Jesus Set His Face Towards Jerusalem

Date: 12 Jun 2022

Sermon Text: Luke 9:51–10:42

Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan

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Last Sunday, we came face to face with this question of who Jesus is. Like Peter, is Jesus the Christ of God? Is Jesus the Messiah, the anointed one, the promised one whom God has sent?

For many of us in Hermon, we would respond with a resounding Yes! Yes, to me, Jesus is the Christ.

And so there are implications to that confession. And that is encapsulated at the transfiguration. There, God the Father affirms who Jesus is and says ‘this is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him’.

In Hermon, we are setting a tradition that the Sunday Service ends not with the Benediction and the 3-fold Amen but after we have had time to dwell on the reflection questions. This is how we want to listen.

If not, may I submit we are like those who look at a mirror and immediately forget what we look like the moment we turn away from it.

The whole worship service provides us a biblical lens to see ourselves clearly and so it is necessary for us to spend some moments in reflection.

If not, God’s Word washes over us like water over a duck’s back and we do not allow the transformative work of the Holy Spirit to begin in us.

So let’s give ourselves the opportunity again to reflected on one of last Sunday’s questions:

“Following Jesus entails total surrender of self and a corresponding humility. Have you taken seriously the demands of discipleship? What is most difficult to surrender in your life and attitude right now?”

May I invite us to keep this at the back of our minds even as we go through today’s Scripture text.

Jim Elliot, born in 1927, was murdered in 1956. Elliot was an American missionary seeking to evangelize the people of Ecuador.

Elliot grew up in a Christian home, his parents raised their children according to their Christian belief, taking them to church and reading the Bible regularly.

After obtaining the skills of translation at Camp Wycliffe, in 1950, Elliot remained unsure about whether to go to Ecuador or India.

His parents and friends wondered if he might instead be more effective in youth ministry in the United States, but considering the home church "well-fed", he felt that international missions should take precedence.

Elliot arrived in Ecuador on February 1952.

Soon Elliot and his group of 4 others begun to make contact from their airplane with a particular village using a loudspeaker and a basket to pass down gifts.

Encouraged by these friendly encounters, they began plans to visit.

They landed their plane and were greeted by a group of about 10 village warriors. Elliot and his four companions were killed on January 8, 1956.

After his death, in less than two years his widow Elisabeth, her daughter Valerie, and Rachel Saint (the sister of the pilot) were able to move to the remote village.

The Lord used them to evangelise many in the village.

During his life, Jim Elliot longed for more people to become missionaries. In his death, however, he probably inspired more people to go to other countries to share the love of Jesus than he ever could have in life.

A meaningful quote from Jim Elliot is “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Eugene H. Peterson was born in 1932, 5 years after Elliot and was called home to glory 2018. Peterson was a pastor, scholar, author, and poet. He wrote more than thirty books, including his paraphrase of the Bible -The Message.

Peterson was founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Maryland, where he served for twenty-nine years before retiring in 1991. He also served as professor of spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver, retiring in 2006.

On Peterson’s death, Russel Moore wrote a tribute to Peterson in The Gospel Coalition website.

That Peterson was a one sermon pastor (and he meant it in a complimentary way) and that one sermon came in many different forms.

Moore summaried that Peterson’s one sermon was about the way the Word of God, revealed in the story of Scripture, speaks to and reshapes the human imagination.

Basically, Peterson’s one sermon pointed always to Jesus, God’s Passover Lamb! He who brings forgiveness of sins for the world!

A meaningful quote about Peterson is taken from the title of the book which he wrote - A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society.

To the question the demands of discipleship, Elliot and Peterson shows us from 2 different viewpoints. One had life cut short while the other lived for 86 years.

Today, we continue on this journey of understanding discipleship. And the testimonies of Elliot and Peterson I submit, follow that of their Master whom they loved and served.

May I capture that in the title of today’s sermon, which is a quote from Luke 9:51 – Jesus Set His Face towards Jerusalem.

Our discipleship is patterned after Jesus Christ who set his face to go to Jerusalem. Jesus was determined to fulfil God’s will by His sacrificial death at Calvary.

Luke 9:51 is a pivotal turning point in the Gospel of Luke. Up to this point, Jesus’ ministry was in Galilee. From v51 to Chapter 19, Luke will record Jesus’ movement to Jerusalem.

