Jesus never wavered.
I know that some take his prayer from the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:39) as a sign that he desired some outcome other than the cross, but the idea doesn’t pass muster. In Gethsemane Jesus revealed the deep anguish to his soul that the cross represented, however he was relentless in his perfect obedience and submission to the Father: “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done” (Matt 26:42). Jesus was utterly committed to going to the cross. He never wavered.
The Gospel of Luke makes this beautifully clear, beginning in Luke 9:51-53:
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.
It was in Jerusalem that Jesus would be reviled, beaten, humiliated, and crucified. Of course he knew this. Nevertheless he set his face to go there. Like the resolute, stone-faced physiognomies of Mount Rushmore, Jesus was unmoved and unchanged as he journeyed to Jerusalem. He never faltered in his determination to go to his death. He never wavered from his commitment to offer himself as our substitute.
But there is something striking about the way Luke’s story of Jesus unfolds. His resolute determination to go to Jerusalem begins in chapter 9 – but Jesus doesn’t actually arrive in Jerusalem until chapter 19. More than one third of the book – more than one third of Luke’s highly detailed account of Jesus’ life – occurs while Jesus was on the road to Jerusalem to go to his death.
When the lawyer trying to justify himself asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) – Jesus had already set his face to go to Jerusalem. As he told the surprising story of the outcast man who loved his neighbor selflessly at great cost to himself, he was already on his way to the place where he would be an outcast while showing love even more selfless at even greater cost to himself.
When Jesus taught his disciples, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Luke 12:22-23) – Jesus had already set his face to go to Jerusalem. As he counseled his followers to trust God and not worry about food and clothing, he had already entrusted himself to the Father as he went to hang, naked and forgotten, from the cross.
When he told the crowds: “Strive to enter through the narrow door” (Luke 13:23) – he had already set his face to go to Jerusalem. No one could have walked a more narrow road than he as he obeyed his Father perfectly, even to the point of death on the cross.
When Jesus told the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) – he had already set his face to go to Jerusalem. When he described the way the Father welcomed the younger brother home, at the expense of the self-righteous older brother, he knew that he would soon atone for the sins of wanton, wasteful younger brothers and self-justifying, holier-than-thou older brothers alike.
When Jesus sent the rich young ruler away, charging him to “sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Luke 18:22) – he had already set his face to go to Jerusalem. He knew that disappointed rejection by this one rich man would soon pale in comparison to painful rejection by his own people, betrayal by one of his disciples, and the forsakenness he would feel from the Father on the cross.
The shadow of Calvary loomed over Jesus the entire way, as he journeyed from city to city, teaching and healing. His face was always set to go to Jerusalem. He never wavered.
Nor does he waver today, in his affection for his children, in his perfect and sovereign rule over history, in his unfailing love for his Bride, the Church. The same steadfast resolution that sent Jesus to Calvary in the first place now binds him to us. This holy week, as you set your eyes on the one who set his face toward Jerusalem so long ago for you, may your heart be assured by the perfect, unwavering resolution of our Lord. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore his love for you and purpose for you remain always, just as he does. Jesus never wavers.