I have not read it, but there is a book that has been written by Francis Chan entitled, “Crazy Love.” I saw a promo video for the book this week where Francis Chan talked about why he wrote it. He said that he had grown up going to church all his life and his thought was that Christianity was rather simple: Don’t cuss, don’t drink too much, don’t have sex outside marriage, go to church as much as you can.
He said that he began to see a much higher view of God. He said that the love of God was radically different than what he had heard about all his life. Then he began to think, “If God would do a crazy thing like sending his Son on earth to die for our sins, how should he respond?” He began to understand that the intensity of God’s love demands a radical response.
He said he wrote the book to challenge people. In essence, he wanted to challenge people to respond to crazy love with crazy love.
Again, I know nothing about Chan’s book. Yet the principle he expressed in that promotion is true: Crazy love is the only true response to the Crazy love of God.
To be sure, as we follow the story of Christ in this gospel over the next couple of months, we will see just how crazy God’s love is. Even in this passage we see something of how intense the love of Jesus is for his people. As we look at the passage we are going to see the depth of his love in the resolve he has and in the restraint he demonstrates.
No doubt, we will be able to notice the a flame of fire that burns hot in his soul for his people. He has a crazy love! And I hope that what you see here sparks in you a similar love for him. I hope that it kindles within your heart a love that would be willing to go beyond the bounds of normal obedience—a willingness to do something crazy in the eyes of the world… but pleasing in the sight of God.
Now, if you ask my wife, she will tell you that I’m just crazy. But if you look into this passage you see someone who is almost just as out of his mind.
I. We see the depth of his love in his resolve 
Verse 51 says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
I want you to take notice of that phrase, “He set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Some of you might have it translated, “He steadfastly set his face towards Jerusalem.” To set your face to something is to turn with intention towards it and determination to move that way.
Typically, I set my face towards the refrigerator. I am determined to go there and nothing is going to stop me.
What you see here is that Jesus is now making an intentional movement toward Jerusalem. And you know what Jerusalem is: It is that place where he was going to be crucified and killed. The verse is pointing out that Jesus knew what his mission was. He knew that he couldn’t prowl around in the comforts of Galilee his whole life. He knew that his purpose was to go to the hostile territory of Jerusalem so that he might give himself up as the sacrifice for sin.
You know, it is interesting to read the book of Luke because Luke always shows Jesus stepping into the line of fire. Whenever he has a chance to run, he doesn’t. Instead he does just the opposite. He moves into a position where he can be captured and crucified.
That’s exactly what you have here! Jesus knows what is waiting for him in Jerusalem. He knows that every footstep that brings him closer means certain death. It is like walking into the den of lions. Yet, that does not deter him. He set his face to go there. He resolved to go and he would not turn back because he knows that it is the only way for you to live.
This resolve reminds us that Jesus is not just the sacrifice, but he is also the one who offers the sacrifice. He is priest as well as lamb. Some people think that Jesus was just a guy who was trying to be a good teacher, but things went askew. They believe that Jesus towards the end of his life saw the crowds turning against him. So in a last ditch effort, they say, he throws himself into their hands and to die a martyr.
That’s not the picture you get here though. Here is a man who has a plan. He knows his mission long before he even gets to Jerusalem. He knows that Jerusalem means certain death, and despite the pains and hostilities he will face there, he sets his face towards it.
Now, I will ask you, “Is this not crazy?” I say, is this not a true expression of the depth of his love?
