Face Setting: Meditation for the First Sunday of Lent

face like flintToday is the first Sunday in the 40-day Lenten season. Lent is the period of the church year leading up to the celebration of Resurrection Sunday. It has been used for centuries as a time for personal reflection, sacrifice, fasting, and recommitment of the Christian’s life.

Luke’s Gospel gives about ten chapters to Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem (a big expansion over Mark’s single chapter, Mark 10). In the seven Sundays of Lent 2015, I would like to use this narrative as a vehicle for our own journey to the cross.

Luke begins this epic journey with this statement:

 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)

The phrase, “resolutely set out” is striking in the original language (αὐτὸς τὸ πρόσωπον ἐστήρισεν), literally meaning “he set the face.” It is surely an echo of Isaiah 50:7:

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
    and I know I will not be put to shame.

This verse comes in the third of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs,” passages that are deeply prophetic and descriptive of the coming Messiah. A common theme in these songs is the physical abuse and humiliation the Messiah would suffer. Yet Isaiah puts these powerful words in the mouth of the Messiah, “I have set my face like flint.”

Flint was the hardest of common stones for the people of Isaiah’s Israel, found as nodules in the abundant limestone of the area. Flint was durable because of its hardness and capable of holding a sharp edge. This made it useful for tools and weapons.

Luke’s use of this metaphor illustrates the great determination in Jesus to go to the holy city despite his expectation of a painful death. He has already revealed this to his disciples:

The Son of Man 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)

Would you begin a journey that you knew would cost your life? Would you have the courage to take that first step?jesus-walking

As we enter the Lenten season, let us examine our own lives in this regard. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you willing to endure suffering because you are a follower of Christ?
  2. Are you willing to follow Christ for the rest of your life, even until the day of your death?
  3. What are the particular distractions in your life that sidetrack or delay your own Journey to Jerusalem?
  4. What must you give up to follow Jesus to the cross?

Let us begin this journey with prayer and determination on this, the first Sunday of Lent, 2015. Pray with me:

Lord Jesus, I want to follow you. I know it will not be easy. Help me to make the hard choices a disciple of yours must make. Help me to leave behind the things of this life that would pull me away from you. Hold me close to you. Never let me go. Let my feet follow in your footsteps.

Amen.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

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