and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up."Matthew 20:19(NASB)
As Christ's ministry speeded towards His death, so His teachings became more urgent as He set about preparing the hearts of His followers for His forthcoming crucifixion and glorious Resurrection on the third day. For three years, Jesus and His disciples had been teaching the gospel of the kingdom to Israel. Jesus came to set up His kingdom on earth. He was the King of Israel. He was the Ruler of the universe. He was the Stone cut without hands that would crush the kingdoms of the world. He was great David's greater Son Who came in David's royal line to heal the broken-hearted and set the captive free. He came to put an end to sin, as Daniel prophesied, and to bring in everlasting righteousness.
Jesus was the promised Messiah - the Christ, the Son of the living God, and the disciples had their eyes on the positions they hoped to secure in His kingdom. They felt that they had travelled with Him from the beginning and having endured the heat of many days, were looking forward, with great expectation, to receiving elevated positions in His forthcoming kingdom, about which prophets of old foretold.
But as Jesus would reveal to Pontius Pilate, His kingdom was not of this world system. His kingdom would smash in pieces all earthly kingdoms for His was to be a kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace. But His kingdom would come in God's and in His timing. And so, Jesus started to prepare their hearts for His coming passion and as they travelled up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, He warned them of what was to come: "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes. They will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge, and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again."
Jesus clearly outlined the fate that awaited Him, for He knew that He would be rejected by His Jewish brethren. It had been foretold by Isaiah that He would be despised and rejected of men - a Man of sorrows and united with grief - for He was to be the true Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God Who would take away the sin of the world. Every Passover, from Israel's redemption from Egypt, pointed to this very day - but the disciples did not comprehend what He told.
He would be betrayed by one who walked with them on this very journey to Jerusalem. He would be betrayed by one of His closest friends who would hand Him over to the chief priests and scribes and be delivered to the Gentiles to be crucified. He would be mocked and beaten, scourged and spat upon. He would be falsely accused and ridiculed mercilessly. He would be led as a lamb to the slaughter, and yet His disciples appeared oblivious to Christ's terrible prediction and the shock-horror that was soon to overtake them all.
Jesus told them all these things as they walked along the way towards Jerusalem, but they were more interested in who would be seated at His right hand in His kingdom and missed the meaning of so many of His parables and teachings that were designed to prepare their hearts for the amazing gospel of grace - that God so loved the world that He gave His only son to die, that whosoever believed on Him would be saved - that He came as the sacrificial Lamb of God to redeem the world from Satan's iron grip and sins stifling stranglehold.
Luke adds to Matthew's account by telling us that "they understood none of these things," for their eyes were not yet open to the truth of God's Word and their ears were clogged up with their own, narrow human understanding. Everything that Jesus related to His disciples on their journey was prophesied in Old Testament Scriptures. And they would discover that everything Jesus told them turned out to be exactly as He had said.
Jesus had to die for our sin for there was no other Man Who was good enough to pay the price of sin. The future hope and eternal redemption of every pre-Cross saint and all post Cross believers rested on the one, pivotal point in the history of the world about which Jesus was speaking, when the eternal Son of God would die for our sin and become our Kinsman-Redeemer, as He shed His blood on Calvary's Cross.
It is easy for us to look back to that journey to Jerusalem and condemn Christ's chosen apostles for failing to understand the enormity of the information He shared with them, and the significance of His death, burial, and Resurrection on the third day. But before we point a finger of accusation, perhaps we need to reflect on the times when we have misunderstood His Word or failed to comprehend what He was desiring to teach us. Perhaps we should be ready and willing to take up our own Cross, daily, and follow Him - trusting His Word, even when we do not understand.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word, and that You have told us the end from the beginning. O Lord, what love You had for that little band of disciples as You told them what would happen to You. And how little they understood at that time. Lord, open my eyes and my understanding to You. May I spend the rest of my life and on into eternity, thanking You and praising You for Your great love for me, when You were mocked, and flogged, and crucified. And praise Your name, O Lord, that the grave could not hold You and You rose to life on the third day, just as You said. Hallelujah! Praise my Saviour! AMEN.