Summary: In our Scripture today, Jesus realizes he has just a few months to live and it changes everything for Him. This sermon is about deciding to start the journey to the cross
You Only Have to Die
What would you do if you only had one month to live? Would any of your priorities change? These are the questions that pastor Kerry and Chris Shook ask in their book, One Month to Live: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life. The catalyst for the book was encountering people who were dying and noticing that their attitudes and priorities often changed when they knew the end was near. “They would do the things they always wanted to do, and say things they had always wanted to say. They’d ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness more freely. They took more risks. It seemed like they had this whole new clarity on their priorities.” Kerry and Chris began to ask, ‘Why wait? Why can’t we live this way all the time?’” What they found was that really uncluttered their overcrowded schedule and helped them clarify things that are important. And then he says, “We’ve found that there are so many people that are glad to tell you what’s important and what needs to be done. If you don’t decide what’s important from the Lord, everyone else will tell you.”
In our Scripture today, Jesus realizes he has just a few months to live and it changes everything for Him. Luke 9 to the end of the Gospel covers the last 6 months of Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus begins the journey to Jerusalem with the disciples through Samaria, a much shorter and easier route than the alternative which took 7 days. The Jews hated the Samaritans, because they were had violated God’s word by intermarrying with the Gentiles. In Jewish eyes, Samaritans were half-breeds and considered to be lower than dogs. So pilgrims travelling through Samaria to Jerusalem would spend the night in the last city in Jewish territory and the next day walk all the ay through Samaria to the first Jewish city of Judea, all to remain ceremonially clean. Though it only took 3 days to get from Galilee to Jerusalem on this path, Jesus took an entire six months teaching and preaching in various places along the way. For Jesus, Jerusalem meant suffering and death. As Jesus told his disciples in Luke 9:22, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” This realization casts a long shadow over all the remaining passages in Luke’s gospel and every word, every act and every decision Jesus makes on the road to Jerusalem. It changed his priorities. Jesus shifts from his public ministry to the crowds to now preparing the disciples for His eventual death. It also changed his teaching as he begins to speak to the disciples about his crucifixion and death and what it means to follow him and in giving them more and more hands on experience in ministry. In other words, death impacts every aspect of his life and ministry. Death has a way of doing that.
There are several things we learn about the call of the cross. First, you have to be resolved to do the will of God, no matter what. Jesus said, “I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” Luke 13:33 In spite of knowing that this last journey to Jerusalem would end in his death and crucifixion, he begins the journey because he had resided to do the Father’s will. There’s a lesson of life and faith for us there. Instead of waiting to get into a situation and then make up our mind, it is better to make our decision of who we are and what we are going to be about to then guide us in every situation we face. This is what carried Jesus through this journey to the cross, even when he knew it meant death. Our Scripture today says, Jesus resolutely "set his face" for what he would face in Jerusalem. This image of "setting one’s face" comes from the prophet Isaiah 50:6-7, “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame."
Michael Gyarmarthy writes, “He set His face like flint.” These six words drifted around my conscience as I awoke on a Monday morning…in Austin, Texas. Lately, Monday has meant for me the start of another long week of work—a daunting 40 hours of labor standing between me and another weekend respite. Today begins week nine of ten of my internship, and my groggy head and drowsy eyes tell me that the end cannot come soon enough. These six words persisted in my mind throughout the day. They met me in the office kitchen as I poured my cup of coffee. They sat on the shelf of my desk as I hacked away all day at my computer. They even accompanied me in the passenger seat of my car as I sat in rush hour traffic on the way home. “Okay God, I’m listening.”…(And) God spoke to me this particular morning, and with His words came a lesson to be learned. It was the Father’s will for His Son to suffer and die for the sins of mankind. Jesus knew this well, and He still went. Let me repeat. My God knew exactly what you and I were going to cost him—his very life. He knew that it was going to be messy and painful, yet he followed the path marked out for him towards Jerusalem, setting his face like flint. Flint is a very hard type of sedimentary rock. When struck against steel, a flint edge produces sparks to start a fire. Setting your face like flint implies that you’re expecting some opposition, to stand strong in the face of adversity. To set your face like flint means to regard these difficulties as worthwhile when you consider what they will lead you to. When I learned the purpose of flint, I began to realize what these six words mean: It means having the resolve to achieve the Lord’s purposes. Jesus had countless opportunities to abandon the task He was sent to complete, yet he was unwavering with every step He took. When He told his disciples of the suffering He was going to endure in Jerusalem, they pleaded with him to choose an easier path, but He did not listen. Jesus was steadfast in achieving His purpose until He said,“It is finished”.