What Jesus Teaches Us About Focus

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51).

This seemingly obscure line is the watershed in Luke’s Gospel concerning Jesus. There came a time when Jesus set out resolutely towards Jerusalem. From this point in the narrative to his resurrection and ascension, everything is depicted as a journey to Jerusalem.

“… because he was heading for Jerusalem” (9:53)

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way …” (10:38)

“… as he made his way to Jerusalem.” (13:22)

“In any case, I must press on … Jerusalem (13:33)

“Now on his way to Jerusalem …” (17:11)

“We are going up to Jerusalem …” (18:31)

“…because he was near Jerusalem …” (19:11)

“… he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.” (19:28)

“As he approached Jerusalem …” (19:41)

Jerusalem will be the epicenter of Jesus’ mission. Luke tells us “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” He will not be distracted. The Jesus before the Jerusalem journey is a little different from the Jesus on the Jerusalem journey. The clarity and focus on Jerusalem does not allow for any distraction.

The distraction of alternate locations

The immediate response to this Jerusalem journey is rejection. He sends disciples ahead to a Samaritan village and the people reject him. Why? “The people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.” (9:53). They would be very happy if Jesus tells them the place of fulfillment is in Samaria. They reject Jesus on account of his destination being Jerusalem, but Jesus remains steadfast.

I am not saying this implying any criticism on you. We had unanimous agreement to move to where we can serve the Lord even better. Our Jerusalem is where we can engage even more in the mission of Jesus our Lord. We are not fixated on one property/location, but we are fixed on the mission that Jesus gave us. We can rightly rejoice in our unanimous agreement on the mission. What I am saying is that we need to be aware of the distraction of alternatives. Once we have settled on a mission, we should focus on it.

The distraction of good

Jesus says to one, “‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’ You sure you want to follow me?” Another man says to Jesus he needs to bury his father first before following Jesus, but Jesus says, “Let the dead bury the dead.” Another says, “First let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replies, “No one who puts his hands on the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62).

Any way you want to cut it, Jesus appears unreasonably demanding. He does not make the same type of demands elsewhere, and people try to explain away why he is so demanding, but forget the occasion. Jesus is heading for Jerusalem. It is now or never. Whereas at other times, we read of God’s patience with us, here we see Jesus’s focus on Jerusalem.

We will have the distraction of personal issues. We need to learn from Jesus, that when there is a Jerusalem to be seized, we must set aside many personal concerns that may be legitimate at other times. We see this regularly in life. Sitting down with family and friends for a meal or a drink and a leisurely chat is a wonderful blessing. But that is not the right attention when someone is dying and needs our immediate attention.

There is nothing wrong with having a place to lay your head. There is nothing wrong with burying the dead. There is nothing wrong with saying goodbye to our family. But there is an urgency of Jerusalem in the life of Jesus that will not wait for these good things.

The greatest enemy of great is good. It is the good things that keep us from the great thing. And there can come a time in life when we must reject the good to seize the great. This is a time to deny ourselves the blessings of good to seize the great. The Lord’s work requires haste, and the time has come for us to hasten to obey him.

The distraction of rejection

Another passage that puzzles Christians is when Jesus tells his disciples “…when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you.’” (Luke 10:10-12). This is followed by curses on Chorazin and Bethsaida (Luke 10:13-15). Yet in most other places, we see God’s incredible patience.

Jesus’s instruction to his disciples to reject those who reject him, and his curse on the two towns should be understood in light of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. There is no more time. The time for judgment is at hand. (The Jewish nation will be conquered and Jerusalem will be destroyed in AD 70). Jesus faces rejection in certain towns, but they will not detain him or his disciples. He no longer pauses for them. They need to repent now! Tomorrow is too late.

Jesus calls for disciples up to a point. When that point is reached. There is a final call, but he will not be detained by their rejection. “God is not willing that any should perish” and the return of Jesus is not immediate because he is waiting for the repentance of those who do not yet know Jesus. But there will come a time when he returns and at that time, there is no more waiting.

Brethren, we have heeded God’s call. We have become conscious of the end of our lease here. We have grown while we are here. We see we can obey Jesus even better if we reposition ourselves. Our community in agreement is the amazing work of the Holy Spirit to unite our hearts.

At the same time, we must not be surprised if we face rejection. I am confident even if some reject in their hearts, they will eventually see the blessing. We just need to remind ourselves that a rejection or two, should it come, must not distract us from the opportunity to obey Jesus more fully in his Great Commission to us.

Our Jerusalem

Our Jerusalem is to serve Jesus our Lord even better. To extend our ministry from worship to children, youth, and singles; to extend our reach to the community around us. Our Jerusalem is to do the best with the resources God has provided us. And when we put this mix together, we see the opportunity open up for us in Yishun.

There is a greater blessing waiting for us. We were blessed with Sophia, blessed with our current location, and there is a Jerusalem from which we will receive greater blessing – if we will stay focused and not be distracted.

The time for action is upon us. Action, not distraction. Focus, not fuzziness. Faith, not fear.

Pastor Peter Eng

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