When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.  They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.
It’s really hard to lose a loved one. That’s probably an understatement. It’s gut wrenching. It’s heart breaking. It hurts like nothing else. It brings even the strongest to tears. Even if we know that they have gone to be with the Lord, it can still be deeply traumatising for those of us left behind. It just hurts. Really hurts.
In today’s reading, Jesus, for the second time in Matthew’s Gospel, predicts his death. Even under normal circumstances this would no doubt have been hard for his closest friends to bear. But the particular circumstances in which Jesus says he will die are deeply unsettling. He will be delivered into the hands of men and they will kill him. This is not a “normal” death, from sickness or from old age. This is not even a tragic accident. This is a violent death at the hands of his enemies.
Jesus’ disciples must have been deeply shocked by this revelation. If they accepted that he was the Messiah, the last thing they would have expected would be for him to be killed. According to their expectations, the Messiah would be a triumphant king who would lead his people to victory. A brutal death at the hands of his enemies was definitely not what they expected to happen to their Messiah.
The reaction of the disciples is completely understandable. I’m not surprised that they were filled with grief.
The revelations don’t even begin there, though. Look again at that first part of Jesus’ statement here. “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” This is a clear foreshadowing of his betrayal. Someone is going to hand him over to his enemies. Being delivered suggests that someone whom he knows and trusts is going to hand him over to the people who will kill him. This is deeply shocking.
I wonder if the disciples grasped the enormity of what Jesus was saying? It looked like one of them was going to be responsible setting in motion the chain of events that would lead to Jesus’ execution.
Jesus is making it clear that he is going to die. What’s more, he’s going to suffer a brutal death at the hands of his enemies. And as if that were not enough, his death will be precipitated by a betrayal by someone close to him.
It’s not surprising that the disciples were filled with grief. I expect they were stunned to the point of despair.
Sometimes if someone tells you bad news you’re so overcome that you don’t hear what they say next.
I wonder if the disciples heard what Jesus said next?
“On the third day he will be raised to life.”
For Jesus his execution is not the end. He will beat death. Death will not be able to hold him. Death will be defeated.
And Jesus will be raised to life!
What’s more, Jesus’ resurrection foreshadows what will also be true for all of Jesus’ followers.
If we put our hope in Christ, we too will be raised for life!
That is remarkable!
I feel a little sorry for the disciples here. It feels as if they’re the only ones who don’t know what’s going on. Jesus has a clear understanding of his own fate: betrayal, execution, resurrection. We are in the fortunate position that we also know what will happen to Jesus. But the poor disciples have no idea. It’s not surprising that they were troubled.
Jesus, though, understands the mission that lies before him. He knows that he has been sent by his father to take the punishment for our sin. He has been sent to bear God’s wrath, the wrath that would consign us to eternal damnation if we were forced to bear it. He has been sent to defeat death, to defeat the grave, by rising to new life after his physical death. He has been sent to be the first to ascend to heaven. He has been sent to open the prospect of heaven for us – if we accept his death and resurrection, and seek to follow him.
The disciples were filled with grief by the prospect of the death of their friend. But that’s because they didn’t grasp the full significance of his sacrificial action. Death would not be the end for him; he would rise to new life on the third day. And by doing so he paves the way for them, and for all who believe, to also draw comfort that death is not the end; we too will be raised to new life.
And that’s quite a revelation!