JESUS RESOLUTELY SET OUT FOR JERUSALEM
Key verse: 9:51
“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
In the previous passage Jesus predicted his death a second time. But his disciples still could not understand what that meant. In today’s passage Jesus sets out for Jerusalem with determination. He didn’t postpone the most difficult task in his earthly ministry. He was so determined to fulfill God’s will for our salvation on the cross. And in the second part of the passage, he teaches us the cost of following him and doing service for the kingdom of God. According to Jesus’ teaching, following Jesus and serving God’s mission is costly. However, it’s worth to pay for the cost because there will be eternal reward for those who pay for the cost.
Part I. Jesus resolutely sets out for Jerusalem (51-55).
Let’s ready verse. 51 “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” The time approached for Jesus to be taken up to heaven. Jesus clearly knew what would happen to him soon at Jerusalem. Jesus would be arrested, tried, flogged, and crucified as he had prophesied. But he resolutely set up for Jerusalem. In King James Version of the bible, this verse is translated, “he steadfastly set his face to go the Jerusalem.” Jesus was so determined to go to Jerusalem because he want to fulfill God’s will there. Jesus would be the Lamb of God at Jerusalem in obedience to God. After Adam sinned against God, all his descendants have been born with sin. Therefore, as Adam’s descendants we have been born as sinners and lived under God’s wrath. The punishment for all sinners is eternal suffering in hell. God sent Jesus to take all our punishment at Jerusalem so we can be forgiven from all our sin. Jesus was about to take the punishment from God at Jerusalem on the cross. It was the most difficult mission for him to take in his earthly ministry. But, he did not look back or slow down his travel to Jerusalem. He had a lot of good works to do on earth. Wherever he went, crowds of sick people followed him to be touched and healed by him. And he drove out demons from people who were possessed by them. And he had many disciples to teach including the twelves. However, Jesus was not distracted by many good works but was focused on the most important work to do at that moment. Jesus was so focused on his mission at the cross because he loved God and us. What are you focused on now? What is your Jerusalem? For college students being academically prepared is important thing to do to be used by God after graduation. For professionals, doing good job at work and supporting themselves or family’s needs are important things to do. However, for us disciples of Jesus there is a higher mission than any others. Let’s read. Matthews 28:19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Sharing the gospel of Jesus and raising up disciples of Jesus are the Great Commission given to us from Jesus. As Jesus resolutely set out to Jerusalem to fulfil God’s will, let us also focus on the most important mission which are preaching the gospel and raising up disciples of Jesus.
Let’s read verse 52 “And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him;” Jesus was going toward Jerusalem with determination. In order for him to get there, he wanted to go through Samaria. If he were like other pious Jews, he would have avoided Samaria. But Jesus wanted to visit them and give blessing to them before his departure. Samaria was a place where half-Jew and half-Gentile were living. People of Israel didn’t associate with Samaritans because they were not pure Jews. Samaritans were despised by the Jews because of their ethnicity. Samaritans built their own temple on Mt. Gerazim. And the Jews detested the temple on the mountain since God didn’t allow to build any other temple except the Jerusalem temple. For that reason, the temple on the Mt. Gerazim was destroyed by Jewish high priest, John Hyrcanus, in 2 B.C. But Samaritans still worshiped God there. Let’s read verse 53. “but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.” When Jesus wanted to stay at Samaria on the way to Jerusalem, people in Samaria didn’t welcome him. They didn’t like the fact that Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem where the temple of Israel is. They must have felt humiliated when their holy place in Mt. Gerazim was not appreciated by Jesus. They must have remembered what the Jews did to their temple, too. Two of Jesus’ disciples spoke up by this, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” John and James outraged by the poor reception of the Samaritans. And comically they asked Jesus if he wanted them to punish them by calling down fire from heaven. I don’t think they had power to do that. If they had it, they could have used it at the arrest of Jesus. What was Jesus’ response? Verse 55 “Jesus turned and rebuked them” Punishing people with fire from heaven was not what Jesus wanted to do even though they rejected him. Jesus never condoned violence toward those who reject him. Jesus came to save those who rejected him. Jesus was so focused on his mission but also full of mercy to those who even persecuted him. Jesus and his disciples went to another village heading to Jerusalem.
