“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51, ESV)
The starting point for meditating on the crucifixion of Jesus in the narrow sense would be when He arrives in Bethany six days before the Passover (John 12:1). In the broad sense, however, the starting point must be reckoned here in Luke 9:51. There are several major turning points, or thresholds of great transition, within the narrative of the gospels as a whole. This is the final one and arguably the most dramatic. On the Mount of Transfiguration a couple of months before, Moses and Elijah had spoken with Jesus of His departure (Luke 9:31). The latter does not refer to His death, but rather to His ascension, as verse 51 makes clear. Jesus knew where He came from and He knew where He was going (John 8:14). As Jesus was taking the first steps toward His crucifixion, the certainty of His glorious return to the heavenly temple was before Him (cf. John 6:62, Heb 8:1-2)
The moment now in view occurred approximately six months before the death of Jesus. He had not been to Jerusalem for over a year, having chosen not to attend the Passover that occurred in proximity to the feeding of the five thousand. Yet from here in late September to early April the following Spring He would visit the city three times. Matthew and Mark provide a brief account of the days Jesus spent in Capernuam following the Mount of Transfiguration which preceded this scene, but then fall silent until Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem when He would lay down His life. Luke, on the other hand, devotes an enormous section of his gospel (approx. 9:51- 18:17) to describing what occurred during these precious months. And while three times Luke says that Jesus went to Jerusalem (9:51, 13:22, 17:12), only the gospel of John records what actually happened during the first two visits for the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication.
It was for the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus now set out from Capernaum to attend. From this point forward, Jesus would never again minister in Galilee. His focus would be exclusively on the regions of Judea and Perea to the south. Jesus set His face and He set His course, and nothing would ever be the same…