Next year when we preach through Acts, we will see Luke show us how the Gospel will move from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

Lk 9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

Already in Luke 9:51, Luke gives the reader assurance that though the journey to Jerusalem will end in crucifixion, there will be victory. For Luke says, ‘when the days drew near for him to be taken up’.

This speaks of the ascension of Jesus. This tells us of his victory over sin and death. This encourages us that Jesus now sits at the right hand of God.

The way to the crown is via the cross. And that too is the way of discipleship for us.

Inconvenient Truth

Let’s begin with v51 to v62. Speaking about discipleship, there are some inconvenient truths that we are to know.

V51 – 55 speaks about Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritans. When Jesus began his ministry in Galilee in chapter 4, we see that he received rejection in the synagogue at Nazareth.

Now here in chapter 9, as he begins his ministry journey towards Jerusalem, he again faces rejection and this time from the Samaritans.

Why did they reject Jesus? V53 tells us that it was because Jesus’ face was set towards Jerusalem.

2 things we can note here. One is that the Samaritans did not agree that worship should only be in Jerusalem.

As highlighted by the Samaritan women at the well in John 4, the Samaritans believed that Mt Gerizim was the place where Yahweh is to be worshipped.

The 2nd issue was that of Jesus’ understanding about discipleship. That it was cross-shaped.

So, the Samaritan’s cancelled Jesus. He had no platform to preach and teach in this Samaritan village.

James and John saw this as dishonouring Jesus their master and so honour-rejection needs to be dealt with and dealt with severely. They needed to be taught a lesson.

The inconvenient truth is that the gospel message will often times be rejected and that the response to such rejection should not be fire and brimstone.

Maybe for some of us, to our gospel presentation, we may receive curt responses, polite but firm rejection or even argumentative tirade. These hopefully we are able to graciously accept.

But in some nearby countries, they may puncture your car tyres, burn your church building or kidnap your church leader. Would we then, respond like James and John?

May the merciful heart of Jesus be our guide instead.

Some churches tell you that when you become a Christian, you should expect the blessings of health and wealth. God surely does not require any inconveniences. It seems, apparently that v57 to 62 are omitted from their version of Luke.

On these verses, Ps Luwin in today’s editorial has written an atypical pastoral letter which I hope we will take time to read.

In v58 Jesus instead speaks about material insecurity and definitely not a life of ease. The son of man has nowhere to lay his head. Disciples are thus to be pilgrims on this journey of a narrow road.

To the second excuse in v59, we see that if we want to be a disciple, even family obligations take 2nd place to God’s kingdom. In those days, to bury the death would take up to 1 year.

It’s basically saying, till my family obligations are all done, then I will follow Jesus as His disciple. To that, Jesus says, His Kingdom takes priority.

What do you think this says to us, when we use our children as a shield against the invitation to participate in regular CG meetings?

Finally, not just family obligations, but everything in life should be of lesser priority to that of Kingdom’s demands.

Elijah allowed Elisha to go back and say goodbye but Jesus who is greater than Elijah says, no. Do not look back when you are ploughing for God’s kingdom. Do not have an undivided heart.

Even if Jesus allowed us to be like Elisha, would we like Elisha kill the oxen and burn the plough?

Discipleship demands all of life commitment. It requires a clean break from our past and full-on focus to live for Jesus.

First generation Christians I believe understand this. But many of us who are 2nd generation, we lack the opportunity to live out our faith conviction.

Our experience of conviction is limited to just setting aside Sunday mornings to attend service and giving our tithes and offerings. And even that, is now to some, a struggle.

Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem, he endured whatever it took to fulfil God’s will. The inconvenient truth is that discipleship is challenging for it means God’s priorities trump our self-interest.

Inescapable Endings

At the beginning of Chapter 9, Jesus sends out the 12 Apostles. I wish Chapter 10 were not recorded.

Then we can say, well the mission to proclaim the Gospel is for the Apostles only.

Now maybe we can say it is for the missionaries, the evangelist, the selected few.

But Chapter 10 speaks about 72 other disciples. And it assumes that these are all who followed Jesus. It shows us that no one is excluded from the obligations of mission work.

The mission of Gospel proclamation is inescapable for all disciples. Even as Jesus sends out the 72, he is telling them, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

So, it’s not one set of disciples pray and another set go. It’s all disciples go and pray at the same time.

19% of people in Singapore consider themselves Christians. That means we live in a country where over 80% are yet believers.

What a wonderful mission field God has provided for us. The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.

What then is our motivation for missions?

This is where inescapable endings come in. This is the woes that we see in v12