Part II. The cost of following Jesus (57-62)
Look at verse 57. “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”” As they were walking along the road, a man came to Jesus and told him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus didn’t even tell him, “Follow me” but he volunteered to follow Jesus. He even said that he would follow Jesus wherever he goes. This disciple candidate seems too good to be true. Me and my wife, Susanna, visit Howard University campus on Saturdays to invite students to bible study and worship service. We have talked to many students last 8 months but it was not easy to find students who are interested in bible study. There were several students who were interested in bible study but no one has been engaged in bible study yet. However, this person volunteered to follow Jesus even though he was not invited by anyone. But Jesus was not over excited by his offer. Let’s read at verse 58 “Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”” Jesus told him that Foxed have dens and birds have nests, but he doesn’t have a place to lay his head. Why did Jesus tell him about this? It almost seems like Jesus is trying to turn him down. What’s the significance of a den, a nest, and a house? These places are the most basic need for animal and human being. House gives us protection from harsh weather like the two storms we had last week or winter weather. And we are generally secure in a house from thieves or burglars. For a family, a house provides comfortable space to raise kids, too. And a house has monetary value which can be used in time of emergency. Here the house can be interpreted as comfort and security in life on earth. If Jesus wanted to have these thing, he could have gotten it easily. Wherever he went, large crowd gathered around him and listened from him. So many people received healing from him or were freed from demon possessions by him. If he made the crowd contribute a small amount of money, he could have purchased a nice place for him and live a luxurious life. But Jesus didn’t use his popularity to get a comfortable and secure life. Actually, he didn’t need a house because he had to keep moving around following God’s direction. And now he was heading to Jerusalem to be taken up to heaven. Jesus’ life on earth remind me of his teachings for his disciples. Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Jesus indeed lived according to his teaching. When he sought to live for his mission on earth, God provided what he and his disciples needed. If we follow Jesus, we no longer follow what people of this world follow. But our life goal should be the same as Jesus. Once you get a job and have a family, buying a house and providing for family are what we mostly worry about. Securing funds for comfortable life now and after retirement is real big thing for most of people in this world. However, Jesus disciples seek for the kingdom of God and his righteousness more than anything else. For us, disciples of Jesus, our goal has been changed to non-perishable glory in the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, now we live by faith not by worries of this world. And God provides us whatever we need according to his great love for us.
Let’s read verse 59. “He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”” This time Jesus asked another man to follow him. But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” I am not sure if his father was alive or dead at that moment. But this person wanted to fulfill his responsibility in his family. God commanded the Israelites to honor one’s father and mother. This is the fifth commandment among the Ten Commandments. This person wanted to follow God’s will by honoring his father before following Jesus. Here, he was not torn between the right and wrong. Instead, he was torn between the right and right. What was Jesus’ answer to him? Let’s read verse 60. “Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”” What is “Let the dead bury their own dead.” mean? Jesus told him to have those spiritually dead people take care of the funeral of his father. Jesus didn’t mean that we can neglect our responsibility of honoring or supporting our parents. But Jesus clearly told him that family obligations must not be put ahead of following Jesus and proclaiming the kingdom of God. Why should we put following Jesus above family obligation? It’s because following Jesus is a matter of our eternal life. We are saved by accepting Jesus as our savior. But that’s not it. That’s just beginning of our salvation. We need to keep following Jesus and grow in knowing him. This process is called sanctification. As a new-born baby grows day by day, we also need to grow in becoming like Jesus until God calls us to heaven or Jesus comes again. What about proclaiming the kingdom of God? Why should we put this above our family obligations? It’s because sharing the kingdom of God is matter of eternal life of others. By sharing the Kingdom of God one’s eternal destiny can be changed from eternal death to eternal life. Throughout my youth and college freshman year, there were many people who shared gospel with me directly or indirectly. I came to believe in Jesus by those who put proclaiming gospel in their first priority. They were members of Navigators. They shared gospel with me on a bus and college campus. Later I was able to grow as a bible teacher by my former bible teachers. They put proclaiming God’s word as their highest priority and taught me with the word of God diligently. Before I know Jesus, I was enslaved by lustful desire. Because of that I came to hate myself and had very low self-esteem. And I couldn’t not open myself to others fearing to reveal my ugly self. And I was not motivated to study hard because I thought everything is meaningless and ends with my death. But through the gospel I was able to overcome my lustful desire by the grace of God. And now I can work hard to serve my students at my work, Howard University, to raise them up as godly leaders. And I and my wife, Susanna, are serving my family of four kids so they can become disciples of Jesus. More importantly, I can work for eternal glory by following Jesus. Two weeks ago during the conference I was deeply encouraged and challenged by Abraham Lee’s testimony during his message. He chose to work for the US embassy officer for the gospel. Because of his decision, his family has to move to new country every two years or so. This must be great challenge for him, his wife, and especially his kids. But he said he is really happy regardless of those difficulties. It must be really difficult for his family to leave the secure environment in Washington UBF. They have their biological family and spiritual family here. And their kids could have enjoyed fellowship with other CBF kids, Master Kim’s Taekwondo class, good education, and many others. But his family put God’s calling above anything else and proclaimed the gospel of Jesus in Vietnam for last two years. And now they are leaving of Poland this fall for another mission journey. Following Jesus and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus are more important than any other responsibility. By doing so we can complete the process of personal salvation and lead others to eternal life.
