With Steadfast Face

With Steadfast Face

“When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village. As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:51-62)

Today marks the beginning of Lent. It is a Christian season which dates back to the fourth century. Traditionally it has been observed as a period of forty days of penitence and preparation. It is a time when Christian worshipers prepare themselves to appreciate anew the meaning of the Crucifixion. The element of fasting – of giving up something during Lent, — which is dominate in liturgical Churches. Became general much later in Church History. Generally speaking we seek to accomplish such preparation as is needed through the preaching and teaching ministry of the Church. In the days prior to Easter we seek to emphasize anew the “length and bredeth, the height and depth of the love of God” as it has been manifested unto us in the sacrifice of His only begotten Son.

In our Scripture lesson this evening we read these words concerning Jesus: “And it came to pass when time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” This text might well serve as a guidepost for us throughout the Lenten season. It presents to us the picture of One who knows the purpose of His life. It is the picture of One who was totally committed to the accomplishment of life’s goal regardless of the cost. Steadfastly, turning neither to the right or the left; steadfastly, irrespective of the obstacles placed in the way He will go to Jerusalem.

For Jesus “going top Jerusalem” meant doing God’s will. This was His announced purpose for coming into the world: “I must work the works of Him that sent me.” As a young boy of twelve He had declared: “I must be about my Father’s business.” As a man of thirty-three standing at the brink of Calvary He had prayed, “I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work thou gavest me to do.”

From the time when He started His purpose to the time when He announced the fulfillment of that purpose the doing of God’s will had not always been easy. The pathway of accomplishment had been beset with many stones of stumbling.

Satan the enemy of the souls of men, whom Peter reminds us “going about like a roaring lion seeking to devour,” had proven to be His enemy. In the period of the wilderness temptation Satan would tempt Him to divert His attention from spiritual glory to material gain. But Jesus answered, “It is written thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God,” and set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem. Along the shore of Galilee Jesus had fed five thousand men besides women and children from five loaves of bread and two fishes. The multitude saw in Him one who would supply all their material needs. These rebellious, hot tempered mountaineers of Galilee offered to make Him their King. They would have Him lead an army down the valley of the Jordan and in blitzkrieg action drive the Romans out of Jerusalem and establish a kingdom of, for and by Jews. But He vanished from their sight and spent the night in prayer and communion with God and once more committed Himself to doing God’s will and not the will of men.

Just a short time before setting His face to go to Jerusalem, Jesus had one of the most trying experiences of His life. With Peter, James, and John He was on a mountain top in Caesarea Philippa. There He was transfigured before them. There appeared unto Him Moses and Elijah who talked with Him concerning His coming death at Jerusalem. Here He was confronted with a subtle temptation. He was talking to two men who had not tasted death. He was standing at the very door of heaven robed in heavenly glory. If Moses could fall asleep in the arms of God, if Elijah could go to heaven on a chariot of fire, surely the Son of man need not pass through the experiences of death. Surely He could have joined hands with Moses and Elijah and gone home to God His Father. Once more He turned away from temptation and heard the Father’s approbation: “This is my beloved Son.” With that voice ringing in His ears He came down from the mountain to go to Jerusalem and face an hour when He would cry, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

We rejoice in the knowledge that He overcame temptation, that He went to Jerusalem, despised the shame, endured the cross and is now at the right hand of God making intercession for us. But let us remember that it was not easy for Christ. The way of committal to God’s will is not the easiest way. The easier way is to say yes to men and to selfish desires rather than to God; to be more interested in material things than spiritual values.

But the life which in the end counts the most both from the point of view of time and eternity is the life that is committed to God’s will. “The lives which all men seem to be valueless in themselves and to others are those that have a pure and self-denying purpose and a deeply-passionate steadfastness in them. The lives which miss the highest, which fail, indeed, to achieve anything, are those which have steadily refused to accept the will of God.”

For Jesus ‘going to Jerusalem” meant the place of suffering and sacrifice. It is a common thought that those who accept the will of God should therefore be free from sorrow and heartache, from disappointment and frustration. Such was not true for Jesus. When at last He came into the city of Jerusalem, He came in triumph with the people shouting: “Hosanna, blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.” But these shouts of acclaim were short lived. Not many days after the crowds shouted: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! And they led Him away to a hill called Golgotha, there they crucified Him.” In doing God’s will, “He became the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

The pathway of duty seldom leads to the highway of ease. Jesus warned His disciples: “In the world you have tribulation.” He promised His disciples a cross to be carried. It is interesting to notice that when He first spoke of the cross many forsook Him and followed Him no more. At that time He returned to the twelve and asked: “Will ye also go away.” Peter, the spokesman for the group replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go. Thou only hast the words of eternal life.” With the shadow of the cross hanging over them, they covenanted to go to Jerusalem. As you and I, even in the face of trial and tribulation, tension and frustration, move steadfastly towards Jerusalem, we attain unto the true purpose of life.

You see, “going to Jerusalem” meant something else for Christ – it meant the place of joy, accomplishment, and fulfillment. The sacred writer said of Him: “Who for the joy, that was set before Him, endured the cross and despised the shame.”

When one commits himself to doing the will of God joy and peace replaces tension and frustration. For example, just this afternoon I visited a man in the hospital. When I left his room, his wife followed me into the hall and said, “I want to tell you my experience. I didn’t know how I would react to my husband’s illness.” When the husband had been admitted to the hospital the surface symptoms spoke of serious illness. But test have revealed that he is not seriously ill. His wife has recently been very ill and frankly I have been more concerned about her than about him. She said, “When I brought my husband to the hospital, I feared for myself. But I turned his illness over to God and prayed “Thy will be done.” I have withstood this crisis as never before.” If, I were at liberty to go into detail, you would more completely understand what I am seeking to say, that is the committal of our lives to the doing of God’s will there is found a deep seated peace and a joy unspeakable.

It is a joy that comes from knowing that we have set our feet in the pathway that leads to the attainment of life’s highest. It is the satisfaction that comes from knowing that our lives are undergirded by a firm and noble purpose and that we are moving towards a worthy goal. It is the joy that comes to all kingly souls who learned that life does not consist in the abundance of things which are possessed; that the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink but joy and peace in the Holy Ghost. If you would enter into deep and satisfying rest, steadfastly set your face to go to Jerusalem.

Dr. Robert W Kirkpatrick

First Presbyterian Church, Charleston W Va. March 2, 1960

wordpress blog stats

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: