The Second Sunday in Lent March 20, 2011
27, 399, 400, 361
Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And 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, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner 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 to another village.
Dear fellow-redeemed by the blood of Him who came to the cradle that He might die on the cross:
Strong, yet gentle. Passionately resolved, yet compassionate. Hating the sin, while loving the sinner. Devoted to the Lord’s work and ways, yet not destroying His work along the way. We are talking about the blessing of having FACES LIKE FLINT, NOT HEARTS OF FLINT!
Twice in our text Luke reports that Jesus “set His face” to go to Jerusalem. Already several months before the end of His earthly life Jesus was absolutely determined to go to Jerusalem—no surprise. Listen to what Jesus said through Isaiah 700 years before: “The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away. I gave My back to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help Me; therefore I will not be disgraced; therefore I have set My face like flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed” (Isaiah 50:5-7).
Let’s be sure we understand. This determined speech was made by Jesus according to His human nature, not according to His divine nature. He speaks of His “ear” His “back,” and His “face.” He who is God from eternity speaks through the prophet of needing and receiving the help of the Lord God. Help for what? Remember, God commanded His Son to go forth into the flesh of mankind and surrender His body and soul into death and the torments of Hell as payment for the sins of all the world!
Such determined devotion is impossible for us to imagine. God must record it for us so that we may believe it! We have trouble pursuing diet and exercise programs. But the Lord Jesus set His face “like flint” in the direction of Jerusalem for the unheard of purpose of suffering and sacrificing Himself for you and me. He made the choice to die for you and me rather than to live without us! Have we, by the grace of God, made a similar choice? Are we ready to die for Jesus rather than to live without Him? Have we set our faces in the direction our Lord set His face?
We also have a saving work to carry out by the command of our heavenly Father. We are to be salt and light in the world by telling and living the Gospel of grace and forgiveness in Jesus’ name. In this day of double-mindedness and noncommittal, the Christian must set his face like flint in the direction of Jesus Christ as the only Truth and Way of salvation for himself, his family, and his fellowman.
This is no time for the namby-pamby believer! The namby-pamby believer has no firm resolve in the way of Christ and His Word. He is like some rudderless ship at sea being turned every which way until he is lost and loses all that he once had in Christ. Yet, if we view the completion of our ministry and life only in terms of whatever we may have to endure for Christ, we too would have to turn our face away from following Him.
Thanks be to God that our Savior shows us how to keep our faces set in the right direction. Our text says that Jesus set His face “when the time had come for Him to be received up.” [v.51] He was already looking through and beyond His suffering and death to the glory which must come afterward when He would be received up again to His Father in Heaven! With the same prospect of eternal joy and victory set before us, as Christ’s brethren, we may indeed set our faces like flint in the direction Jesus has gone up!
Jesus took the most direct route to Jerusalem from the Sea of Galilee straight through the land of the Samaritans. He had been in Samaria before. Remember how He brought His message of forgiveness to the woman at the well? At that time many of the Samaritans in the city of Sychar had come to see Jesus because of the woman’s testimony and they believed the words of Jesus.
This time, however, when Jesus came to the first Samaritan village the people rejected Jesus and turned Him away. Why didn’t they receive Him? We are told in that it was “because His face was set for Jerusalem.” [v.53]
Many centuries earlier, the Samaritans had fallen away from the true worship of Jehovah. They accepted only the first five books of Moses. They claimed that God should be worshiped at Mount Gerizim and not at Jerusalem. These people wanted nothing to do with Jesus who was on His way to keep a Jewish worship festival. How should our Lord react to this rejection of Him? Even though He had set His face like flint to go to Jerusalem to die for these Samaritans, they will not show Him the least kindness! Yet, Jesus humbly and quietly suffered their rejection. Without complaint He continued on to another village.
Dear brethren in Christ, have you ever considered that just because our own faces are set like flint in the way of our Lord and Savior, we will also be rejected by others? Many of those we know have their own kind of worship. They worship at their own mountain. Their worship often takes them in a different direction, and they would really like for us to approve of the religious direction they are going. They want us to have the same laid-back attitude they have about religion. They want us to approve of their sins and unscriptural confessions. When they see by our Christian life and confession that our faces are set like flint in the way and Word of our Savior, they take offense. They reject us because they see us as a threat to the way they have chosen to worship.
How shall we react at such times? Shall our flint-like face, firmly set in its devotion to the Savior, produce sparks of anger against those who reject us because of Christ? Or are we ready to suffer rejection with Christ in humility?
It all depends upon whether we share the spirit of our Savior or not. When James and John, “the sons of thunder” (cf. Mark 3:17), saw how their dear Master was rejected, their flint-like faces flashed with fire! “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them as Elijah did?” [v.54] (cf. 2Kings 1). Their undivided love and devotion to the Lord was good, but it was perverted by a fleshly spirit of self-righteousness and revenge!
Theirs was not really the spirit of Elijah. God had ordered the fire Elijah commanded because wicked King Ahab had constantly rejected God’s grace and hardened his heart against God’s Word. Among all the Old Testament prophets only Jonah showed a fleshly spirit of revenge. Remember how he refused at first to preach to the Ninevites? But the Lord corrected Jonah. God waited 120 years in the days of Noah to judge the wicked by the flood. God waited 40 years after the Jews rejected and crucified the Messiah before He destroyed Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A. D.
The Lord is not quick to shorten anyone’s time of grace on earth. He is patient, long-suffering, and merciful. Therefore Jesus rebuked His zealous disciples: “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.56] If God had wanted to judge and destroy man for his rejection of Him then He would not have sent His Son into human flesh as the Son of Man. But the spirit of the Father and His Son is one of mercy and love. It is this spirit, so patient and persevering to save, which fills Jesus’ heart. Such a spirit also fills the hearts of His disciples. It is good and necessary that every Christian set his face like flint in the way of Christ which leads to salvation.
It is good and necessary that we firmly set our hearts and faces to live the Gospel and to clearly denounce all that is opposed to God’s Word, whether it is the false teaching of another church, or the sins of our times. But let this be done always in a spirit of true humility. We must suffer rejection as our Lord did, let it be without resentment of any kind.
Our Savior would have us do good to all. He wants us to hurt no one, unless our purpose is to preach the Law and “hurt” with its convictions so that we might bring the healing Gospel to the repentant sinner. Jesus would not have us plot against those who reject Him and His word, but pray for them. In short, we are to invite all to “come to Jesus,” and suggest to no one that he “go to hell.”
O Lord, grant that our faces may be like flint—set in Your ways; but ever give us also a greater measure of Your own spirit—a tender heart of love and mercy. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.