31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. – Luke 18:31-34 ESV
For quite some time, Jesus has been hinting at the fate that awaits Him in Jerusalem. He has repeatedly tried to let His discloses know that His earthly mission was going to end in an unexpected manner.
“The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” – Luke 5:35 ESV
He had a God-ordained assignment to complete that would end in His brutal crucifixion rather than a royal coronation.
“I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” – Luke 12:50 ESV
And as He drew ever closer to Jerusalem, the day of His death drew nearer as well. So, His rhetoric became increasingly less cryptic.
“I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” – Luke 13:33 ESV
“For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” – Luke 17:24-25 ESV
But now, Jesus dispenses with any semblance of subtlety, choosing instead to reveal the exact nature of His pending suffering and death. He hides nothing from His disciples because He wants them to know that while His entrance into Jerusalem would be met with fanfare, it would end with His execution and not His exaltation.
“the Son of Man…will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him. they will kill him…“ – Luke 18:32-33 ESV
Up to this point, everything Jesus had disclosed to His disciples had been tied to life in the kingdom of heaven. He had been trying to get them to understand that things were not going to be as they expected. While they believed Him to be the Messiah, they were defining the term according to their own standards. In their minds, the Messiah would be a conquering king. He would come with power and set up His kingdom in Jerusalem, from where He would rule and reign, placing Israel back in a position of political prominence. But here was Jesus, once again, announcing that His journey to Jerusalem would end with a cross, not a crown. And His death would be the direct result of His betrayal into the hands of the Jewish religious leaders, who would condemn Him to death. Rather than welcome Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah, they would hand Him over to the Roman government to be mocked, flogged and crucified.
While we know how this story turned out, the disciples did not. They were oblivious to the “good news” associated with Jesus’ death. In fact, it seems evident that they never grasped what Jesus meant when He indicated that he would “be raised on the third day.” The reality of the resurrection escaped them. All they heard was the shockingly bad news regarding Jesus’ death. And, as before, this news left them dazed and confused.
What is truly amazing is all that they had missed. As God-fearing Jews, each of these men had been raised to revere the Hebrew Scriptures, which included the writings of the prophets. They had been exposed to the countless Old Testament passages that predicted the coming of the Messiah, but like all those who came before them, they had conveniently ignored the Scriptures that foretold of the Messiah as the suffering servant.
So, when Jesus informs His disciples that “everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished” (Luke 18:31 ESV), suffering is the last thing to come into their mind. As far as they understood, the prophets had promised the arrival of a conquering king who would defeat the enemies of Israel much as King David had done. But Jesus had already warned them that His mission was going to be much different than that of David.
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” – Luke 9:22 ESV
Even in the upper room where Jesus celebrated His last Passover with the disciples, He told them: “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment” (Luke 22:37 ESV). And the Scripture Jesus referred to is found in the 53rd chapter of the book of Isaiah the prophet. All throughout this chapter, Isaiah predicted the suffering of the coming Messiah in graphic terms.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… – Isaiah 53:3 ESV
…he was despised, and we esteemed him not. – Isaiah 53:3 ESV
…he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted. – Isaiah 53:4 ESV
…he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities… – Isaiah 53:5 ESV
…upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5 ESV
…the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:6 ESV
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. – Isaiah 53:7 ESV
By oppression and judgment he was taken away… – Isaiah 53:8 ESV
…he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people… – Isaiah 53:8 ESV
…they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth. – Isaiah 53:9 ESV
…it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief… – Isaiah 53:10 ESV
Not exactly a description of glory and greatness. And most certainly, it was not at all what the disciples had been anticipating. Yet, even after His death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and reminded them that exactly what happened had been in keeping with the words of the prophets.
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” – Luke 24:44-48 ESV
On this occasion, after having been raised back to life through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus continued to teach His disciples that this was all part of God’s preordained plan. He had not been an innocent victim of the Jewish religious leaders or the passive subject of the Roman legal system. He had been in full control of the circumstances and in perfect submission to the will of His Heavenly Father. That is why He could say, “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18 NLT).
But as Jesus and His disciples made their way to Jerusalem and He continued to disclose the gruesome nature of His destiny, they were having a difficult time taking it all in. Luke even indicates that their inability to comprehend His words was divinely orchestrated.
But they didn’t understand any of this. The significance of his words was hidden from them, and they failed to grasp what he was talking about. – Luke 18:34 NLT
For reasons known only to God alone, the disciples were prevented from comprehending the full import of Jesus’ words. And, later on, when they walked by His side into Jerusalem to the cheers of the adoring crowd, they probably assumed that the time had finally arrived when Jesus would set up His earthly kingdom. They believed Him to be only hours away from a crown of gold and the royal throne. But in reality, Jesus would end up adorned with a crown of thorns and nailed to a Roman cross. All in fulfillment of God’s sovereign plan for man’s salvation.
At the moment, none of it made sense to the disciples, but in time, it would.
The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18 NLT
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.