Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
In the last few posts, the scenes have taken place on the road to Jerusalem; this scene takes place in the final stages of their journey. It would probably have been a festive atmosphere on the road with the pilgrims headed for Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, as Jesus takes the disciples aside to have a serious conversation. In looking at it, please notice the stark contrast between this, and their previous discussion about rewards; ask yourself about the frame of mind of the disciples… Interestingly, the next scene is also about rewards; why is everybody thinking about their rewards?
The text doesn’t explicitly answer that question, but a safe guess would be that they still haven’t quite grasped His messianic mission in Jerusalem, for it would appear that everyone is thinking that He will go into the City, step up as the new Davidic king, and boot the Romans out, restoring Israel to its former glory… and the disciples would have the inside track to positions in the new kingdom of Israel. In our text, Jesus is trying for the third time to correct this error in their thinking.
Unlike the first two predictions of His death in 16:21 and 17:22, this time Jesus speaks in the first person, in fact, in the first person plural “we” bringing the disciples into the picture themselves. Even more ominous is His explicitness in the prediction: He will be condemned by official Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles, mocked, flogged and crucified; this is not at all abstract or requiring interpretation or discernment on the part of the disciples, it is as direct as it could be. They are certainly not heading into the city for a party!
Notice that once again, the prediction ends on a hopeful note, for Jesus is there to do the Father’s will, and will not be gone forever, instead being raised from the dead on the third day.
Interestingly, this time Matthew doesn’t comment on their reaction; there seems to have been an interruption…