51As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51, NIV)
As I read Luke 9:51, a phrase stood out and grabbed my attention, “He set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Though the phrase “to be taken up” is a curious way to refer to what would happen in the last days of Jesus’s life on earth.
“He set his face to go to Jerusalem” in the Greek original represents a Hebrew id- iom that literally meant “to position one’s face in a certain way.” That saying had both a literal directional sense and a sense of purpose or resolve. Genesis 31:21 says that Jacob “set his face toward the hill country of Gilead” (NRSV). Gilead was not only his direction, but he was going there with intentionally and purpose.
In Luke 9:51, we learn that Jesus was heading to Jerusalem. He had been work- ing in Galilee, but now the time had come for Him to minister in Jerusalem. As in Jacob ‘s case, Jesus was not merely heading in the direction of Jerusalem. He was going there very intentionally in order to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in that Jewish cultural and religious center. Jesus knew that in Jerusalem He “must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22). His prophetic vision was matched by a deep sense of purpose. He knew that what would happen to Him in Jerusalem was an essential part of His messianic work. So, as we read in The Message version of Luke 9:51, Jesus “gathered up His courage and steeled Himself for the journey to Jerusalem.”
The question I want to ask is this: Have you set your face? Do you have a strong sense of direction, not so much for your travel as for your life? Is your life guided by a deep, abiding purpose that motivates you and sustains you?
A sense of calling or purpose is critical to resilience in both Christian formation leadership. Yet it’s not just any purpose that matters. That purpose must be aligned with the purposes of God. This is true for all Christians. To be a Christian is to have as our life purpose the mission of Jesus Christ and to engage in it.
As we “set our face” in the direction of Christ’s mission, our particular paths will be distinctive. Some of us, like me, for example, will exercise our purpose as pas- tors and parents. Others will live with purpose as inventors, painters, technol- ogy specialists, managers, entrepreneurs, teachers, carpenters, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, and the list goes on. No matter what we do each day, no matter our particular callings, we are all called to the mission of Jesus Christ. May God give us the grace to “set our face” in this direction.
Lord, help me to “set my face” in the direction of Your mission. May my life be guided by Your priorities, Your vision, Your truth, Your love.