Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Isaiah prophecies concerning Jesus, “I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” (Is. 50:7) The Gospel according to Saint Luke tells us of the fulfilment of this prophecy: “When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)
Jesus knew what He was going to face in Jerusalem. In fact, He had already told His disciples that He would suffer and be rejected by the elders, and chief priests, and scribes; that He would be put to death, and on the third day be raised (Luke 9:22). Nevertheless, Jesus was determined. He was unwavering. He set His face like a flint to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die for sinful mankind. His will was hard like rock and He would not turn aside from His mission to save us.
The First Commandment commands us to set our faces toward God; to trust in Him above all things; to follow wherever He leads. It commands us to set our faces like flint to do God’s will. This we promised to do in our confirmation vows. We promised to suffer all, even death, rather than turn away from following God.
But we must confess that we have not kept our faces set toward God; we have turned away from following His will; we have not trusted Him completely. If we trusted God completely, we would never question Him. We would never ask “Why did this happen to me?” We would never question why we face hardships, why we lost a loved one, or why we have a terminal illness. We would just trust that God knows what He’s doing and leave it at that.
But rather than keep our faces set toward God, we are so easily moved to look elsewhere. We seek leisure and entertainment before we seek God’s face. We follow the world’s ways of thinking before we follow God’s way of thinking. We trust our bank accounts and pensions before we trust God.
We know this is true, because what would happen if all of a sudden we’d lose everything we had? What if God in His righteous judgment destroyed our town because of the wickedness that takes place here? What if your house became a heap of ruins and your bank account a few jingling pennies? Would you ask God, “Why; why me?” Would you question God’s wisdom in allowing such tragedy to befall you? Or would you join Job in saying, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21)?
We have to admit we’re not likely to have the attitude of Job. We’re more likely to be like Lot’s wife, who looked back at her home and city being destroyed by sulphur and fire out of heaven even though God rescued her from the city (see Gen. 19). We’re more likely to be like the Israelites who looked back to Egypt and fondly remembered the meat pots and bread, the fish, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic (Ex. 14:11-12, 16:3, 17:3; Nu. 11:5) while grumbling against God because He saved them from slavery. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt. The grumbling Israelites were overthrown and died in the wilderness.
We can’t set our faces toward God’s will for us and follow it. That’s why Jesus set His face like a flint to do the Father’s will. Jesus did what we could not do. Jesus set His face on saving you and He never looked back. The temptations of the devil never got Him to turn away from His goal. The suffering and pain inflicted on Him by us and our sins never got Him to turn aside. Even though all His disciples turned their faces away from Him and fled; even though He was mocked and His face was spit on, He never turned His face away from saving you.
After His resurrection, Jesus did not come to the disciples in anger even though they had failed to trust Him and had abandoned Him; even though they had turned their faces away from following Him. Jesus came to them in forgiveness. He came and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)
Despite our failures as disciples of Jesus; despite the times we have turned our faces aside from following Him, Jesus also still gives us His peace. You hear it at the end of every Divine Service. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift His countenance upon you and give you peace.
The benediction is a blessing, the very words given by God to speak to His people (Nu. 6:24-26). As opposed to God setting His face against His enemies to destroy them, He sets His face with graciousness toward His people. Because Jesus set His face like flint and accomplished our salvation, God sets His face on us with mercy and looks on us with favour. When God looks at us favourably, we have peace – peace with Him because our sins are forgiven (Rom. 5:1).
This is the goal that Jesus accomplished. He set His face to accomplish our salvation and He did not turn aside from it. This is why God has set His face on us with His favour. This is why we have peace with God. This is why all our sins are forgiven.
The Lord will bless you and keep you. The Lord will make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord will lift His countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.