17th Sunday after Pentecost
None of us can read anyone else’s mind, we can’t look into the heart of the person sitting next to us and see what is really going on there. That ability alone belongs to God – to discern the innermost thoughts, OUR most intimate thoughts.
But there is one exception to that. There is one person’s and mind that we can, quite literally read. We can read the mind of our savior Jesus. He has printed his innermost thoughts on the pages of Scripture. He shows us his most intimate thoughts. We see the reasoning behind his iron resolve – even as he was confronted with situations like the one in the gospel for today, where he rebukes Peter. “Get behind me Satan! You don’t have in mind the things of God but the things of men!” His thoughts show us how he had a face set like flint for his call, his cross, his accusers, and us!
Isaiah chapter 50 is like a diamond in pile of gems. These words of the Prophet are virtually unlike any other part of scripture, save a few other places. Normally, we read of God’s saving work as a narrative, through a series of events, whether that be in the Old Testament or the New. This section of Isaiah 50 presents us with something wholly different. The actual thoughts of Christ! For as much as we revere the Gospel accounts, and rightly so still they are bare in this respect – they tell the story – they don’t put us in the mind of the chief character. How did God get Isaiah into the mind of Jesus? Was it a vision or a dream? In these words, it’s as though he’s seeing the world through the eyes of Christ himself – even 700 years before Jesus walked the earth! Let’s treat these words as such then, as the very thoughts of Christ.
Part 1 – A face like flint for his calling
This section begins, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.5 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious.”
I cannot help but think of Jesus as a little boy in the temple here. How he taught the teachers. How those who heard him marveled at his knowledge of Scripture – even as a child. Even then, he knew why he was here, “to know the word that sustains the weary.” He came knowing his calling was to save! He trusted in his Father in heaven to be his teacher in all things. He had a face set like flint to the task. Morning by morning he woke to listen to the Word to be instructed.
It was that very Word, that hardened him to the task at hand. He did not draw back! He didn’t quail, he didn’t fear. When he himself was weary – He turned to that Word. He submitted to it, he was not rebellious, He set his face like flint to that calling, to save, to bring us words that sustain our weary souls. He accepted it, knowing full well that it wouldn’t bring him earthly honor or gain…
Part 2 – A face like flint for his cross
Quite the opposite in fact. That message of good news would only be possible through great pain and suffering. A fact that Jesus knew from the beginning. One that he repeatedly told his disciples of throughout his ministry. Just like we heard about in the gospel reading for today. How Jesus had in mind the things of God and not the things of men. He pressed on towards the cross with a face set like flint because he had the kingdom of heaven in mind.
Can you imagine knowing your whole life your going to die in that way! Living your whole life knowing that you’re on death row, not just for the chopping block, but for the most agonizing death imaginable. To face the shame and anguish both physical and emotional that the cross brought. Yet, hear the resolution, harder than steel in your savior’s thoughts! “I have not turned away.6 I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.
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.”
We see here how different the mind of Christ is compared to ours. How foreign this is to our way of thinking! If someone were to strike us or spit in our face, would we not strike back with a vengeance? When someone challenges our faith or persecutes us. How quick we are to want to fight back against those who shame us for our faith.
Truly, Christianity in this country is indeed broken if believers seek to fight back in anger against the skeptics or atheists, the college professor, the co-worker, the troll on Facebook or family member who brutally attack what we believe! When they level a broad-side against us and bash Christianity, what does it prove if we fire back with equally venomous words or rhetoric? What are we afraid of? Being put to shame? Being disgraced because we want to “win” the argument – what about the strength that Jesus had, that strength of a different kind – setting our own faces like flint and considering it an honor to suffer for the sake of His name?
You know, some Roman records say that it took six men to hold down a man sentenced to be crucified, that they might drive the nails into his hands. When we are called to pick up a cross in our lives, to bear persecution for the sake of our Lord, for the sake of his name, do we fight against it? Jesus, our master calls us to offer our backs, turn the other cheek, and pick up that cross and follow him – just like he told the disciples in the gospel for today.
Jesus wants us to have a face like Flint, just like he did – He doesn’t just send us off saying, “Well hope for the best!” He doesn’t ask us to bear anything that he himself did not suffer. Pray with him these words, “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.”
Like Jesus, have a mind for the end goal. Your end goal! That, just like Jesus, in the midst of earthly suffering, painful cross, or wearying trial – remember you, just like Jesus, have the victory in the end. We too can set our faces like flint, there is no one and nothing that can stand against you because of what our Savior did for us!
Part 3 – A face like flint for his accusers
Speaking of those who stand against us, just look at the mind of our savior as he faced down his accusers with a resolve harder than steel. There were the pharisees, the crowd of people shouting crucify, the Roman governor who stood before him and said to him with venom, “What is truth!?” Yes, he went like a sheep silent before his shearers, but this was in his mind! “Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.” It is our enemies who in the end will be destroyed, by the moth within, by the sin that festers in their hearts.
And the devil – the great accuser – whispers in our ears, “Yes, but he was the Son of God, he was perfect! But what of you sinner, you know those sins that keep you up at night!”
Well, I think we can find a kindred spirit with the thief on the cross here. A man who knew that he’d been judged and found guilty. Who knew he deserved the hellish agony of the cross that he was experiencing. This thief who heard the accusations being hurled at Jesus, by the other thief hanging there, he himself had insulted him. Yet as that final hellish ordeal wore on, he looked at the face of Jesus and saw something altogether different, bloody and beaten but set like flint to the task at hand – even set like flint for him. There in his final hours, to the other thief he uttered almost the same words that our in the text for today, “Don’t you fear God?”
Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God. This thief who for most of his life walked in darkness, now saw light in that face that was set like flint. He saw in him a stronghold, a rock in whom he could take refuge from any accuser – even there in the last hours of his life. So, he says, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom!”
And what does Jesus do? With a face still set like flint to his calling. His mind is still set on the reason he came here – he offers him the words that sustain a weary soul, “Today, you will be with me in paradise!”
Are you familiar with what flint looks like? It isn’t like other stones. It’s smooth and solid. Not grainy like sand stone, flakey like shale or crumbly like granite. It’s a stone upon which other stones shatter and splinter. It stands up to everything thrown at it. This is our savior. This is his mind, his resolve for us, his love for us and his desire to forgive us. As he set his face like flint to his calling, his cross and his accusers so we can too – Take the thoughts of your savior and make them your own! 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.” Amen.