In 1907 a Mexican man was standing at the throttle of a train at Nocozari, a small mining town in the state of Sonora. Among the cars were several loaded with dynamite to assist in the excavation process in the mines. While the train was standing in the station a fire somehow broke out in one of the box cars. It quickly spread and was not able to be contained. There was no way of checking it, and it rapidly advanced towards the explosives which were contained several cars up. The dynamite was sure to detonate, and would most certainly wipe the village from the face of the planet, along with every person in it. Those who were closest to the fire began to run from the scene, calling on everyone else to flee with them. However, the man who stood as the engineer of the train did not. He resolved to remain in the cab so that he could save the town. He coolly opened the throttle in order to set the train in motion. Slowly he drew it away from the station and down the track, creating distance from the village. Then, suddenly, there was a frightful detonation. The train was reduced to atoms and the engine became nothing but a melted piece of scrap iron. As you can imagine, there was no trace to be found of the engineer.
The town was so grateful to that man that they began to take up a collection in order to erect a monument to him.
It might seem a little trite in comparison to what that man did for them, but it was the only way they could express their gratitude for his loving sacrifice.
There is a sense that Jesus did the exact same thing for you and me. If he would have cowered—if he would not have had the resolve to stay on course and go to Jerusalem to die, we would be left in our sins. We would be wiped from the face of the planet by the wrath of God.
It is crazy what he did. The determination he had was an evidence of how hot his love was for you. I wonder then if you would be willing to show the same kind of love for him. He resolved to bear your curse. Would you be willing to do the same for him?
It is no secret that our culture does not want fanatics. They don’t want someone to be really crazy about Jesus. They like people whose Christianity is tempered. They like Christians who are much more tame and don’t take it all that seriously.
As a matter of fact, they go out of their way to try and keep people from being excessive in their faith. They will confront you and call you names. They will try to make you feel like an outcast and freak.
But we have to be ready to say I love Jesus more. You have to resolve in your heart to follow him no matter what. You might have to set you face towards heaven just as Christ set his face to Jerusalem. And you can say, “I will be willing to give up my closest friendships if it means following Jesus. I will be willing to walk away from my job if it means having to support medical care that provides abortions. I will be willing to stand up and denounce evil, even if it means losing my life.”
Do not doubt me. You will face incredible pressures if you chose to follow Jesus. Satan will attempt in every way possible to get you to just go with the flow and keep the status quo. But you have to resolve to follow him no matter the cost.
That is what Jesus did for you. No amount of hardship could keep him away from the cross. His eye was upon you and your salvation every moment of his life—every step he took led him that much closer to the fires of hell. But no matter how intense the opposition became he would not turn back.
You’ll notice though that his resolve was not the only indicator of his love. The passage here talks about his restraint.
II. He demonstrates his love in his restraint [52-56]
Luke tells us that Jesus sent some messengers ahead of him to make preparations. And they entered a certain town of Samaria. And verse 53 says that they people of that town did not receive him because his face was set towards Jerusalem.
Now, you have to remember that there was a lot of animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. They hated each other. And when they heard that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem they would have known that he was likely a Jew. So they would immediately be put off.
You know, our nation used to have Jim Crow laws because of people’s racism. People would say, “This drinking fountain is for whites only.” That’s sort of thing going on here. They are looking at Jesus and saying, “This is a Samaritan only hotel.”
The text doesn’t mention this, but I don’t doubt that these Samaritans would have who Jesus was. Jesus’ fame had likely spread far and wide by this point. He had been ministering for a couple of years already and he was drawing large crowds of people wherever he went.
So it is likely that these Samaritans not only knew that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, but they likely knew something about him and what he proclaimed to be as the Messiah. And despite this, they essentially said, “Get out of here. We don’t want you here.”
What I’m trying to say is that this was an outrageous act. This is scandalous how offensive this is. This is the Son of God! You don’t treat the son of God this way. And if you understand this rightly, you will understand why James and John ask to torch the place. “Do you want us to call down fire from heaven? These scum do not deserve to live! Let us give them a little taste of the hell they deserve!”
Don’t forget that there is some biblical precedent for this too. Some of your versions will even include the words, “Do you want us to call down fire as Elijah did?” Back in 2 Kings we read about a time when the wicked king of Samaria told a captian to take 50 of his men down to Elijah and demand that he come to meet the king. In other words, “If he doesn’t come willingly, make him come!” So the Captain comes and says, “Man of God, come down!” And Elijah says, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you.” In other words, far be it for you to treat a prophet of God this way—with such an inhospitable spirit!
