Density and Sovereignty

17 Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.” (Matthew 20:17-19)

Jesus continues his final trek to Jerusalem. Along the way, He senses the need to pull His disciples aside and again remind them about what is going to happen to Him in Jerusalem. This is His third crucifixion/resurrection prediction in Matthew (16:21, 17:22-23).

Mark’s gospel tells us that the disciples were both amazed and fearful as they approached Jerusalem (Mark 10:32). Jesus apparently told them these words to remind them that everything was under control. Yes, He would be betrayed and crucified but He would rise again. But Luke tells us that even after hearing these words, the disciples had no idea what Jesus meant (Luke 18:34). They probably assumed that Jesus was speaking figuratively. They just couldn’t process how the Messiah could be rejected and killed…and the concept of physical resurrection was not at the forefront of their thinking (cf. Mark 9:10).

Part of me wonders why the disciples just couldn’t get it. Jesus’ words seem so self-explanatory. So clear. But the disciples are like the rest of us. When you think a certain way, it is hard to hear anything contrary to your thinking. You fight it. Or you explain it away. A rejected, crucified Messiah was not in the disciples’ theology. They couldn’t process it. They couldn’t accept it. So they missed it. And by missing the concept of a crucified Messiah, they missed the hope and glory of a resurrected One as well.

It is a reminder to me that I have to keep my ears and heart open to the Word of the Lord. I am to be firm in my beliefs, established in the core truths of Scripture…but I am also to be teachable, moldable, always humble in my own limited perspective and hungry for God to expand my understanding. May I never get to the point where I think I have it all figured out. May I never get to the point that inwardly I take Jesus aside like Peter and say, “Lord, let me tell You how it should be.”

The other thought that strikes me from this passage is that God is in control. He is sovereign. While the chief priests and scribes will act on their own accord and the Roman soldiers and rulers will make their own decisions, they will ultimately act in accordance with God’s foreordained, foreseen plan.

For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, gathered together, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done (Acts 4:27-28).

I can’t really fathom that. It is beyond my comprehension. But in the mind of God both work together seamlessly, without contradiction, for His glory.

That should give me comfort. Whatever happens in this world, it is all within the plan of God. Nothing is beyond His control. And even when things look dark, look dire, look disastrous, God can somehow bring victory and glory out of it. Without the tragedy, there is no triumph. Without the fire, there is no refinement. Without the cross, there is no resurrection.

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