Harry Whittaker
Studies in the Gospels

150. The Shadow of the Cross (Matt. 17:22, 23; 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34)*

Passover, the last Passover, was now not far away. The long and much-interrupted progress up to Jerusalem had reached its last stage; and now, unique in the gospel record, Mark gives a brief but tremendously impressive picture of J,?sus going ahead of the twelve and the inescapable crowd. The Good Shepherd was going before his sheep (Jn.10 :4), even as the visible sign of the Glory of God had led Israel in the wilderness (Num.10 :33).

"And they (the twelve) were amazed, and those who followed were afraid." The words grip the imagination, even though no explanation is given for this reaction in the disciples. Does the recent raising of Lazarus throw light on the situation? "Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee, and goest thou thither again?" And since then "the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him" (Jn.11 :8,57). So, almost certainly, those closely associated with Jesus were likewise marked men. Also, the recent fears of the chief priests were finding an echo in not a few minds: that any attempt to assert Messiahship in Jerusalem would inevitably mean "the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation" (Jn.11 :48).

Further Warning

At one point Jesus took the twelve aside from the accompanying crowd and "began to tell them what things should happen unto him" (Mk.). This was now the third time (according to Matthew and Mark), the fourth according to Luke (9 :22,44; 17 :25), that he had spoken explicitly about his rejection and suffering at Jerusalem, and he was still at the beginning of their education in these things, so little progress did they make in understanding.

Very probably this was because each of these warnings came after a strong Messianic emphasis in the ministry-Peter's confession (Lk. 9 :20), the Transfiguration (9 .-28-35), the first detailed discourse about the Second Coming (17 :20-24), and the promise of everlasting life to the faithful follower (18:29,30).

"Behold," Jesus now said to them, "we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished" (Lk.) Here is clear intimation of how the mind of Jesus was prepared for what lay ahead. The prophetic imperative lay upon him. As men of God were constrained to write the message of God's purpose with His Messiah, so also he was constrained obediently to fulfil it. Yet here the common version hardly does justice to the dative case in the original. More accurately, it would signify: "all things written by the prophets for the Son of man." Paul was doubtless right when he declared that all these things ''were written aforetime for our learning... " (Rom.15 :4). But they were written also for the Christ-for his instruction, for the reinforcement of his faith, and for the routing or his discouragement.

What Jesus now told was more detailed than anything he had as yet attempted to unfold concerning the crisis looming ahead:

"The Son of man shall be delivered (betrayed) unto the chief priests and unto the scribes;
and they shall condemn him to death,
and they shall deliver him to the Gentiles,
and they shall mock him,
and they shall scourge him,
and they shall spit upon him,
and they shall kill him,
and the third day he shall rise again" (Mk.).

Several details here —as "mocking, scourging, spitting"-were now mentioned for the first time. "Handed over to the Gentiles" could mean only one thing —crucifixion by the Romans (as Matthew specifically mentions). A Jew delivered by Jews to their Roman overlords, for such an end! It was unthinkable. So perhaps the disciples took these warnings as indications of what the rulers would like to do. Or maybe they regarded their Lord's solemn words as another of his parables—to be taken as meaning: 'I have faced a long period of seeming failure, but it will be crowned with sudden success.' In any case, the disciples' lack of insight becomes a providential security for the truth of their later witness to the resurrection. But at present they showed little comprehension of these eight stages in the Saviour's travail of the New Creation.

Thus, "they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken" (Lk.). The variation in Greek tenses here is fascinating. The significance probably is that at first what Jesus declared made no sense to them, and when he explained further it still remained obscure, nor did opportunity to think about it enable them to grasp it any better.

This pregnant passage in Luke about the disciples' lack of appreciation of their Lord's warning is repeated almost verbatim from an earlier occasion (9 :45). It is as though Luke is trying to apologize beforehand for the apostles' spiritual immaturity and dullness, for immediately after these occasions the record adds: (a) "Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest" (9 :46); (b) "And James and John . . . came unto him, saying . . Grant unto us that we may sit one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory" (Mk.10 :35ff); (c) The later warning: "The Son of man goeth, as it was determined . . . betrayed . . . And there was also a strife among them which of them should be accounted the greatest" (Lk.22 :22-24),

To the modern reader of the gospels there is puzzlement of a different sort —why that which now seems simple and obvious should have remained so obscure to men who were so close to Jesus. If affords a lesson regarding the blinding power of preconceived ideas and prejudice. Very probably the meaning of many Bible prophecies of the last days, which today are wondrously mysterious, will before long become all at once crystal clear and easy enough for a child to understand. The present-day student of Holy Scripture is in no position to feel superior.

The Prophets and the Son of man

It makes a useful exercise in the study of Messianic prophecy to seek out the Old Testament anticipations _ of the sufferings of Christ which the apostles now heard alluded to.

His betrayal by Judas is readily traceable in the familiar words which Jesus himself was to quote at the last Supper: "Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me" (Ps.41:9; and by all means see the parallel passage in Ps. 55:12-24). The condemnation to death, in gross violation of all true justice, is easy to read in Isaiah 53:7,8,12: "as a lamb to the slaughter . . . taken from prison and from judgment. . . cut off out of the land of the living ... he poured out his soul unto death." Another Isaiah prophecy has equally clear and poignant details: "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (50:6). Psalm 22:16 fills out the picture: "For dogs (that is, Gentiles) have compassed me: the assembly (the Sanhedrin) of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet" (cp. Ps.69:12,19).

Messiah's resurrection was plainly foretold in Psalm 16 :10 "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption." It was also foreshadowed in the restoration of Isaac, the beloved only-begotten son, and in the divine boon of life to stricken Hezekiah. And that this should be on the third day was also anticipated in the experience of both Isaac and Hezekiah. Even more obviously, it was typified in the "resurrection" of Jonah, in the ark going a three-days journey before the people of the Lord to seek out a resting place for them (Num.10 :33), and in the offering of the wave-sheaf on the third day after the slaying of the Passover Lamb (Lev.23 :11).

It would be a grave error to assume that these are all the Old Testament testimonies regarding the sufferings of Christ. Of course there are others.

A further detail worthy of note at this point is that whereas Mark's record says: "after three days," Matthew and Luke have "on the third day." Clearly these are equivalent expressions, unless one is to assume that the gospels contradict each other! Unhappily the tendency of two different groups of interpreters has been to emphasize whichever of these phrases suits best their own point of view. This is very unsatisfactory exegesis unless it be accompanied by an adequate explanation of all the evidence which appears to support the contrary opinion. This is important. Study 182 will explore this question further.

Notes: Lk.18:31-34

Besides those earlier explicit anticipation of the Cross, there had been other foreshadowings: Jn. 2:19 (3:13-16?); 6 :47-50; Mt.9 :15.

All things that are written. Mt. Mk, use the word mello, which means either what was about to happen, or what was destined to happen. Lk's phrasing strongly suggests the second of these.

Fulfilled-telesthai. Peter uses epitelesthai (additionally fulfilled; 1 Pet. 5:9) with reference to the sufferings of the disciple following his Master's steps.

The Son of man. Even against this backcloth of suffering Jesus proclaims himself the Messiah (Dan.7:13; 9:24,25).

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