Luke 9:51-62 (NRSV)
Verse 51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Verse 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; Verse 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. Verse 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" Verse 55But he turned and rebuked them. Verse 56Then they went on to another village.
Verse 57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Verse 58And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Verse 59To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Verse 60But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Verse 61Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Verse 62Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
Our dad enjoyed driving through the mountains on our family vacations. With a sweeping hand-gesture he would point out the majestic view, even while driving on roads with a steep drop-off to our right. We children would exclaim, “Just drive!”
This week’s gospel reading marks a turning point in Luke’s story of Jesus. In the previous chapter we looked in on the vision of Jesus’ future, affirmed by Moses and Elijah. We saw continued acclaim by the crowds. We also saw the disciples confused regarding the purpose and the means of this realm, which Jesus was proclaiming.
When I hear the words, “set his face,” I think of singular focus. Yet looking at details more closely, we see Jesus’ determination did not block his peripheral vision of the Spirit’s leading. He encounters rejection because of the direction he is going. Complete condemnation and destruction does not, however, deter him from the course of his journey and purpose.
Loving God, open the eyes of my heart, that with constant focus on Jesus, I may also see the persons around me he is calling me to serve. Amen.