Grace Bible Church Expository Sermon Notes
Jesus Predicts His Death & Resurrection
cf. Matt. 20:17-19
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
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
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.
Our children need a synthetic grasp of the Bible, becoming familiar with its content before they study its detailed meaning.
Unless those we disciple are already highly motivated, we should disciple them toward a regular systematic Bible reading program.