March 2, 2017

Sometimes the smallest of phrases have the most significance.  There are times in history in which a small phrase brought about enormous consequences: “These united colonies are…free and independent states…”; “We will send a man to the moon and return him safely within this decade.”; “I have a dream.”; “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”.  There are other small phrases that have a deeply personal effect.  There are words spoken, and we forever remember everything surrounding those incredibly meaningful moments: “I love you.”; “Will you marry me?”; “Your bloodwork came back.”; “There’s really nothing more that can be done.”  So much significance in so very few words.

The gospel writer Luke gives us one such phrase.  It’s so small that it often goes unnoticed, but it’s so important that he uses it in two different verses.  It’s a very simple phrase: “He set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51, 53) Jesus had just come down from the Mount of Transfiguration.  His disciples had seen him do incredible things, and now some of them had been given a glimpse into the true nature of Christ.  They had even taken the opportunity to argue about which of them would be the greatest in Messiah’s coming kingdom.  Amidst this bustle of activity, Luke simply says, “He set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  It was as if to say that Jesus was still in the present moment, but nothing would take him away from his commitment to follow his purpose.  Jerusalem was the seat of power.  Jerusalem was where Jesus must confront face to face the powers that would use any means necessary to stop him.  Everything that follows in Luke’s gospel can be read and interpreted through that one phrase: “He set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  The reader knows exactly what awaited Jesus in Jerusalem, yet we realize that he went anyway.

Today we are at the beginning of another observance of Lent.  The Lenten tradition is that we diligently reflect on our own discipleship journey, repent of our missteps, and “set our face” to go to whatever Jerusalem that faces us.  And all of us are called to go to Jerusalem.  For some, Jerusalem represents an ongoing behavior that needs to be put to death.  For others, it means facing a challenging call that God has placed on their heart, yet they continue to wrestle or try to ignore it.  For some, Jerusalem means finding the courage to do or say that thing that so frightens us.

Regardless of the “Jerusalem” to which we are called, and no matter how frightening or impossible that journey seems, we know that the one that we follow and call Lord has walked that path.  We have Jesus as our model of commitment, resolve, and faith in the face of severe opposition.  May we all be open to God’s call and may we all trust in God’s grace, providence, and love as we set our faces to go through this Lenten season.

Mike Stallings

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