Yesterday millions of Christians observed Palm Sunday, our traditional remembrance of the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. It was a uniquely different service this year as most American believers worshiped virtually, our on-line experience. Still, the date is one of significance as our hearts are prepared to remember Christ's suffering, death, and glorious resurrection next Sunday, Easter. Christ's journey to Jerusalem evidenced his passion for fulfilling what he understood as his mission--- "My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work" (John 4: 34, NIV). His passion began long before his arrival in the Holy City. He went to Jerusalem with great intention and purpose. You know, genuine passion.
Luke's orderly account of Christ's life annotates this journey with clarity and precision. On several occasions Jesus had announced his eventual death and resurrection to the disciples. One day, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared and riveted the disciples attention to Jerusalem---
And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory
and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Luke 9: 30-31, ESV
Just a few verses later Luke wrote---
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
Luke 9: 51, ESV
He set his face to go to Jerusalem. Many of the Bible versions translate the "set his face" phrase to other, more modern, descriptive words---resolutely, steadfastly, determined, made up his mind, intently, prepared himself, fixed purpose, and others. Each was a demonstration of our Lord's intentional purpose to journey to the city of his death. Jesus was totally determined to fulfill his vicarious death there. He set his face to go there! Once again, passion superintended and guided the arduous travel.
Yes, we can rationalize such resolve in our belief that Jesus is fully God. You know, all things are possible with God (see Luke 1: 37). We must remember, however, that he was fully man as well. He knew the human realities of opposition, pain, suffering, and death. While the crowds waved palm fronds to celebrate the arrival of their Messiah, Jesus knew that the vast majority of citizens would criticize and ostracize him, that the Roman and Jewish officials would demand his trial and horrible crucifixion. Yet, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Nothing would keep him from his appointed hour of death.
This week is remembered as his week of passion. His passion to do the will of his Father and finish his work began long before he entered Jerusalem, however. Luke's Gospel tracks his journey to Jerusalem with that same sense of determination and resolve. As he journeyed there he taught, healed, and ministered to the people in the towns and villages along the way. But, each stop was portrayed by Dr. Luke as an brief interlude. In every occasion Luke reminds his readers that Jesus was going to Jerusalem. He had set his face to go there, passionately aiming his life and earthly ministry to that pivotal moment in the history of mankind.
Today, we're more than a little off-course in our routines and lifestyles. Covid-19 has altered many of our life norms. If Jesus is to be our example, should we not display the same "set-our face" spiritual determination to remember his passion, and somehow demonstrate it in our responses to the people in our circles of influence? Most churches didn't physically gather yesterday, Palm Sunday, and most won't Next Sunday, Easter. Still, we should have the passion and resolve as his followers, to mark this season and prepare to celebrate the greatest miracle in history.
He set his face. Determined, resolved, purposeful, passionate. I'm praying for that kind of spiritual passion in my own life. And, you?