Toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-56)
When I was a sophomore in college, I had a serious weight problem. One day when I was at my grandparents’ home, Aunt Brenda happened to come by. She talked about how much weight she had lost doing a low fat diet.
I decided right then and there – almost on the spur of the moment – that I was going to do the same and lose weight. Guess how well I did? I lost over 100 pounds and kept it off for over five years. I determined that nothing – nothing – was going to stand in my way, not my friends, not my family, not my schoolwork, nothing. I bought and cooked healthy food. I exercised every afternoon at 4:00. I had lost so much weight that Tammy threatened to throw me over her back like a sack of ‘taters at our wedding and carry me out.
But, I had trouble keeping the weight off. In the summer of 2000, I began looking for a church to work with. It was a very stressful time for me and the weight very gradually began to creep back.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. I’m sure you’ve made resolutions through the years: Lose weight, take care of finances, keep the house tidier, be a better husband/wife (father/mother), and the like. Perhaps, you’ve done quite well, but maybe not. Many New Year resolutions aren’t that important. Some may be – they may deal with spiritual issues. But, the vast majority – like my wanting to lose weight – don’t affect heaven and hell.
But, Jesus makes a resolution in our text that affects the eternal destiny of every one of us. We learn a very important lesson here: Jesus acts with resolve. In other words, he doesn’t decide on the spur of the moment to do something; he isn’t concerned with changing because it’s a new calendar year. He moves with determination and resolve to do what is right.
Let’s take a look at Jesus’ resolution.
Scripture (Luke 9:51-56)
Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem. “Setting the face” idiom that means “resolute determination.” This is the pivotal verse in the Gospel of Luke. I love a good Stephen King story and King is a master of throwing in a story that doesn’t fully make sense until the end – sometimes a word, sometimes a color, etc.
Luke is a master storyteller and this verse shows that. Before this verse, Jesus is ministering to a variety of people in a variety of ways. After this verse, the Lord is constantly moving toward Jerusalem and his crucifixion.
Jesus began to move toward Jerusalem “when the days drew near for him to be taken up” – Jesus knew what was coming, but he went anyway. “Taken up” refers to the Ascension. But, Jesus knew that the cross would come before Ascension, but he went anyway!
Jesus sent messengers to go into a village of the Samaritans and make preparations for him. These messengers likely are to make overnight accommodations. Pilgrims going from Galilee to Jerusalem would pass through Samaria. Yes, Jews and Samaritans hated one another. The Samaritans were half-breeds resulting from the Assyrian conquest against the Northern Kingdom. The Samaritans only accepted the Five Books of Moses as Scripture, and faithful Jews considered them apostates (and vice-versa). But, a direct route would take only about 3 days.
The Samaritans refuse Jesus’ request, because he’s going to Jerusalem. The Samaritans apparently didn’t reject Jesus because of claims of Messiahship, but simply because he was a Jew. Of course, Samaritans did not accept Jerusalem as a legitimate place to worship (Jn 4:20).
James and John want to bring fire from heaven upon this village. Remember, the Messiah was promised to be the “New Elijah” and Elijah called down fire from heaven upon his opponents (2 Ki 1:9-12). James and John believe calling fire down only makes sense. Jesus turned and rebuked them. The time for judgment was not yet.
Normally, when I preach a sermon like this, I like for the point to have some relevance to us. This point is simply about Jesus: Jesus acts with resolve. However, this morning’s lesson holds Jesus up as our example: 1 Peter 2:21. I know the context is suffering, but Jesus’ life is one of great example.
Is there some way in your life you need to act with resolve? I’m not talking about New Year’s resolution; I’m talking about a spiritual resolution. Is there some spiritual habit you need to develop – prayer, Bible reading, service, etc.? Is there some unspiritual habit you need to throw off – some sin, some unkindness, some personality flaw? Why not resolve to making a change like Jesus does here?
Notice Jesus’ procedure:
- He knew what his resolve would cost him. The time for his death had drawn near. If you act with resolve, there will be cost. It’s not easy to begin a new habit or to stop one you already have, so it’s best to be prepared for opposition.
- He accepted help. Jesus sent messengers ahead of him to make arrangements. Maybe you need to accept help with your resolve.
- He faced opposition. Understand that change is one of the most difficult things people do. Satan doesn’t want you to change and will throw everything at you. Opposition can come in many forms – spouse, children, friends, etc.
- He did not lose his way when he faced opposition. Jesus went to another village (presumably another village of the Samaritans). He could have stopped when he faced opposition, but he refused to do so.
Do you need to make a resolution this morning?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Greenwood church of Christ in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.