And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
(Matthew 20:17-19 ESV)
With only a couple of weeks left to live, Jesus is going up to Jerusalem in today’s passage.
This was the time of the Passover when many pilgrims would also be making their way to Jerusalem so the roads were likely crowded. At one point on the way Jesus took the twelve disciples aside and told them that He will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes (the Jewish religious leaders) and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles (the occupying Roman government) to be mocked and flogged and crucified. This is the third (and final) time Jesus mentioned His upcoming death to the disciples but this version is the most explicit [Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23].
There are many Bible critics who claim that Jesus tried to launch a coup against Rome but failed and was crucified. If that were the case He displayed very little confidence in Himself prior. He also had no army and no weapons. He simply had a ragtag group of teenagers who (as we’ll see tomorrow) were following Him mainly for their own personal gain. The idea that Jesus was a failed rebel cannot be supported.
Neither can the idea that Jesus manipulated His own death. First, no one would want to intentionally be crucified. Such a person would not be of sound mind. Second, the details of Jesus’ arrest, torture, and crucifixion – which He gives here – debunk such a notion. Jesus knew He would be betrayed (delivered), He knew exactly who would be involved and He knew He would be flogged (not every crucifixion victim was scourged).
Jesus’ death was not the result of some miscalculation or manipulation on His part. He knew exactly what was going to happen to Him and He made it known on three recorded instances. As a small boy Jesus knew He was part of God’s plan [Luke 2:49]. He knew He was going to Jerusalem to be the perfect, innocent sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.
All the pain and suffering Jesus was about to go through were a necessary part of God’s plan that He put into effect in the Garden of Eden when the first sin was committed [Genesis 3:15]. And Jesus, who was with God from the beginning [John 1:2], was well aware of what was going to happen.
The next several days in Jesus’ life were going to be quite tragic. He would suffer much emotional and physical pain. He would hang on a cross bearing the weight of God’s wrath upon every sin of mankind ever committed and ever to be committed.
But He also knew the rest of the story. He knew that He would be raised from the grave on the third day in a triumphal display of God’s victory over sin. His resurrection would make it possible for each and every human being to have their sins forgiven and therefore spend eternity with God in heaven where no sin is allowed.
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