalem for that was where it would all take place:
Mt.16:21 "From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."
But what was clear and acceptable to Jesus was anything but to his disciples who were horrified to hear him speak of his being treated in this way.
They didn't like the idea of Jesus' being rejected, being made to suffer and finally being put to death. Thus far they hadn't realised what Jesus was all about and the idea of following a man on the road to the scaffold wasn't what they had signed up for! And so they try to talk him out of it – Mark tells us it was particularly Peter who spoke up. Maybe Jesus was just a bit down and gloominess was clouding his thinking, they'd cheer him up and everything would be fine.
But Jesus was having none of it!
Instead of back-
About a week after this decisive shift in the emphasis and in the orientation of Jesus' ministry the Transfiguration took place. In this extraordinary event which cannot be explained away in naturalistic terms Jesus appearance was radically though temporarily transformed. During this time Moses and Elijah appeared to him and held a conversation with him. These two characters are representative of two major strands in the OT – Moses is forever associated with the Law of God and Elijah stands in the prophetic tradition. The subject matter of their conversation together is what is of interest to us this morning and we find it in Luke's account of the event:
Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem
This "departure" or "exodus" refers to the manner in which Jesus was to leave the world and specifically to leave the world from Jerusalem.
Jesus knew without the shadow of a doubt what was to happen to him at Jerusalem but set himself determinedly to go there! He knew that this was the will of his Father for him and he would pursue nothing else even though he know that excruciating pain awaited him there! And that very word "excruciating" derives from the Latin word for cross.
I don't know about you but I don't usually go out of my way to encounter pain, quite the reverse. When I was a schoolboy I'd often go the long way round to school to avoid having go right past the home of a local bully that I didn't want to meet.
But Jesus did nothing to try to avoid Jerusalem.
Having arrived now at this stage of his ministry he set his face in the most unyielding manner to go there. What was to happen to him there was the very reason he had come into the world at all!!
Lk.9:51 "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem."
There is an interesting incident in the OT where we are told of another person who set his face to go up to Jerusalem. This other person was Hazael, King of Syria and he meant no good to Jerusalem at all, his intentions were only hostile. Jehoash, king of Judah, took gold and other gifts from the Temple of the Lord and presented them to Hazael. Jehoash wanted to buy off Hazael and succeeded as Hazael abandoned his plans – they say, don't they, that every man has his price.
What a contrast with Jesus!! Nothing could deflect him from accomplishing the task God had given him to do!!
Of course Satan had already tried to bribe Jesus with promises of power without pain, of conquest without cost, but Jesus had refused. Here too Jesus simply pressed on with single-
And this single-
Samaritans had a long history of hostility towards the Jews – they had major theological and religious disagreements some of which were concerned with the question as to where true worship was to be offered. Because of this they were not well-
Just think about that for a moment and realise just how sad that was:
They were prejudiced against him because he didn't endorse their views. Had he been ready to agree with them how different things would have been but he wouldn't compromise – he was on his way to Jerusalem.
And so they wouldn't welcome him, because of his constancy they forfeited his presence.
What an opportunity they missed of listening to the greatest of all teachers!
Our society says will listen to Jesus only if he gets up to date and more in step with the thinking of the day. I wonder whether you have a similar set of prejudices and because the Jesus of the Bible doesn't quite fit in then you too are refusing to welcome him.
How glad we should be that Jesus didn't change his ideas as the wind blows! He was determined to go up to Jerusalem.
Jesus determination was not harsh or lacking in compassion
Isn't it easy for determination to degrade into a harsh selfish stubbornness that does no-
He wouldn't go up however in some party spirit to prove the Samaritans wrong in their attitudes and views but to be installed there as the Saviour not just of the Jews but also of the Samaritans and of all the nations of the world!
When the Samaritans didn't welcome him Jesus didn't take the huff and respond with severity – his disciples James and John might but not Jesus! How little did his own disciples understand their Master! Jesus had come into the world to seek and to save that which was lost and even now he had set his face to go to Jerusalem to die in the place of sinners – how could he sanction the destruction of the very folk who needed the salvation he had come to secure?
So Jesus rebuked his disciples and let us make sure that we don't adopt their wrong attitude ourselves but rather be influenced by him who would subsequently pray: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Neither the withdrawal of some of those who had earlier enthusiastically followed him not the rejection of the inhabitants of that Samaritan village could deter Jesus from accomplishing his mission.
A few weeks later and Jesus is still focussed on going to Jerusalem as Luke tells us:
Lk.13:22 "(Jesus) went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem."
Again as Luke records some of the incidents that took place it would seem as though Jesus was being assaulted on every side with discouragements that might make him abandon his intention of going to Jerusalem as planned.
Firstly, here we find folk caught up with asking the wrong questions. Are we like that? Do we get caught up with the wrong end of the stick? Jesus was going to Jerusalem to secure the salvation of sinners – why does this man want to know how many will be saved? The far more important question for him to ask is "Will I be one of them who is saved?" My friend are you adept at avoiding such a searching and personal question by substituting another theologically interesting question? You must know for yourself that Jesus is not just the Saviour of the World but you Saviour too!
Secondly, enemies pretend to be friends and try to cause him to act precipitately out of fear rather than to follow God's timetable. The Pharisees were not natural allies of Herod but opposition to Jesus makes for strange bedfellows. Herod would be well served if Jesus would get off his patch – the Pharisees would be well-
Jesus knowing all the intrigues and deceitfulness of the human heart would pursue his chosen path in his own ordered and purposeful way:
v.32 "Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem."
As Easter approaches let us be grateful that Jesus did set his face to go to Jerusalem. This was no accident, no freak coming together of circumstances, it was all fully planned in the counsels of eternity and consciously brought to pass by the willing obedience of the Saviour. Let us be thankful that he went and indeed went all the way even to a small hill outside the city walls called Calvary. Let us be thankful that there he, in submission to his Father's will, was crucified and that there he died for it was in that death that our sins are dealt with.
And may we all strive to enter by this narrow door and so live in Christ forevermore.
To God be the glory.