|Series Theme: Jesus Christ, the Son of God|
|Meditation No. 18|
|Meditation Title: Death|
Mk 9:31,32 He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
There is this strange feature in the accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ that is quite unnerving. It is his clear awareness, no, clear purpose, that said he was going to Jerusalem and there he would die and there he would rise from the dead. Our example verse above is quite specific. As so often, he referred to himself by that prophetic title, Son of Man' which he used many times. We've seen why in past studies. But note how specific he is: he will be betrayed! Someone is going to give up him. This is spoken way before the events of those last two days. He is then going to be killed and, note it clearly, after three days he will rise. Yet, perhaps quite understandably, his followers didn't understand what he meant. I mean, no one willingly talks about being killed, and as for rising again after three days!!!!
Later on he is even more specific: 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, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Mt 16:21). Now he explains that those who oppose him, the chief priests and teachers of the law, will join with the elders and bring this about, but the main points are exactly the same: he will be killed and after three days, rise again. On that occasion, not only do they not understand but Peter is quite outspoken in opposition to this idea: Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you! (Mt 16:22)
On the mount of transfiguration, it is mentioned again: As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead. (Mt 17:9) and then a while later, he repeats it in full content: When they came together in Galilee , he said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed 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. (Mt 17:22,23)
Later it is repeated: Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life! (Mt 20:17-19) This has even more detail. It will be the Jews who initiate it but it will be the Gentiles (the Romans) who will do it. It will be an unpleasant time to say the least crucifixion is said to be the worst possible form of execution, designed to cause the most pain possible, and carried out in full view to exert the maximum of deterrent but he is also going to be mocked and flogged.
Now do you see this, five times it is recorded he warned his disciples that this was going to happen, and as the records show, it was perfectly fulfilled. This raises various points.
First you only talk like this if you are deranged or you are completely in control of your mind and you definitely intend to do it. Everything else about the accounts of the closing weeks and months of Jesus ministry, show him completely in control and of full and sound mind. There is not even a hint that he is getting depressed or negative. He keeps on healing people and he keeps on teaching. His ministry continues unabated.
The second thing to note is that this is not like speaking about committing suicide because he is saying that others will put him to death. He is speaking about how others will respond to him and how they will eventually rise up and kill him. Now if you are aware that you are likely to be upsetting people to this extent, you do not hang around to be killed, unless you want to be! Some have suggested that perhaps he is seeking to provoke his followers into a violent uprising but right up to the end they don't believe it will happen and can't understand it. Apart from Peter's hacking off the servant's ear in the Garden of Gethsemane, there is no sign or indication of any strong feeling about all this in the disciples. They seem almost in denial as we probably would have been in their shoes. No, there is no idea of provoking an uprising in all this.
Now this brings us to the great mystery for the seeker. Why should Jesus Christ allow himself to be arrested, falsely tried, and crucified, when it is so obvious that he was completely aware of the danger, aware of the probability, aware of what was definitely going to happened if he proceeded on his course into Jerusalem? The human answer HAS to be that he had a death wish, but why when it flies in the face of all the other evidence that is needing to be seen in such a person. Nothing about him in those closing weeks and months fits the profile of a person with a death wish!
The one thing that we have almost missed so far, because the emphasis of this particular meditation is the fact of his death, is his constant references to being raised from the dead after three days. Now if you were a modern illusionist you might manage that because you would be in complete control of the circumstances, but these circumstances in question involve a number of highly political individuals and the most harsh army the world has ever known and none of those players had any desire for him to come through this ordeal in any form other than dead! Any talk of a con, or illusion or a confidence trick really indicates that people making such suggestions have never taken the trouble to examine the historical realities of the situation.
This is either going to happen in the most terrible of ways or it's just not going to happen. All the records, Biblical and extra-biblical, indicate it happened. He died! So why would he do that unless, completely in line with all his other claims that we have been examining in these studies, he is utterly convinced that he is the unique Son of God and death cannot hold him! This is the only conclusion that any rational investigator is left with. The proof will be in the resurrection, and so we will examine that in the next study.