On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus makes three predictions of His coming suffering, death, and resurrection. The first of those is found in Matthew 16:21, while Jesus is in Caesarea Philippi. The second prediction is in Matthew 17:22-23, while Jesus and His disciples are in Galilee on the way to Jerusalem. And the third prediction is a few chapters later in Matthew 20:17-19 as Jesus and His disciples draw close to Jerusalem.
Each of these predictions begins with Jesus promising that suffering will come. He says, “the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men” (Matthew 17:22).
This word “delivered” has the sense of being handed over or entrusted. That can have a good meaning, such as someone delivering us a gift and handing it over to us. But there is a darker sense of this word that sometimes has the sense of being betrayed. There are hints here that someone will be instrumental in handing Jesus over to the authorities. There are perhaps even hints toward the eventual role that Judas will serve as a disciple betraying Jesus. Regardless, the deliverance Jesus references here is not a pleasant word but a painful word.
Not only that, but Jesus says He will be condemned to die. In Matthew 20, Jesus offers the most information of any of the predictions, describing in great detail the suffering yet to come. He says, “the chief priests and the teachers of the law…will condemn him to death” (Matthew 20:18). While everyone already knew these religious authorities didn’t like Jesus, it may have been surprising to hear how far Jesus says they would go to be rid of Him.
Even more, Jesus says these religious leaders will hand Jesus “over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified” (Matthew 20:19). “The Gentiles” literally means the nations, but here refers to the occupying power of the Romans. This would have been beyond comprehension for the disciples. They had recently rightly identified Jesus as the Messiah and Son of the Living God. Now He describes a way of being the Messiah that seems totally at odds with their expectations. How could it be that the Messiah would save humanity when He would end up suffering and dying…at the hands of the Gentiles!!
How could this be? What reason could there be within this prediction of Jesus? Why must Jesus suffer in such a confusing way?
Why was it? It was because Jesus had come to bring salvation to the world. He was sent to bring life in the midst of the death caused by sin and evil. The only way He could bring victory over sin and death was to enter into its darkness and come out the other side of that tunnel. He would be mocked and His physical body would be beaten and crucified. As Isaiah 53 speaks of the Messiah, “by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Jesus brought hope, but that hope could only come after the darkness tried to snuff it out.
Praise God for what we read about Jesus in John 1:4-5:
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)