And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,…
Among the various difficulties in this passage that have been the subject of exegetical debate, we may clearly discern three important lessons.
I. OUR WISDOM IN FRONT OF APPARENT EVIL. At this time our Lord had before him the dark days which would bring his ministry to a close. The contemplation of them had evidently gone down deep into his own mind, but he found none to share the thought or to sympathize with him in the prospect. He asked his disciples to let these things "sink down into their ears" (ver. 44), but they understood him not. He was the sole possessor of the great secret of his coming sorrow, struggle, and death. How did he face it? With an immovable resoluteness of soul. "He steadfastly set his face to go up to Jerusalem." What reason have we to be thankful for that holy and noble tenacity of spirit! Could anything less strong than that have carried him, unscathed, through all that followed? And if there had been any, even the slightest failure, what would have been the consequences to our race? When we have to face a future of pain, or of separation and attendant loneliness and single-handedness of struggle, or of strong and sustained temptation, in what spirit shall we face that? In the temper of calm and devout resoluteness; with a full and fixed determination to go bravely and unfalteringly through, shrinking from no suffering, enduring the worst that man can inflict, yielding nothing to the enemy of our soul. An unflinching resoluteness will do great things for us.
1. It will save us from much suffering; for cowardice and apprehension do not simply add to human wretchedness; they multiply it.
2. It will save us from the chief peril and go far to secure us the victory. The greatest of all perils before us is that of recreancy, uufaithfulness to our own convictions. An unstable mind is only too likely to be guilty of it. A resolute spirit is almost certain to escape it.
3. It will place us by the side of our Divine Leader and of the noblest of his followers. We shall be treading in the footsteps of him who "steadfastly set his face," etc., and who went up to that city of martyrs and gloriously triumphed there.
II. OUR DUTY IN THE PRESENCE OF A PROFESSED PROPHET. "They did not receive him;... They went to another village." How much is contained, in these simple words, of human folly and privation! These villagers were profoundly prejudiced against Christ, and declined absolutely to see what he could do, to hear what he would say. They would not "judge for themselves" on the evidence ready to be furnished. Anti consequently they suffered a great privation. The great Healer and Teacher of mankind went another way; their sick went unhealed, their souls went unenlightened, while Divine tenderness and truth found other hearts and homes. Often since then has Christ gone, in the person of some one of his prophets or spokesmen, to the city, to the village, to the home, to the individual heart, and offered his truth, his grace, his salvation. But deep-seated prejudice, or strong material interests, or keen love of pleasure, has barred the way. He has not been received. And as he does not force an entrance anywhere, he has gone elsewhere; he has passed by, and all the treasure of his truth has been unpossessed, all the blessedness of his salvation unknown. Of what unimaginable good, of what highest heritage, does human folly deprive itself!
III. OUR DANGER OF MISTAKING THE LOWER FOR THE HIGHER FEELING. The apostles, James and John, gave vent to a burst of strong resentment, and proposed to have a severe punishment inflicted. They supposed themselves to be actuated by an honourable and acceptable indignation. But Jesus "turned, and rebuked them;" they were entirely mistaken; their feeling was not that of pure indignation, it was tainted by an unholy irritation against men who would not receive them and their Master; moreover, the desire for immediate punishment was to give place, under Christian teaching, to a determination to win to a better way. Not extinction but reformation, not the infliction of the death which is due but the conferring of the life which is undeserved, not rigorous exaction but patient pity, not the folded fist of law but the open and extended hand of helpfulness, is the Christian thing. When we find ourselves giving way to wrath and proposing punishment, we do well to ask ourselves whether we are sure we know the "spirit we are of," and whether there is not a "more excellent way" for Christian feet to tread. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,