Grace Bible Church Expository Sermon Notes

Jesus Predicts His Death & Resurrection

cf. Matt. 20:17-19
The Lord's Day 3/30/97 AM

When reading the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, we are often struck with His gracious dealings with His Apostles. More than anything else, He compassionately taught them with great patience. In the larger context of Matthew 20:17-28, Jesus had just informed His Apostles concerning His death and resurrection, when they manifested their selfish preoccupation with self-exaltation. This lesson will consider the introductory paragraph.1

Matthew 20:17-19 " And Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside along the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him. And the third day He shall rise again."

This is the third time that Jesus directly informed the twelve, about His coming death and resurrection.2 cf. Mark 10:33-34 and Luke 18:31-33. At first, Jesus informed the twelve concerned His suffering in Jerusalem at the hands of the Jewish Sanhedrin, resulting in His death, from which he would be raised.3 Secondly, Jesus repeated the announcement, with the additional information that this would be by a personal betrayal.4 Now, Jesus added three further details meant to fill out the Apostles understanding of what was soon to come. It was these specific details which should have preoccupied them with His coming death but they didn't. The first detail added concerned the fact that…

A. The Jewish Sanhedrin, would Sentence Him. Up until this time, the disciples were left in the dark as to how Jesus would find His death in Jerusalem at the hands of the Sanhedrin. This is the first mentioning in Matthew's Gospel concerning a Jewish trial, who would condemn Christ to death. The terms chief priests and scribes, are most often used in reference to the Jewish Sanhedrin, i.e., the legislative and judicial government among the Jewish nation. The second detail concerned the fact that…

B. The Jewish Sanhedrin would Deliver Him to the Gentiles. This was knew information, although implied from Jesus' second announcement. cf. Matt. 17:23. Because the Roman powers usually limited Jewish authority in the area of capital punishment, the Jewish Sanhedrin would shift Jesus to Gentile authorities who would "mock and scourge" Jesus, before putting Him to death. The third detail concerned the fact that…

C. The Form of Death would be Crucifixion. No doubt this sent shivers down the spine of the twelve disciples as suddenly they were forced to consider what unthinkable horror awaited Jesus in Jerusalem. This wouldn't be a sudden quick death, like Jewish stoning; but the terrible slow agonizing death upon a Cross of woe! In the annals of human history, no greater suffering than crucifixion has ever been invented. The Medes and the Persians, according to Herodotus (History 1.126; 3.132,159) were the first to employ it on a large scale but the Romans perfected into a science primarily reserving it for capital punishment among the lower classes of slaves, soldiers and insurrectionists. Unlike others, the Romans spared the upper classes and nobility from crucifixion. They developed a way to inflict maximum pain for the longest period of time.5 Many victims hung on the cross for a week, before dying of exhaustion. And the Apostles were suddenly informed that this would be the method by which their Lord would be killed.6 Death by crucifixion included a number of horrible visions of torture! Seneca states (De consolatine ad Marciam 20.3): "I see crosses there, not just of one kind but fashioned in many different ways: Some have their victims with head down toward the ground; some impale their private parts; others stretch out their arms on the crossbeam." Josephus (War 5.11.1; #451) reports that the Roman soldiers under Titus nailed their prisoners in different postures. Occasionally just an upright stake was used, and the condemned's hands were raised vertically and nailed extended above his head…Where a mass crucifixion took place, sometimes a number of criminals were affixed to something resembling a scaffold…a panel of vertical planks.7 It was at this moment that the weight of what was about to take place in Jerusalem fell suddenly on the hearts of the Apostles. William Barclay describes what the twelve were suddenly faced with, as they pondered the unbelievable sufferings awaiting Jesus:

"He was to be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests and scribes; there we see the suffering of the heart broken by the disloyalty of friends. He was to be condemned to death; there we see the suffering of injustice, which is very hard to bear. He was to be mocked by the Romans; there we see the suffering of humiliation and of deliberate insult. He was to be scourged; few tortures in the world compared with the Roman scourge, and there we see the suffering of physical pain. Finally, he was to be crucified; there we see the ultimate suffering of death. It is as if Jesus was going to gather in upon himself every possible kind of physical and emotional and mental suffering that the world could inflict."8 This added information about His coming sufferings and death, was prefaced by a special soberness from the Lord. Mark's Gospel informs us that on this occasion they were amazed and afraid. cf. Mark 10:32. The Lord with quickened pace toward Jerusalem, as if to illustrate His determined purpose to suffer, die and be raised again from the dead, walked ahead of the twelve, causing them to be both "amazed" or astonished and "afraid." They sensed something was happening and captured the emotional tension in the Lord's peculiar actions. Luke's Gospel fills us in on the reaction of the Apostles, one of real confusion. cf. Luke 18:34. They could understand the particulars but wondered about what he was really saying. Evidently, they couldn't face the thought that Jesus was speaking literally about a real physical suffering and real physical crucifixion. Such a horrible thought shifted them into a type of mental and emotional denial!

