HIS FACE IS SET LIKE FLINT!
TEXT: ISAIAH 50:7 MATTHEW 27
Preached by Rev. Kenneth Wieting

In the Name of Jesus amen; The face of Lazarus was set like flint in death – stone cold dead for four days. Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice “Lazarus come out”, and the face of Lazarus was its old self again. This miracle however, set like flint the faces of the religious leaders against Jesus. From that day on they plotted to take His life (John 11:53). Amazingly their twisted reasoning went something like this, “He can raise the dead- the world has gone after Him – let’s kill Him.”
HIS FACE IS SET LIKE FLINT!
TEXT: ISAIAH 50:7 MATTHEW 27
Preached by Rev. Kenneth Wieting

In the Name of Jesus amen; The face of Lazarus was set like flint in death – stone cold dead for four days. Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice “Lazarus come out”, and the face of Lazarus was its old self again. This miracle however, set like flint the faces of the religious leaders against Jesus. From that day on they plotted to take His life (John 11:53). Amazingly their twisted reasoning went something like this, “He can raise the dead- the world has gone after Him – let’s kill Him.”

On Palm Sunday 2008, I would invite you to think of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in light of these heightened threats to His life because of Lazarus’ resurrection. I would also invite you to think of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in light of the Servant’s words recorded by the Prophet Isaiah. This servant is the pre-incarnate Christ and He describes Himself in this way, The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

Modern artists often portray the face of Jesus with rugged softness or with Hollywood-type handsomeness. They want to make the physical appearance of their subject something that attracts interest and warm thoughts. This, of course, is also because they want to sell as many copies as possible of their paintings as representing Jesus. Even Concordia Publishing House has a few artist renditions that are intended to portray Jesus’ face.

However, the prophet Isaiah in another Servant Song gives a Scriptural description of Jesus’ appearance that artists by and large ignore. Isaiah states that the servant had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him (Is. 53:2). This description is in the context of His growing up, before He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. In other words imagining what the face of Jesus might look like is inexact and not spiritually helpful. Picturing the face of Jesus as possessing outward beauty or majesty or attractiveness is not being faithful to God’s revelation.

But hearing God’s servant describe His own face is quite exact and full of spiritual help. From the third servant passage of Isaiah that we heard today, “therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (Is. 50:7). Dear Christians that is what God wants you to see in the face of Jesus, steadfast determination, absolute willingness, unmovable resolve to face what He knows lies ahead. I have set my face like a flint and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

Jesus had often entered Jerusalem before, but never like this. It was a grand day! A wave of joy and expectation flooded over the people! Hosanna they shouted to their king which means “save us now”. Humbly and royally He rode in with full awareness of the war that would soon break out against Him. Despite knowing what lies ahead, He does not reverse course or turn back. Knowing well that the shouts of “Hosanna” will soon give way to shouts of “crucify” He turned not backward. Knowing that the joyous waving of branches of Palm trees would give way to the damning judgment waiting on the tree of the cross, He turned not backward. In lowly majesty He rides on! I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

From the Mount of Olives He could view the city that would soon cast Him out. He wept over her with loud, sobbing tears, but turned not around. From the Mount of Olives He could see the temple whose priests and leaders were determined to end His life. He cleaned house, driving out the money changers, but He turned not around. I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

Palm Sunday must always be intimately united with what happened in the great week that followed, the week we now call holy. The Messianic Servant had come to suffer for the sins of His people. The Lord God had opened this Servant’s ears, He was not rebellious. He was perfectly obedient, not counting equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing…and being found in human form He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. I have set my face like a flint and I know that I shlal not be put to shame.

The faces of the chief priests and elders were set like flint to destroy Jesus. When they persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and Pilate saw that a riot was beginning, he set his face like a flint for self-preservation. He washed his guilty hands in non-absolving water and handed over an innocent man.

That innocent man did not hide his face from disgrace and spitting. That innocent man gave His back to those who strike. With His face set like a flint, they crowned His head with thorns and then struck Him on the head. With His face set like a flint, He hung in shameful nakedness as they divided his garments by casting lots. With His face set like a flint He resisted the mocking and derisive requests, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Flint is a heavy dark stone and from the sixth to the ninth hour it might be said that even the Sun set its face like flint. For in those hours there was darkness over all the land. Then He handed over the spirit. Then His face softened in the limpness of death.

So what does it all mean? So why do we hear and respond to the same thing each Palm Sunday and Holy Week? Because, it is the only thing in the world that can melt our hearts of stone! Because it is only this gracious act of God that can ultimately redirect our faces set like flint on themselves and on the passing things of this world. Because what we have just heard again is the center of human history and the ground of all our hope!

God’s face is set like flint against sin – not one sin will ever enter His Holy presence. Yet as Jesus died and handed over the spirit on Calvary, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This is all God’s doing! This is entirely Gods’ gift! There is access for us sinners into the very presence of God’s holiness through the shed-blood of Jesus. There is now joyful reason for us to set our faces like flint to please the Lord God, who, in Christ, is so pleased with us.

So go ahead, set our face like flint to worship God this Holy Week and each week, with steadfast determination, utmost resolve, absolute willingness keep first things first in your life. What Jesus won for you and gave for you on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and Easter morning He continues to give to his gathered people. So go ahead, set your face like flint to cast all your worries on Him. He cares so much for you. Set your face like flint to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. His heart’s desire is to add all other things to you as well. Set your face like flint to forgive those who sin against you, for so Jesus comes to forgive you today. Set your face like flint to pray with your family and to pray fro your enemies. Set your face like flint to feast upon Him in faith each Lord’s day, for He has prepared a meal of heavenly food for your forgiveness.

That other stone mentioned here won’t stand in the way; that great stone rolled to the entrance of His tomb. Not even the guard nor Pilate’s seal will add a pinch of security to that stone. That’s because of the full work of the Servant who spoke through Isaiah.

But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who spoke so clearly of His crucifixion spoke with equal clarity of His resurrection. His face was set like flint to taste death for us, but never to be defeated by death. His face was set like flint to restore life to you so that in eternity you might finally and forever see Him face to face. Amen.

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