In Luke 9:51, eight simple words, “He set His face to go to Jerusalem” (ESV) mark a turning point in Jesus’ earthly ministry and hold deep meaning for you and me. Up until this point, most of Jesus’ ministry had been in Galilee, near his home. But as He began the journey to Jerusalem, He was resolute and willing to face what awaited Him there. Jesus knew that He was on the way to His death. He was heading to Jerusalem to fulfill God’s promise of a Savior who would die and forever satisfy the payment for sin. It was a journey that Jesus took willingly, knowing He would be required to offer up His life. Yet “He set His face to go to Jerusalem” and followed the path—for me.
Jesus was resolved. He had many opportunities to change His mind. He was the God of the universe who could have called armies of angels to release Him from the cross. But He knew that I was a sinner in a need of a Savior, and “He set His face to go to Jerusalem” and accomplish that for me. I am always humbled when I think that even if Jen VeStrand had been the only sinner on earth, Jesus still would have willingly died just for me. He loves me that much.
Jesus wasn’t interested in prestige. Jesus willingly gave up all His glory to sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world. Israel was anticipating a king who would conquer evil and reign in Jerusalem. Instead, God sent a baby who would live a humble, sinless life yet die a sinner’s death. The Son of God had no place to lay His head, resisted temptation, and suffered persecution because “He had set His face to go to Jerusalem” and die for me.
Jesus turned toward Jerusalem, but He did not turn away from people. Jesus’ determination and resolve did not overshadow His love and care. The next few chapters of Luke are filled with examples of Jesus teaching to crowds yet stopping to have dinner with new convert Zacchaeus and his family, of using parables to teach valuable biblical principles to His disciples, of healing ten lepers and the blind beggar. Those who society had cast out as worthless were important to Him, and He took the time to stop and show compassion to them even as He reminded His disciples that His death was imminent. “He had set His face to go to Jerusalem” and even then, as He hung on the cross, He forgave the very people who had put Him there and, in so doing, He forgave me.
In a few days, I will join my church in celebrating the culmination of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem as we observe Palm Sunday. It is my prayer that I will remember not just the King who rode triumphantly into Jerusalem amidst waving palm branches and adoring crowds but the humble Savior who “set His face to go to Jerusalem” to die and purchase my salvation.
“O you redeemed ones, on whose behalf this strong resolve was made—you who have been bought by the precious blood of this steadfast, resolute Redeemer—come and think awhile of Him, that your hearts may burn within you and that your faces may be set like flints to live and die for Him who lived and died for you!” CH Spurgeon