We notice, that Jesus graciously broke the news to the ones He loved, concerning His coming sufferings and death. He didn't tell them all at once but piece by piece filling them in on details, until finally explaining to them fully what would happen. Jesus knew, that although they wouldn't understand at this moment, they would remember the moment, etched on their heart for all eternity; Jesus knew that the sober occasion would be reflected on by the twelve Apostles over and over again; and Jesus knew that they would fail to grasp the full literal meaning until finally He manifested Himself after His resurrection. What patience! That's just like the Lord, to gradually inform us about spiritual truth as we are able to absorb it. Some things He doesn't tell us until later, when we are ready.9 We are slow to understand and God graciously and patiently, gives us understanding piece by piece, until we understand it and then He adds a little more. Jesus has provided us with a much needed example of gracious patient instruction. cf. 1 Thess. 5:14. Main Idea: Jesus patiently prepared His disciples for the coming jolt of His death and resurrection, finally informing them about the horrible way in which He would die, by being crucified. Although Jesus claimed to rise from the dead this remained only a minor puzzle until the Apostle's witnessed valid proof and then it became central to their Gospel message.

Exploring the Bigger Picture

Recommended Reading:

The Death of the Messiah by Raymond E. Brown (Doubleday, 1994) is a 2 volume work in The Anchor Bible Reference Library, deals with all NT passages relative to the historical death of Christ. Exegetically oriented but good explanations for the English reader.

The Death of Christ by John Owen (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1967) in the famous set of The Works of John Owen, is a theological development of the extent of Jesus' Atonement from one of the best among the Puritans.

Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray (Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955) is a 200 page paperback distilling the reformed view of the Atonement. Outstanding as a brief argument for Limited or Particular Atonement doctrine.

What Should We Do About this Passage?

- Application Recommendations -

Jesus was a master teacher, patiently preparing His disciples for the coming jolt of His death and resurrection. he didn't inform them all at once but step-by-step increased their understanding.

bulletThe Lord instructs us carefully, as we are able to take truth in. Are you patient with the process? Are you satisfied with the broad picture or do you insist on immediate answers to details?
bulletPatience in Bible reading is essential to understanding Scripture. A broad synthesis of reading and reading the Bible systematically is of greater value than a focus on the details. Schedule a systematic Scripture reading program going through the whole Bible twice in 1997. (7-8 chapters each day)

Our children need a synthetic grasp of the Bible, becoming familiar with its content before they study its detailed meaning.

bulletTake the time to guide your children into a daily reading program. For younger children (4-7 years) spend time reading several chapters to them each day in Living Bible; for older children (8-13) assign them personal reading of four chapter daily in NIV; for teens (13-18) assign them personal reading of eight chapters each day in NIV.
bulletOccasionally and informally ask members of the family about their personal Bible reading: content, consistency, questions, etc.

Unless those we disciple are already highly motivated, we should disciple them toward a regular systematic Bible reading program.

bulletFor adults, helping them eliminate other less essential pursuits to develop a regular Bible reading plan is essential. How much TV time each week? How much time reading the newspaper? Etc.
bulletCarving out 30-45 minutes of systematic daily Bible reading should be a major goal within the first 4 months of a discipleship ministry. Insist on this as a minimum with your partner and develop an accountability program between you.

Footnotes

1. Obviously verses 17-19 act as an introduction to the incident of verses 20-28, dealing with Jesus' encouragement to be a servant of others instead of an authority over others. The Lord knowing all things, saw ahead the Apostles quest for authority and so added some significant detail to His previous direct predictions about His coming death in Jerusalem.

2. It is interesting that in all three direct predictions Jesus made concerning His death in Matthew's Gospel, He mentioned the resurrection. cf. Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19. Yet the resurrection remained only an strange puzzle until Christ proved He arose, then it became central to the Gospel message. cf. 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Matt. 28:1-7; Mark 16:2-5; Luke 24:3-4; Acts 2:23-24, 32; 3:15; 10:39-41; 13:30; 17:31; etc. The resurrection proves the validity that God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins!

3. cf. Matthew 16:21, "From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." cf. Mark 8:31 and Luke 9:22. 4 cf. Matthew 17:23 "And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceedingly sorry." cf. Mark 9:31 and Luke 9:44.

4. Our word excruciating comes from two Latin words, meaning "out of the cross," because suffering on the cross was the worst suffering imaginable. Neither the Greek stauros nor the Latin crux suggest two lines crossing each other but refer to a stake to which people could be attached by: impaling, hanging, nailing or tying. But using the stake to impale someone would however kill the victim quickly, eliminating that form of death for Jesus.

5. Death by crucifixion was seldom practiced in Palestine during the time of Christ. According to Josephus, the governor of Syria crucified 2,000 Jews in 4 B.C. and a number during A.D. 44 - 66. cf. Antiquities of the Jews, 17:10; #295. Educated Romans would consider it especially barbarous and talked about it as little as possible. Cicero called it, "a most cruel and disgusting penalty" and said, "The very name cross should not only be far from the body of a Roman citizen, but also from his thoughts, his eyes, and his ears." It was truly an unspeakable horror. cf. Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah (Doubleday, 194), vol. 2, pp. 945-947.

6. Ibid, p. 948. Between the various crucifixion options, the traditional + shape cross offers the best Biblical support, because: Jesus carried the crossbeam to the place of execution, eliminating the X shape; Jesus' title or titulus was placed above His head, eliminating the T shape cross. Regardless, the Apostles imagination should have run wild at all of these horrifying options!

7. cf. William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew (Westminster press, 1975), pp. 227-228. It must be kept in mind that Jesus had not defined the purpose for His coming death, which awaits His statement that the Son of man came…to give His life a ransom for others. cf. Matthew 20:28. In these three predictions, the disciples would be left in the dark concerning its purpose.

8. God's method of instructing men was illustrated through the repeated basic message of the prophets to Israel and summarized in one passage: "Whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand doctrine? Those who are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little." cf. Isaiah 28:9-10.