Monday, August 22, 2011

Matthew 17:22–23

Matthew 17:22–23 (ESV): Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection


This passage is very short and to the point: Jesus once again tells his disciples that he is going to be delivered into the “hands of men,” who will kill him, and he will then raise on the third day. When the disciples hear this, they are greatly distressed.


The disciples often didn’t understand Jesus when he started to talk about his death and resurrection, so it’s no surprise that he had to sometimes get very blunt with them. I’m guessing that at this point—in fact, probably right up until the “end,” until they saw him resurrected—they were still expecting a political saviour, who would smite the Romans and become the new Jewish king. The idea of him dying didn’t fit in with that at all. But the passage doesn’t tell us anything about what the disciples thought, other than that they were distressed.

Part of my thinking, in assuming that they didn’t “get” what Jesus was saying to them, is based on their reaction when he gets arrested later on. If they’d truly understood this message from Jesus, blunt as it is, then they should not have been surprised at all at his arrest or even his crucifixion. And they especially shouldn’t have been surprised when he rose on the third day. It was all exactly as he had predicted, but it still seemed to take them by surprise.

Passages like this make me wonder: what passages of the Bible are we missing? What teachings of Jesus—whether in the Gospels, the rest of the New Testament, or the Old Testament—are we not seeing, even though they’re clearly expressed? Is this something that doesn’t happen to modern-day Christians, since we have the Holy Spirit, or are there still parts of Scripture that are clearly there for us to see, but we miss them anyway? In this passage Jesus clearly told the disciples:
  1. I’m going to be captured
  2. The people who capture me are going to kill me
  3. After three days I’ll rise again
He couldn’t have been more clear, and yet when each of those three things happened the disciples were so surprised it was as if Jesus had never said anything to them at all. So again I wonder: are there things that God has said to us in the Scriptures—things He has said to me—that we simply miss, or don’t understand? (If I had examples I’d give them, but this is the type of thing where if I had examples, it would no longer be the case…) When we get to heaven, what teachings will we suddenly understand, and then wonder, “How did I not understand this before?!? It’s so clear!”

All I can suggest is that we pray for understanding when reading the Word, and pray that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes when they need to be opened.

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