2nd Sunday of Lent
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Thomas Edison was once asked how he went about inventing anything. He answered something like this, “I first find out about the subject, collecting and reading everything that I can about it, with the help of my assistants, and then I go at it, keep my mind at it, experiment from 12 to 20 hours a day, and stick to it until I get what I want.” When experimenting for his electric light he apparently tested some 6,000 different vegetable growths to find the right substance for a filament inside the glass tube, after searching everything, he finally got it. So, what do you think, is that determination? Perseverance? Resolution? Will power? Well, what is it that comes to your mind when you think of determination? Or perhaps a better question is, “Are you determined? Do you have determination in life?”
Last week, on our journey to the cross this Lenten season, we saw Jesus fight the ultimate battle of good versus evil. He stepped into our place and subjected Himself to the full force of the devil’s temptations and yet unwaveringly and perfectly withstood them all. He did so for us, so, He is our Champion to whom we cling. Today we shift our focus to see with what determination our Savior had in completing the mission for which he came.
The time of our text is likely about 3 months before Jesus’ suffering and death. It’s getting closer and Jesus knows it. So in our text, He is either in the region of Galilee that is in the north, or he is in an area called Perea, which was on the east side of the Jordan River opposite of the territory around Jerusalem. His destination will be Jerusalem, but as he goes he takes the opportunity to stop in villages and towns along the way teaching the people about God. However, as he’s going along, some Pharisees came up to him and said, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
Does anything strike you about this? Could there be some Pharisees that were sympathetic towards Jesus and cared about him? Maybe. But since when? Since when were the Pharisees ever concerned about Jesus’ welfare? Since when did they ever care about his well-being? Can the same group of Pharisees, who have been known to hate Jesus and want kill him themselves, really interested in protecting Jesus from Herod? Much more likely is that they simply want to get rid of Jesus and don’t want him around them anymore. “The people are listening to Jesus! And they’re not listening to us and all of our pharisaical laws!” And Herod, the local ruler, himself wanted Jesus gone. He had imprisoned John the Baptist and then was forced to put John the Baptist to death which turned out to be a political disaster for him and he doesn’t want to repeat that, but he still wants to get rid of Jesus. So he resorted to threats and intimidation.
Jesus responds, “GO TELL THAT FOX, I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” Wow! We often get this false impression of Jesus that he was always meek and passive and would never raise His voice. Now, certainly Jesus is the most humble person who ever walked this earth, but when it came to zeal for doing God’s will, He was certainly never shy or weak or meek. “Go tell that cunning and tricky and sly fox, that I’m going to keep going from place to place, preaching the Gospel, confirming it with miracles, doing what I need to be doing, according to my plan, and on the specific day God has appointed I will reach my goal.” Nothing in the world, not a group of Pharisees, not some pompous king, nothing was going to get in the way of Jesus completing the mission for which He came. Now, that’s determination!
“In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem.” In other words, “I’m going to keep doing my work and nobody is going to stop me until it is completed. My goal is to go to Jerusalem and to die in Jerusalem.” By far the majority of the prophets who were sent by God to call the Israelites back to God, when they were rejected were put to death in the capital city of Jerusalem- the greatest Prophet would be no different. Jerusalem should have welcomed Jesus as the Messiah, but it didn’t. Jesus wasn’t going to let even that get in the way of His goal to die for the sins of the world in Jerusalem. That’s determination!
This leads Jesus into a sorrowful lament over all those who rejected him, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, BUT YOU WERE NOT WILLING!” If you’ve ever seen a bird with its chicks, you get the picture. When danger comes the hen shelters her chicks under her wings and what is amazing is that the hen is so determined to protect her chicks that she would actually rather die than let her chicks be harmed. The same is true about our God. Our God wants nothing less than for all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, with a humanly incomprehensible grace he absolutely longs to gather all people into his kingdom and into his protection against the destruction of hell.
But what is unreasonable, unaccountable, and incredibly foolish is the will of someone that rejects God. We can’t take any credit for being part of the Kingdom of God, He did it all. But if we reject his grace, the entire fault lies with us. God wants all to be saved, including those who are ultimately lost. Jesus on his part has done everything, but “YOU were not willing.” God in His grace is determined to save all, but those who resist and reject him, spurn his gracious love.
And the result? “Look, your house is left to you desolate.” Empty, hopeless, ruined.” “I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” In other words, “Since you rejected me, you’re going to have to furnish your own protection against the enemies of sin, death, and hell. I would like to be your helper, rescuer, and Savior, but you rejected me so you’re on your own. You will not see me, you will not understand me until through faith in me you confess my name, who I really am, the Lord.” It’s interesting that after His resurrection Jesus appeared only to those who had followed him and believed in him.
So, how much determination do we have in life? How determined are we to do the Father’s will? Do we demonstrate a half-hearted determination to follow our God? Are we determined to do whatever God asks of us, whatever he wants us to do? Often times our determination in life is reflected by the priorities we set in our lives. Do your priorities reflect a loving determination to do what God wants? Or are we more determined to do what WE want? Our Savior was determined to do the work that God had given him to do and he didn’t let anything distract him from it. Or how determined are we for the eternal welfare of those God places around us in our lives? God wants us to be whole-heartedly concerned about the souls of all those around us – even our enemies, even those who reject us! He wants us to deal with them as precious souls- whether it means sharing the law to show their need for a Savior or sharing the Gospel and the Savior that God has provided? Do we do that? Are we determined for their eternal well-being? Jesus was. He was so determined that he longed to gather them under the protection of his wings!
You and I have failed to have a proper determination in life. And that’s exactly why we need a Savior who had a perfect determination in life. 100% of the time Jesus was determined to do everything that God wanted Him to do, and He did. He didn’t let any devil, Herod, or Pharisee distract him from the mission for which he came: the salvation of souls. 100% of the time Jesus was determined to share the Gospel with everyone- even those who stubbornly rejected Him and His grace. Jesus had perfect determination in life and his perfect determination is credited to your account!
And one other thing, Jesus knew what awaited him in Jerusalem. He knew that in Jerusalem He would bear the full weight of sins on himself, the full wrath of God for the punishment of all sins, the suffering and death for your sins. And yet, He was determined to go. He was determined to die for our best interests. He was determined to go to point us to what really matters in life: an eternal home in heaven. He was determined to go to lift our eyes from the things of this world to the eternal victory he’s won for us. He was determined to go to win us the forgiveness of sins and a good relationship with God. That’s determination! And a Savior with that determination, is a Savior that you want and you have! May we be determined to conduct our lives to serve such a self-sacrificing Savior! Amen.