When the days drew near for him (Jesus) to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)
The Gospel according to Luke has 24 chapters. Yet, in chapter 9, Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The expression “set his face” is not one we use much. But what Luke is telling us is that Jesus was determined to go to Jerusalem. So what?
Jerusalem was the epicenter of Judaism because of the temple and its sacrificial system. The temple was an enormous structure that towered over the city. Its architecture and activity was designed to send a powerful message: God is holy, people are not.
That is not a popular message today. Nevertheless, it remains true. And it is a big problem for us. Sinful human beings are unable to be in the presence of a pure, holy God. God’s holiness is so intense that anything impure is reduced to nothing, annihilated.
The temple and the sacrificial system pointed to the problem but it also pointed to a solution. Animals were slaughtered and burned to ashes symbolizing the devastating effects of human sin. Moreover, the animals were thought to be a type of substitute. That is, the dead animal suffered the consequence of sin instead of the person. It was a strong lesson.
But while the sacrificial system pointed to a solution, it couldn’t solve the problem. Hebrews 10:4 explains, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Only a human could solve the problem. Only a human could be a substitute for a human.
But how could one human serve as a substitute for everyone? Impossible. Unless that human is also God. Jesus was that person, both God and human. And when Luke says, “he set his face to go to Jerusalem”, Luke is telling us something important.
Jesus the God/Man was a man on a mission. He did many wonderful things for people. In so doing, he provided a powerful example for his followers. But he was not here to do good works. He came to earth to redeem the lost. He would go to Jerusalem and be killed as a substitute for sin. His blood was the sacrifice needed to atone for all sin for all time. On that Friday afternoon, his mission was complete. And the temple and the sacrificial system became obsolete.
Our Journey to Jerusalem devotional invites you to set your face to Jerusalem—not as Jesus did, but as a pilgrim. Our prayer is that as you journey through Lent, your devotion to and love for Jesus will grow. If that happens, our authors—Bill Barr, Henry Covert, Dan Ennis, Karen Henson, Kathy Keeney, Rita Lanham, Bill Russell and Shelly Sorem—will have succeeded, for that is our goal and our prayer.
Please join me in thanking our publisher, Bill Russell. This is a labor of love for him. But it does take a whole lot of work. Well done, good and faithful servant.
Grace to you,