So James and John are here saying, “Jesus, they are treating you with even more contempt than they treated Elijah! This shouldn’t be! Let’s teach them a little lesson with some pyrotechnics!”
And how does Jesus respond? He rebukes them! And some of you will have, “You don’t know what manner of spirit you are. The Son of man did not come to destroy people’s lives, but to save them.”
Do you see the restraint that Jesus has? Don’t get me wrong. I think that James and John are filled with righteous indignation. They ought to be torqued, and I don’t doubt that Jesus is offended at what these Samaritans have done. But Jesus hadn’t come to consign people to hell. His mission was to save them.
He was on his way to Jerusalem. He was on his way to the cross so that he might be the one who had the fiery indignation of God fall upon himself.
Don’t get me wrong. Our God is a consuming fire. And the Bible says that for the enemies of God there is only “a fearful judgment and raging fire.” But we should also recognize that there is only one way to escape the wrath and curse of God. It is only through him who gave himself up to appease that wrath.
I hope you see how this reveals his love. It is one thing to run through a fire. There are some people who have that kind of determination. They can endure all kinds of opposition; their demeanor is such that they can have such determination that they can walk through a battlefield. They are just have that kind of fiery disposition. But most who do that are not the kind of people that can show this kind of restraint.
I would assume that most of us here, if we were in Jesus’ shoes, wouldn’t you side with James and John. If you were treated this way and were outraged at how these people showed you such contempt, would you be as calm as Jesus? I would assume you would at least bad mouth them a little.
But Jesus doesn’t do that. The only people he gets angry with is his disciples. And once he puts them right he simply moves on to the next town. He restrains his anger; he holds back his outrage. And the only thing that can explain that is that he loves them and wants to allow them a chance to come to a state of repentance.
You know, he is demonstrating that same restraint right at this minute. As long as you have breath, he offers you mercy. This despite the fact that you provoke him daily with your sin. He should wipe you from the face of the earth. But he doesn’t. In his great love, he is offering you time to see the error of your ways and get right with him.
All through the Scripture you hear a refrain repeated: “He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” We are currently doing a study in the Prophets in our Sunday evening home group. While looking at each of the prophets we’ve been amazed at the sins that the nation of Israel amassed. The things they did to provoke the Lord; the sins that they committed, sometimes it is just mind boggling. At times you can’t help but think, why did he put up with that? The only answer can be found in the words of the prophets when they say: He is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.
I believe that is their way of saying, “He loves you with a crazy love.”
One of the books that we have studied so far is that of Hosea. Hosea was the prophet who was told to go marry a prostitute. And the story is about how Hosea’s wife goes off and commits adultery. You know, I was thinking about this after our study: that woman, according to OT law, should have been put to death. The penalty in the OT for adultery was death. Why is it that Hosea didn’t do that? I would suspect that it was simply because he loved her too much.
Of course, that fits the analogy. God put off his judgment of his people because he loved them too much.
I hope you see how radical his love really is. I hope that it would even inspire you to love him in return.
Maybe it would move you to do something crazy, like become one of his disciples. That is perhaps the wackiest thing a person could ever do. Saying to yourself that I am going to leave my current way of living and devote myself to Jesus and to his word—that is not a thing that “normal” people do. Normal people go on about their lives seeking their own desires and pursuing their own course of life. There are even some people who say that being a Christian is a sign of mental illness.
I don’t think that is true. But to the world, it certainly seems like a crazy thing to do.
In this passage, Jesus demonstrates clearly the fact that he had come to fulfill his mission—he was intent on purchasing your salvation and offering unto sinners like us life and salvation. And this passage is here to remind you that he loved you enough to give his life for you.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.