JESUS CONTINUES TO PUT THE FOCUS ON HIS UPCOMING BETRAYAL, CRUIFIXION AND RESURRECTION (WHILE HIS FOLLOWERS ARGUE OVER WHO IS THE GREATEST)
Grant Osborne: Jesus is aware of his destiny and deliberately chooses the cross, while the disciples, aware of nothing, are consumed with their own desire for greatness.
David Turner: The third passion prediction is the most lengthy. New details include the involvement of the Gentiles in mocking, flogging, and crucifying him. Jesus’s focus on his coming suffering in this unit is in stark contrast to his two disciples’ focus on their future reigning in the next unit.
Stu Weber: It is no accident that Jesus’ third formal prediction of his suffering, death, and resurrection followed immediately after the extended explanation of the principle that “the last will be first, and the first will be last” (see 19:30-20:16; cf. 16:21; 17:22-23). He told of the humiliation of his betrayal, the mockings and beatings he would endure, and his death. He who was supremely first over all creation would submit to being treated as the lowest of criminals. (This is the first specific mention of crucifixion, which was a punishment of ultimate humiliation, reserved only for the most despised criminals.) But out of the “lastness” of apparent defeat, the king would rise triumphant over death. Philippians 2:5-11 describes this dual paradox in greater detail: The One obedient to “death on a cross” would be the One who has a “name that is above every name.”
Stanley Saunders: Have the disciples understood the kind of justice set forth in the preceding parable and what it requires of them? Are they ready for what will happen in Jerusalem? The stories in this section suggest that envy, competition, self-interest, and blindness are still problems that Jesus must address as he prepares his disciples for their entry into the city. For the final time before he enters Jerusalem, Jesus warns the disciples of his impending passion. The new information supplied in 20:19 makes this the most detailed prediction yet (cf. 16:21; 17:12; 17:22–23): he will be mocked and beaten, and his death will be by crucifixion. For the first time “the Gentiles” also enter the picture as participants in Jesus’ death. When Jesus had first predicted his death (16:21), Peter had openly rebuked him. The second time (17:22–23) the disciples were “greatly distressed.” This time Matthew records no reaction of the disciples, but instead tells about the request of the mother of the “sons of Zebedee” and the conflict it generates. Mediterranean mothers are expected to advocate for their sons’ advancement (see, e.g., Bathsheba’s manipulations on behalf of her son, Solomon: 1 Kgs. 1:11–31). Like King David’s sons, the disciples are now positioning themselves for the succession. But they still misunderstand the nature of Jesus’ kingship. The succession to power in this empire will be through suffering.
Warren Wiersbe: In contrast to this announcement of suffering and death, we have the request of James and John and their mother, Salome. Jesus spoke about a cross, but they were interested in a crown. They wanted reserved seats on special thrones! We get the impression that the mother, Salome, was the real inspiration behind this request, and that she was interested in promoting her sons.
Donald Hagner: This prediction makes a particularly sharp contrast with both the preceding sections, where the disciples seem preoccupied with rewards (19:27–30), and the following pericope describing the overt ambition of the sons of Zebedee (vv 20–23). Jesus again affirms the cross as his goal and thus serves as the model according to which the disciples must learn to pattern their own lives. But while he is “last,” his disciples compete for being “first.” This prediction serves the function of building up the tension prior to the momentous events that will happen in Jerusalem, where the earthly work of Jesus will find its climax. . .
For the third time Jesus predicts his imminent suffering and death in Jerusalem. This time the prediction includes very specific details meant to convey the sovereign direction of God in these events. Jesus’ fate in Jerusalem will be no tragic accident of history but the outworking of God’s saving purposes for humanity. This is the preeminent work of Jesus—not his powerful deeds and words, nor his ministry among the Jews of Galilee and Judea, but his death on the cross. Although the meaning of that death has not yet been addressed in the Gospel (it has been hinted at more than once, however: e.g., 1:22; 3:17), the next pericope will culminate in a statement that can leave no doubt concerning it (v. 28). Jesus goes the way of the cross for the sake of others.
(:17) PROLOGUE – OCCASION FOR THE THIRD PASSION PROPHECY
“And as Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem,
He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them,”
Grant Osborne: The centrality of the journey to Jesus’ destiny (note this only relates to “Jesus,” not the Twelve) continues (as in Mark and Luke). It is stated twice that Jesus is “ascending” (see v. 18), and they are “on the road [way]” (cf. Mark 9:33–34; 10:32, 52; Luke 9:51–53, 57) to his appointed hour. The “way” (ὁδός) defines the journey to true discipleship as well, and here it is implied (as in 16:24) that Jesus is on the road to the cross; the passage is framed with the model of Jesus (20:17–19, 28).
This is the first time the disciples are called “the Twelve” (cf. 26:14, 20, 47), and apparently they are traveling with a larger group, because Jesus “takes [them] aside privately” to give them his third passion prediction (a brief fourth prediction occurs in 26:2).
