I enjoy video games. I could bore you with my digital adventures during quarantine, but I’d like to focus on a much more recent experience. I was playing a game that came out recently, and loving it. At one point a warning came up : “This is your last chance to purchase any gadget or suit upgrades. Do you wish to proceed?” I had an experience in the past when the game didn’t warn me we were in the final stages. So I backed up, upgraded, and went into the end game in full force.
Most people don’t have a moment like that. Very few have been able to determine when the “end” of their life was going to begin.
Jesus isn’t most people.
In Luke 9:51, we read a powerful phrase. “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The phrase “set his face” is sometimes rendered as “He was determined” or “he set out for”. While both of these translations have merit, I like the “wooden” translation of “set his face.”
“He was determined” feels a little passive. He made a decision to take steps to go to Jerusalem.
“He set out for” however, makes it feel as if he started to power-walk all the way to Judea.
Instead, he set his face. We aren’t even halfway through Luke telling of Jesus’ life, but we begin to see that everything that happens from here on, Jesus is doing with his endgame in mind. Every healing he performs is done with his face looking at Jerusalem. Every teaching he gives ends with him setting his face back to Jerusalem. Every step he takes, north, south, east or west, takes him one step closer to the Place of the Skull. Every healing he performs puts him one step closer to the scars across his back. Every breath of teaching he pours out gets him closer to the last breath of this life.
And it gets him closer to the ascension. To the life beyond death. To the glory after humilation. Every breath he breathes gets him closer to new breath, new Spirit filling his body. Every healing he performs puts him one step closer to a body, unbroken and healed. Every step he takes takes him one step closer to the Mount of Olives, and the ascension to the Throne of God.
That’s a good end game.
So when Jesus teaches anything in the rest of Luke, consider that he thought it was important enough to say as he walked his final days on Earth. Whether he was teaching and loving Mary and Martha in their own home, correcting the Pharisees about their view of sinners and tax collectors and the God who loves them in Luke 15, or teaching about the End Times in Luke 17, every event and teaching of Jesus are the ones that gained his attention after he “set his face” to go to Jerusalem.
Let this devotion urge you to reconsider how we read these words today. Don’t read Luke as another item on your busy checklist. But hear them as the words of Jesus that they are, pouring over you, through you and into you, and let them change you today. As we move ever closer to Easter, may we read Luke and set our own faces toward Jerusalem.