As they were meeting in Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” And they were deeply distressed.
Have you been to the movies lately? I enjoy a good film, and there are few genres of film that draw people into the cinema like a good hero movie.
Last year, Hollywood gave us The Avengers (because sometimes one superhero isn’t enough) and the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series. Both were box office hits. The appeal of the hero is nothing new and has been celebrated in literature and the arts for as long as there have been both.
One thing every hero needs is a nemesis, and no hero story that’s very good can be without that moment when all seems lost, when it seems that the hero might have met his or her match. Batman’s back has been broken by Bane and the six Avengers face an alien army of thousands.
But in the movies, the hero always wins out in the end. The nemesis is vanquished, and the credits roll.
Our passage today finds us in the middle of the story of the Hero of heroes, Jesus Christ. But this isn’t fiction. And for the disciples, it’s real life. They don’t have the advantage, as we do, of knowing how the story plays out.
So when Jesus says, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him,” the disciples are deeply confused and fearful.
Jesus’ prediction of His death was such an outrageous claim to them because it didn’t fit with their understanding. First-century Judaism had a notion of the Messiah. He’d come to save Israel and restore to them the Promised Land, and when Jesus arrived on the scene, that meant dealing with Rome.
Jesus had already challenged the common notion of the Messiah, but the idea that the Messiah would be killed by the hands of men simply didn’t compute.
If that wasn’t enough, Jesus went on to say that after death “he will be raised on the third day.” Again, resurrection wasn’t a foreign concept for most first-century Jews. Although, the Sadducees denied a resurrection (see Matthew 22:23, Mark 12:18-27, and Acts 23:8).
But the resurrection, as it was understood in those days, was the resurrection at the end of the age (see John 11:24). (It’s worth noting that the raising of Lazarus in John 11 has most likely not happened yet.) So, after this statement, one almost has the idea that the disciples were looking at each other with utter confusion on their face.
It seems that one (probably Peter) would say, “Jesus, you aren’t making any sense at all.” Peter indeed does say this in a way in Matthew 16.21.
But of course Jesus was making sense, and was very intentional about what he was saying. In this account recorded in all three synoptic Gospels, Jesus invited His disciples to a deep level of trust that transcended understanding and superseded their notions of how things should’ve been. What’s implied here is Jesus’ sovereignty over the whole situation.
Jesus could stop His death from happening with 10,000 angels, but He wouldn’t do so because He came to fulfill the purposes of the Father. Though they wouldn’t understand Jesus’ words until much later, He invited them to trust Him even though what He said didn’t make much sense.
That same invitation is open to us. In some cases, Christ calls us to something that, to us, doesn’t make sense. Other times, it’s difficult to make sense of what’s happening in our lives. The disciples experienced both of these.
Being told by Jesus that He’d be killed didn’t make sense, and they also had a difficult time when those words came true. But then He rose on the third day. And looking back, I’m sure the disciples wondered how they could’ve doubted.
So it is with us. We’re called to trust Christ even when things get difficult and don’t make sense because He’s sovereign.
“Trust in the lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths” (Proverbs 3.5-6, emphasis added).
- Sometimes in life, things happen that defy our notion of how things should be and we simply don’t understand. Can you trust Jesus even though life isn’t making sense?
- Our worries and fears trap us, what freedom might there be in trusting Jesus in these situations?
- Think about all the times that Jesus has come through in the end, though you didn’t see how.
- If He has been faithful in the past, what reason do you have to think He will not continue to be faithful?
Lord, we confess that sometimes we feel like You don’t make much sense, and we don’t understand. Give us hearts of flesh, not of stone, hearts that trust You and stand firm on Your sovereignty over our lives and Your love for us. In the holy name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.