“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”—Luke 9:51
I’m trying to imagine what Jesus might have been thinking as he “set his face” to go to Jerusalem. There’s never been a time in my life when I had to set my face to do something that I wanted to do. When I think of the times I’ve set my face to do something, it has been to confront an ugly or uneasy truth (usually about myself).
During my sophomore year of college, I managed to offend my girlfriend’s (now wife’s) sorority class. All of them. What it came down to was, I thought I knew the truth about something that wasn’t any of my business. When it was all said and done, I set my face to go and own my idiocy and apologize for what I’d said and done. I can still feel the pit in my stomach and the way I felt that night. It was a sobering moment of shame for my bad behavior, but also vulnerability, humility and self-awareness.
Back then, it might have been easier just to let it all go and never talk about it again – pretend like it never happened, but I know that something in me was laid to rest that night, and something new grew in its place. The quote by Nadia Bolz-Weber that Philip preached on Sunday comes to mind:
“The adjective so often coupled with mercy is the word tender, but God’s mercy is not tender; this mercy is a blunt instrument. Mercy doesn’t wrap a warm, limp blanket around offenders. God’s mercy is the kind that kills the thing that wronged it and resurrects something new in its place. In our guilt and remorse, we may wish for nothing but the ability to rewrite our own past, but what’s done cannot, will not, be undone.”
And so, we set our faces to journey with Jesus to Jerusalem. We don’t get to Easter without first experiencing Holy Week. It’s not a slow, winding, gentle path. It’s an uncomfortable, vulnerable descent that brings us face to face with ourselves and with God’s brutal mercy because there is no resurrection without death first – no new life without an old life passing away. Holy week invites us to live in that uncomfortable tension: to confront our humanness in light of God’s perfection (knowing that we’d rather not); to see ourselves as disciples who might one moment share in a sacred meal with Jesus and the next, fall asleep or flee in terror; and to die to ourselves so that something new might grow in our places.
We hope to see you at our Holy Week services on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week.