I was reminded this morning of a curious phrase in Luke’s Gospel where we read that Jesus “set his face towards Jerusalem.” (Luke 9 v 51). It quite simply means that Jesus was determined on his course of action. He knew what he would meet: betrayal, arrest, beatings, mocking and an agonising death. And yet, knowing what lay ahead, he still set his face towards Jerusalem.
What Jesus faced was a battle with the powers of sin and evil for the whole world – a battle against death itself. And Jesus had an option. He could have chosen not to go to Jerusalem. He could have remained safe by staying away from the city. He could have gone on travelling around teaching and healing the sick. He could have gone on to train up more disciples, to enjoy friendship and laughter, to eat at the home of Martha and Mary, to look after his mother and the other women who had gathered around him. But Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem.
Why? Because of love. Because of grace. Because of mercy. He alone could conquer sin and death and for that to happen he had to go to Jerusalem.
Like Jesus on that road we, his creation, find ourselves on a long and difficult road in the grip of this virus. Behind the grim daily death toll lies a world suffering, afraid, a strange world of isolation and for some death. But it was precisely to save us from this that Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem. To face down the powers of sin and evil and conquer them. To offer a way of through suffering and bring redemption. To defeat the final enemy of death itself and rise victorious.
Covid- 19 may stalk the world, but it will not have the final word. The final word belongs to Christ on the cross; “It is finished.” And on to that glorious Easter morning, the death of death and the path to eternal life open for all who will follow.
As we walk through this difficult time let us remember this Passiontide, that Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem for our sake precisely so that we should not walk this path alone. He has gone before us; he has already defeated the enemies of sin and fear of sickness and death. He meets us, and just as he said to his disciples on the lake as they struggled with the waves that threatened to overpower them:
“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”