A face like flint

Reading:  Luke 9:51-56

There was no doubt about it.  Jesus had that look.  We all get a certain look at times that people who really know us can understand instantly.  It’s more than mere facial expression.  It’s something that springs from the core of our being, and transforms every muscle—every movement into an unmistakable statement.  A clear expression of emotion—and intent.  And of course, we have different looks that communicate different things in different situations. 

If you read this passage in the NASB, you’ll hear Luke simply saying that Jesus was “determined” to go to Jerusalem.  (Luke 9:51)  The NIV tells us he “resolutely” began his journey toward Jerusalem.  The KJV gives us the more literal translation of the original wording here.  Jesus “steadfastly set his face” to go to Jerusalem.  The word translated “steadfastly set” means to strengthen, make firm, fix, or render constant.    Centuries earlier, the prophet Isaiah described the one who would accomplish the Lord’s purpose.  Among other things, we are told, “ . . . I have set my face like a flint . . .”  (Isa. 50:7)  In other words, Jesus had that look.

In this case, the look said that Jesus was unshakable in his purpose to go to Jerusalem.  There was absolutely no room for discussion or compromise.  No second thoughts.  We’re going. Period.  It was the will of the Father.  And therefore, it was his will. 

And Jesus was under no illusions about what this journey to Jerusalem would cost.  In fact, he has already begun preparing his disciples for the road ahead.  “ . . . the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”  (Lk. 9:44)  In the words of Isaiah, “I was not disobedient, nor did I turn back.  I gave my back to those who strike me, and my cheeks to those who pluck out the beard.  I did not cover my face from humiliation and spitting.  . . . Therefore, I have set my face like a flint . . . “  (Isa. 50:5-7)

So, Jesus remained resolute.  And the disciples, in spite of Jesus’ best efforts, remained clueless.  “ . . . they did not understand this statement . . . and they were afraid to ask him . . . “  (Lk. 9:45)  But they continued to walk with him.  Toward Jerusalem.

Apparently, once again, Jesus’ took the road that led right through the heart of Samaria.  (v. 52)  It seems fitting that this last road would lead through the same territory he had first entered much earlier in his ministry.  (John 4:4)  In doing so, Jesus broke with the Jewish tradition of avoiding all travel through Samaria.  He shattered the barriers that had been erected by centuries of racial bias.  These too were people he had come to save.  Nothing would deter him from his purpose.

But racial bias cuts both ways.  And since it was apparent that Jesus’ final destination was Jerusalem, certain villages of Samaria decided to refuse to receive him.  (v: 52-53)  Two of his more volatile disciples decided it would be appropriate to call fire down from heaven to consume these ungrateful sinners.  (v. 54)   

Jesus must have shocked them when he 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.”   (v. 55-56)  And they quietly moved on to the next village. 

The man with a face like flint—had a tear in his eye, and compassion in his voice.  His heart was moved with compassion for them—even as they refused to receive him. Nothing could deter him from his purpose.  Not fear of suffering and death.  Not longstanding racial bitterness.  Not even personal rejection.  His need for personal vindication was completely overcome by his sense of mission—to save those who are lost. 

And how could he do this?  How could he, with determined step, and a face like flint continue toward everything he knew was waiting for him in Jerusalem?  How could anyone?

In a moment of frustration, I once shouted at the Lord, “I’m not into pain, you know.’  I was feeling like I had received more than my share already.  His response was immediate.  It was as if I could see him stretch out his arms, as they had been stretched upon the cross.  He simply said, “I know.  Neither was I.””  I had no more to say. 

We’re not masochists, after all.  Then why? 

“ . . . for the joy that was set before him (Jesus) endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Heb. 12:2)

There’s a prize beyond the pain.  There is the joy of a mission fulfilled.  A worthwhile objective realized.  This is true with any significant endeavor.  And when that objective is the ultimate salvation of a woman at a well, and the people in the surrounding villages, and the very people who are waiting at the end of the road to arrest him, and crucify him, not to mention you and me . . . Yes, the pain is great.  But the joy is greater.

So I’m wondering—can you see yourself walking in Christ’s company along this road?  Exactly what will keep you on the road?  What great joy calls to you—from beyond the pain?

Selah

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