Wednesday, April 6
Reader: “Listen, we’re going up to Jerusalem,”
Response: “where all the predictions of the prophets concerning the Son of Man will come true.”
Scripture: Luke 18:31-34
Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus said, “Listen, we’re going up to Jerusalem, where all the predictions of the prophets concerning the Son of Man will come true. He will be handed over to the Romans, and he will be mocked, treated shamefully, and spit upon. They will flog him with a whip and kill him, but on the third day he will rise again.”
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.
Put yourself in the place of one of the twelve disciples. The miracle working rabbi you’ve been traveling with for the last three years has just told you again what is about to happen in the next few days. This is the fourth time Jesus has given this message to his disciples. (Luke records them 9:22, 44-45; 17:25; 18:31-34) Where in his previous warnings he simply said he would be killed and handed over to the authorities, here he gives a more detailed account as to what will occur.
In previous trips to Jerusalem, Jesus had not been well received. In fact, he left to avoid being stoned to death on an earlier occasion. You notice Jesus did not put this trip up for a vote. He said simply, “We’re going to Jerusalem where all the words of the prophets will be fulfilled.” And what are those words? The Son of Man, the Messiah, will be mocked, treated disgracefully, spit upon, flogged mercilessly, and killed. But he will overcome death and rise on the third day. Such a description seems pretty clear to us. How could you as a disciple not understand? Let’s look at your Jewish Old Testament understanding of the Messiah. You know it well.
The Messiah, the Son of Man, will come defeat all the nations and establish an eternal kingdom on earth. (cf. Daniel 7:13-14; Isaiah 9:6,7) Israel will again be restored to its greatness as in the days of King David. The Messiah will be the benevolent glorious King fulfilling God’s covenant with David. You believe Jesus to be that Messiah. In fact, you’ve heard Jesus refer to himself as the Son of Man many, many times. So as you all head up to Jerusalem this time, you have great anticipation that this is finally it! Jesus will take on the Romans, crush them and establish his kingdom for good. You are ready to fight for him. (E.g. Peter pulling his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane.)
You can perhaps see, as one of his disciples, why the words of Jesus concerning what was going to happen to him would not compute in your mind. They simply do not make sense to you when applied to the Messiah. You may have looked at Isaiah 53 and interpreted that chapter, as did many rabbis, concerning the “suffering servant” as referring to the nation of Israel. At any rate, what Jesus had just said to you made no sense in your mind. Jesus’ words, however, were so odd that they did stick in your mind.
Following his resurrection, the disciples were still asking the question if Jesus was going to set up his kingdom now. (Acts 1:6) It took until Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit for them to finally grasp how Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter fulfilled God’s glorious plan of redemption and reconciliation for all peoples on earth. They then understood those odd words of Jesus on their journey to Jerusalem some two months previous. They saw anew how the events Jesus foretold underscored his love and commitment to do his Father’s will. Now those words that stuck in your mind made sense!
Are there some things for us in this pericope? Sometimes we do not grasp what God is doing. His ways are not our ways. We tend to see two minutes ahead, he sees all of eternity “ahead!” He is trustworthy even when what he does or says doesn’t make sense to us. His ways work out for his glory, though his ways are not without pain and suffering at times. Can we trust when we don’t understand? Look at the contrast between Jesus setting up Israel as a kingdom and defeating the Roman occupation versus dying, paying the penalty for all the sin in the whole world forever and making it possible for every person who has ever lived to spend all of eternity in the presence of God! Always go with God’s plan!
Music: “Hallelujah Chorus” Handel Sydney Philharmonic Choirs Sydney Opera House A refreshing interpretation of this most loved chorus.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou seest us laboring under so much weakness, with our minds so blinded that our faith falters at things we can’t understand or explain, grant, that by the power of thy Spirit we may be raised up above this world and learn more and more to renounce our own counsels, and so to come to thee, that we may stand fixed in our watch tower, ever hoping through thy power, for whatever thou hast promised us, though thou shouldest not immediately make it manifest to us. May we be faithful until we see thee face to face when we shall wonder no more. Amen.
―John Calvin from Devotions and Prayers of John Calvin, p.71, adapted Daniel Sharp