After recording the selfishness and ambi- tions of the disciples, Luke writes this startling statement about Jesus: “He set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:41, NRSV). Misunderstood, plotted against, laughed at, and in danger during the entire three years of his ministry, Jesus always “set his face” to do whatever God called him to do: heal on the Sabbath, raise one of his best friends from the dead, call out the religious leaders of his day, throw out merchants who desecrated the temple, eat meals with the worst regarded members of society. And now, “when the days grew near for him to be taken up,” he set his course for Jerusalem and certain death.
Scripture records the stories of many people who “set his [or her] face” because of the call of God. Abraham uprooted his family and left his homeland with no idea where God was leading him; Abraham also headed up the mountain with Isaac, fearing that God wanted him to sacrifice this long hoped-for son. Esau faced a meeting with Jacob after having wronged him. Joseph faced life in prison. Moses reluctantly made his way to Pharaoh to demand the release of his people from slavery. David suited up in armor to face Goliath. Hannah continually begged for a son; Esther risked her life to approach King Xerxes without being summoned so she could plead for lives of her fellow Jews; Jeremiah determined to speak for God no matter how he was perceived or received . . . . the stories go on and on.
What does it mean for us to “set our face?” Speaking out even though we know we will not be heard or understood? Speaking out when we may suffer consequences? Going to job we do not like in order to support our family? Dreading the need to ask forgiveness? Taking care of a sick or needy family member? Facing our own illness or increasing weakness? Sometimes just getting up in the morning with a hopeful outlook on the day requires setting our face. Whatever the task God sets before us, we are called by the example of Jesus to “set our face” and persevere.
Perhaps imagining the brave and determined (although sad) face of Jesus at the Last Supper or in the Garden of Gethsemane or during his trials or carrying his cross to Golgotha or being mocked as “King of the Jews” or looking down at his precious mother and best friend from the cross can give us the courage to set our face to deal with our own experiences.