Updated: Oct 31, 2019
This morning I am guest posting on the blog Returning and Rest, where Amanda Hartrich takes us on a transforming journey to grow our faith and understanding.
This is the time of year, perhaps more than any other, when we pause to reflect on the life-giving death of Jesus Christ. We dwell on the astounding plan of God to send Jesus to be delivered over, nailed to a cross, and to rise again as Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:22-36)
Throughout the centuries many have tried to discredit Jesus' sacrifice as an accident, and his resurrection as a farce. After all, what kind of savior dies the most embarrassing and humiliating death devised? It was laughable to the first century world.
Today, many people try to say Jesus was a good man who tried to teach love and truth, but his run-in with the religious leaders led him to an unfortunate death. These naysayers smile patronizingly and say that his believers tried to make Jesus more than he ever claimed to be.
So we know what the doubters believe, and we know what we believe. What did Jesus believe about himself? What did Jesus see his mission to be? He strode through the land telling the people to repent and prepare for the kingdom of heaven. Did he go to Jerusalem hoping to preach or be crowned king, and ended up on the cross by accident?
Jesus knew exactly what he was doing, and exactly what would happen to him. In the gospel of Matthew we see Jesus tell his disciples four times that he would die, and not only that, he told them when, how, and by whose hands he would die. (Matthew 16:21, 17:22, 20:17-19, 26:12)
It is clear he did not see his impending death as an end, or as a failure of his mission. In fact, the first time Jesus prophesied his own death was right on the heels of quietly revealing himself to his disciples as the one they hoped he would be: the Messiah! It seems he held his death in one hand, and his role as savior in the other, a combination which was incomprehensible to his followers.
As the sunlight faded they made a simple camp away from the city. Beth sat near the fire, and the cold night pressed against her back. She studied the faces of the others by the flickering light. Their faces showed excitement, eagerness, and deep longing.
Judas leaned towards Jesus. His tone was pleading, “Rabbi, I understand that this isn’t the time you will show yourself to the world. Can you tell us when that time will come?”
Everyone stared expectantly at Jesus. He looked around the fire before he spoke, his voice serious and low, “The day is coming when I will go up to Jerusalem.” The disciples shifted eagerly. “And I will suffer many things.” Beth felt the mood change to confusion and alarm as Jesus continued, “I will suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes. I will be killed, and raised up on the third day.”
Jesus’ prophecy of his own death fell like a hammer to her head, leaving Beth staggered. She wanted to cry out that he couldn’t die. He was their friend, their rabbi, and he needed to lead the people to the kingdom.
Peter jumped to his feet, and beckoned Jesus away from the fire. He hissed near his ear, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”
“Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus’ voice was like a whip crack, and Peter quailed. “You are a stumbling block to me; for you aren’t setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Jesus strode away into the night, and Peter stared after him, his shoulders slumping.
Taken from my novel, Dividing Sword
Jesus is even more explicit later on. Go to Returning and Rest to read the rest of the post!
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Dividing Sword is 450+ pages packed full of adventure, hard choices, and gospel truth. It is the Gospel of Matthew shown in a new way, through the eyes of a woman and a Pharisee.