“On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:52b, 53)
I find it interesting that Luke comments that the Samaritans didn’t receive Jesus because his face was set towards Jerusalem. Now, you might think that it seems strange that Luke is suggesting that the Samaritans might dismiss Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem, but if that’s the case, you may just be missing a literary cue in Luke’s writing. When Luke refers to Jerusalem — especially in the chapters of his account leading to Jesus’ crucifixion — typically, he means the cross and Jesus setting his face (and path) towards his betrayal and crucifixion.
When Luke comments that the Samaritans didn’t receive Jesus because he had set his face towards the cross, he implies that the Samaritans wouldn’t welcome Jesus because he is committed to being a failed Messiah, one who dies rather than brings wealth and prosperity to the people of Israel.
Is this also true of you and me? Do we not also find it hard to identify with a suffering Messiah? And yet, that is precisely who Jesus is, the Son of God who suffers with all creation.
So, as you reflect on our times of climate change, racial divides … still, mass shootings in our schools, on the streets, gang war, wars in Europe, Africa and many other parts of the world, and any other examples of suffering, be assured that this is not a sign that Jesus is absent; rather, he is fully present in all suffering. Through that suffering, he has made all things new, and he will renew us in the last days. Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem to enter into our suffering now, to join us for life now. In Jesus, God is not absent but fully present for all time.
Lord Jesus, thank you that you set your face towards Jerusalem. Help us to see you in the midst of our own Jerusalems and times of trial. Reassure us that you are near and present in all the suffering of this world … and you have overcome it. Amen.