Stu Weber: At this point in the journey, Jesus and his companions were about to go up to Jerusalem. The tension between Jesus and the religious establishment, headquartered at Jerusalem, had been building throughout Matthew’s Gospel. Before long the conflict would come to its tragic but triumphant end.
The word up alludes to the fact that Jerusalem was situated on a ridge at 2,550 feet above sea level. From any direction, Jerusalem was “up.” But especially from the crossing of the Jordan River, near its entrance into the Dead Sea, at about 1,200 feet below sea level, the climb was substantial. This would have made for at least a 3,700-foot elevation gain. Perhaps Jesus and his disciples had just crossed the Jordan, or perhaps they were at Jericho, on the way to Jerusalem (see 20:29).
I. (:18) BETRAYAL – DELIVERY TO CHIEF PRIESTS AND SCRIBES FOR CONDEMNATION
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem;”
“and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes,”
John MacArthur: And He was turned over the chief priests – the chief priests among the priests, and there were thousands of them. The chief priests were the upper echelon ones. There were the Levites; they were at the bottom of the priestly totem pole. And then there were the normal course of priests. And there was the guy who was the head of the daily course, the guy who’s ahead of the weekly course. And then there was the sort of the captain of the temple, and then there was the high priest. And the guys at the top of the ladder were known as the chief priests. And so these chief priests were the hereditary aristocracy. They were in the priestly line; they got their rank by heredity.
They were also accompanied by the scribes, who got their rank not by heredity, but by knowledge. They attained to knowledge by studying the law. They were the lawyers, and nobody could interpret anything without them. Very much like today, if you want to interpret any kind of law, you get into any kind of legal situation, you have to have a lawyer. Well it was that way then. In trying to interpret the Mosaic economy, they had to have “lawyers,” quote/unquote, who really were the scribes who could come along side and explain the meaning of the law, and interpret the law, and so forth.
“and they will condemn Him to death,”
II. (:19A) CRUCIFIXION – DELIVERY TO THE GENTILES FOR SCOURGING AND CRUCIFIXION
“and will deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him,”
Stu Weber: For the first time, Jesus gave the details of his passion. Jesus’ remarks were painful for the disciples, but they pointed out Jesus’ sovereignty in all these things. He was going into a difficult time, but he went as a king and never as a victim. He would be mocked and flogged (using a whip of leather thongs, with jagged bits of metal or bone that would rip the flesh of the victim’s back) and crucified. The disciples would have cringed at all three of these words, but especially at crucifixion. This was a slow, torturous death which usually lasted for days—the most humiliating punishment used by the Roman Empire. It was reserved only for the lowest criminals. And crucifixion was also a sign of God’s curse (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13).
R. T. France: There is, however, no suggestion that it is really all the fault of the Romans, since Jesus is to be handed over by the Jewish authorities to the Romans in order to be mocked, flogged and crucified, in pursuance of the verdict that the Jewish leaders have already reached. This corresponds to the historical reality (expressed in John 18:31) of the limited judicial competence of the Sanhedrin under Roman occupation. Previous predictions have spoken in more general terms of Jesus’ “being killed,” but now that the Romans have been explicitly brought into the scene the means of execution can be specified as crucifixion (for which see on 10:38). The careful reader will not be surprised, since Jesus has already called his disciples to “carry their cross” after him in 10:38; 16:24. After this comprehensive portrayal of rejection (both by his own people and by their imperial rulers) and of brutal suffering and humiliating death the almost matter-of-fact concluding statement (already familiar from 16:21 and 17:23) that he will be raised on the third day reads even more incongruously.
Jeffrey Crabtree: Matthew says no more about this. However, Luke 18:34 says the disciples did not understand what Jesus meant because the meaning was hidden from them. This means that for some reason the Father kept the disciples from understanding this plain statement about Jesus’ death (Marshall 691).
Charles Swindoll: The disciples clearly weren’t on the same page as Jesus! They were neither ready nor willing to hear anything about His upcoming betrayal, arrest, suffering, and crucifixion, nor, for that matter, were they able to grasp the significance of His resurrection. What in the world were they thinking?
The answer to that question becomes clear in the next scene. They were thinking about themselves!
III. (:19b) RESURRECTION ON THE THIRD DAY
“and on the third day He will be raised up.”
David Turner: All three of the passion predictions conclude with the resurrection of Jesus, which becomes the central focus of the preaching of the early church (26:32; 27:63; 28:6; Acts 2:24–36; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 33–37; 1 Cor. 15:4–28).
William Barclay: Even at such a time, that was not the end of his words, for he finished with the confident assertion of the resurrection. Beyond the curtain of suffering lay the revelation of glory; beyond the cross was the crown; beyond the defeat was triumph; and beyond death was life.