Throughout the time Jesus was teaching and travelling with his disciples, there was one lesson – a prediction, if you will – that he kept emphasizing over and over to them. From the time they realized that he was the Messiah, Jesus explained to them what would eventually happen to him: “Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke openly about this” (Mark 8:31 NET).
Even as they were approaching Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus was continuing to remind them that this was about to happen, going into even greater detail: “Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the experts in the law. They will condemn him to death, and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged severely and crucified. Yet on the third day, he will be raised” (Matthew 20:19).
In fact, just two days before his crucifixion, he reminded them one more time: “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2). One thing that the disciples should have known was that Jesus was going to be crucified – he told them about it over and over and over again!
Yet even though they had been told this time and again, when it happened, they weren’t prepared for it. Perhaps they thought he was referring to someone else, some other “Son of Man” (even though Jesus used this particular phrase to describe himself frequently). Or perhaps they thought because Jesus was the Messiah that such a thing couldn’t happen to him. We do know they did not realize that this was God’s plan for the Messiah so that our sins could be forgiven.
With the knowledge that they had, you might think they would have been at the tomb that Sunday morning to greet their Master when he returned from the dead. After all, everything else that Jesus had said had come true, down to his being condemned by the Jews, turned over to the Romans (Gentiles) who mocked and flogged him severely and crucified him. Such detail, yet they missed it.
When Jesus came back from the dead, none of his disciples were expecting him. The only ones who remembered what he had said had been the Jewish leaders and they had been given permission to put guards at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). Although they did not seriously believe this would happen, they wanted to prevent it even appearing that it had happened by the body being stolen. So the only ones who were there were the guards, who, when they saw the angel come and roll away the stone, “became like dead men because they were so afraid” (Matthew 28:4) – they fainted.
What would we have done? Would we have been there to greet the risen Messiah? Or would we have been like the eleven apostles, in hiding for fear of our lives?
Rather than speculate on what we won’t face, do we remember that Jesus has promised to come again? “And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment, so also, after Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many, to those who eagerly await him he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28). Are we ready for this day? Will we be faithful when Jesus returns? “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).
Readings for next week:
9 March – Romans 5
10 March – Romans 6
11 March – Romans 7
12 March – Romans 8
13 March – Romans 9