Look at verse 61. “Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”” There was another disciple candidate who wanted to follow Jesus. But he wanted to go back home and say goodbye to his family. It seems he was doing wright thing. By doing so his family could know where he was going. What was Jesus’ response to him? Let’s read verse 62 “Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”” Jesus compared service in the kingdom of God to plowing a filed. According to google dictionary, plowing is turning up the earth with a plow, especially before sowing. Plowing is an important part of farming for fruitful production. In order to make use the entire land, all the area needs to be carefully plowed. If you look back during plowing for any reason, you will mostly likely depart from straight line and miss some spots. If you keep doing that, you cannot get the most crop out of your land. Plowing requires commitment. Through commitment, you can bear much fruit. In the same way, service in the kingdom of God requires our full commitment. Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Jesus says those who work for the service in the kingdom of God should not look back but move forward. What are the things we are tempted look back? The man in verse 61 wanted to keep his worldly relationship with his family while following Jesus. However, it’s impossible to keep his old relationships and serve God’s will at the same time. The purpose of worldly relationship cannot go with the purpose of Jesus’ disciples. We can look back toward our own dream or goal of lives. We can also look back our past achievement. In order to be worthy to serve God’s work, we must dedicate ourselves without looking back any of these things. And then we will be able to bear much fruit that will last eternity in Jesus.
So far we have learned the cost of following Jesus. Jesus teaches us three things in this passage. First, we must seek God’s kingdom not security or comfort of this world. Second, we must put following Jesus and proclaiming the kingdom of God in the highest priority. Third, we must fully commit ourselves in the service of the kingdom of God. When we think about the cost, it seems the cost is a lot. Following Jesus and doing service for the kingdom of God requires the best part of our lives with heavenly purpose and full commitment. But it’s worth to give our everything to follow Jesus and do the work of God. Do you know what’s the cost of being a medical doctor? I think Shepherd John Lee knows it very well. It takes between 11 to 14 years of higher education to become a physician. According to statistics average cost of attendance for four-year medical school in 2015 was $226,000 for public school and $299,000 for private school. After four years of medical school they need to get resident training for 3-5 years. During this time their average salary is around $55,000 per year. And often time they are required to do 24 hour shift neglecting their sleep and health. According to Wikipedia, in many locations residents commonly work 80 to 100 hours a week. The cost of becoming a doctor seems too much for me. But many people are still willing to pay for the cost because it’s worth. Rebekah Kim, Anna Seo Jr., and Grace Chun are also paying or will being paying for the price. It’s worth not just because they get high pay but because they save lives of people. With all the difficult, long, and costly training, they can help people to be relieved from pain and diseases. And they save people’ lives daily basis. As we saw in today’s passage, the cost of following Jesus and doing service for the kingdom of God is very costly. It’s not comparable to the cost of becoming a medical doctor. However, it’s more than worth to pay for the price because there is glorious rewards. What are the rewards? Firstly, when we follow Jesus, we will learn from him. We will learn his love, compassion, power of resurrection, holiness, and together with suffering. So we can become like Jesus. As God’s created being becoming like creator God, who is Jesus, is the highest goal we can achieve. Moreover, we will receive glorious heavenly reward in the end as Jesus received his glory after his ascension. God raised Jesus to life and exalted Jesus to the right hand of him when Jesus gave his life for sinners in Jerusalem. When we follow Jesus, we will also receive heavenly glory together with sufferings on earth. Secondly, when we give our highest priority to the work of the kingdom of God, our work will be used in leading people to eternal life from eternal judgement. Medical doctors’ life-saving work is precious. But the work of Jesus’ disciples is far greater because it can change eternal destiny of one person. People in this place and all the believers in this world are living proof of Jesus’ disciples work.
In conclusion, Jesus showed a good example of life of faith and mission centered life by resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Even though rejection and suffering were waiting for him, he resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He had been finalizing his earthly ministry and focused on going to Jerusalem for his final mission on the cross. Thanks to Jesus resolution and determination, now we can enjoy forgiveness of sin and eternal life in him. Jesus also invites us to follow him and commit ourselves in service of the kingdom of God. It requires putting down our earthly goals, putting Jesus in the highest priority of our lives, and dedicating our life fully to the service of the kingdom of God. The cost is high but there will be eternal reward in the kingdom of God. By paying the cost, we will become like Jesus and be rewarded with heavenly glory. And many people around us will be led to eternal life through us. Let us pay the cost of following Jesus and participate in Jesus’ glory.
One word: Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.