I was struck today to read that there was a specific moment at which Jesus began to tell his disciples the end of his plan, the end of his time on earth. Jesus knew that his end would come by suffering and by being killed, and he began to predict his death to his disciples.
But I realized that he started telling his disciples at a specific moment. Here is what Jesus said:
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.Matthew 16:21
But what was that time that was “From that time on…”? Jesus chose the moment at which Peter and the disciples recognized Jesus to be the Messiah to be “that time” from which he would start telling his disciples that he would suffer and be put to death.
So, it would be a little like Jesus was saying:
Great news! You’ve now figured out who I am! Yes, you are right, Peter. You are blessed because this wasn’t revealed to you by any man, but instead by my Father in heaven.
Now, let me explain something else to you… I’m about to go suffer and die, and then I will be raised to life again.
And what is more, if you are my disciple, you will have to carry a cross just like me. My disciples produce fruit by losing their life, leaving their old life behind, and instead take on my life. This is what it means to be my follower.
Whew… that’s pretty heavy. Just as soon as the disciples figure out that Jesus is the Messiah, he starts saying that he is going to die. No wonder Peter stood up to say that it would never happen that Jesus would die under his watch. Peter thought that for Jesus to be the Messiah would mean, just as the Jews have always – and to this day – thought it meant, that the Messiah would be a political leader and lead the Jews out from underneath the tyrrany of the Romans.
But this isn’t at all what Jesus was saying, and he wanted to make that perfectly clear to his disciples. He wanted them to understand, now that it was understood that he was the Messiah, what it meant for him to be the Messiah. It meant that he was establishing a whole new Kingdom and purchasing people for his Kingdom with his blood. Not with a sword, power, and might, but by bringing people into his Kingdom with mercy, love, and grace through forgiveness for their sins, if only they would believe and have faith in him.
In fact, Jesus tells them clearly something that should have definitely piqued their interest. He said, “and on the third day be raised to life”.
Shouldn’t that be an interesting comment to take note of? Shouldn’t we understand what Jesus was doing in a different light? I would think so because most people who are killed aren’t raised again to life. Jesus is clearly doing something new. He is obviously not getting ready to go to war with the Romans. He is going to war with death, and he is saying that he is going to win.
Jesus knew that the Jewish leaders hated him already. He also knew that the Romans were the only rule of law that could actually kill him, at least legally, so they would also be involved. Now, he is explaining to the disciples that they would all be used in God’s plan for the Messiah to be put to death so that he would take on the punishment for the sins of all men. He would take the punishment that he didn’t deserve so that these men wouldn’t have to be punished but instead would receive grace and mercy instead of God’s wrath for their disobedience and sin.
But in the end, God would win. Jesus would return to life and be raised again. He wouldn’t stay dead in the grave. He would be raised to life again, defeating death and the grave, the same hope that each of the disciples would have, and the same hope that is available to each of us as well.