Jesus Talks for a Second Time about his Death
A little over a week ago we learned about those terrible terrorist attacks that took place in Paris. Since then our news programmes have been dominated by the whole affair and its aftermath. You know this and you weren't a bit surprised that such news continued to make the headlines. After all we expect our news bulletins to tackle the important matters and we'd feel betrayed if they didn't.
This morning as we turn to Luke's gospel we find that Jesus is once again talking to his disciples about his upcoming death. He'd tackled the subject before but it was important and so he spoke about it again.
The subject of Jesus' death comes up over and over again in the Bible and then subsequently in Bible believing churches down through the centuries of Christian history. The reason is very simple – Jesus' death is important, vitally important, if we are to understand this man and for what reason he came into the world.
An Important Truth
A lot of what each of us says during a normal day is really not worth either recording or repeating. A lot, if not most, of what we say will have little effect upon others and much of what we say is not really all that important at all. But there are exceptions and we will often want to repeat something that is really important to us.
The principle is: if something is important it is worth repeating.
You follow this principle very regularly. When someone explains something complicated to you you'll repeat it back to them in order to be sure that you've understood properly. Or you may give the same set of instructions several times to a friend, or a child, just to be on the safe side.
Well the facts concerning Jesus' rejection, deliverance, suffering, death and subsequent resurrection are facts that are so important that they not only warrant repetition but demand it. These facts are so important that we must not allow ourselves to forget them, to misunderstand them or effectively overlook them and ignore them.
Jesus had told his disciples these truths already – all you have to do is look back to earlier in this same chapter to see the first occasion on which that took place (vv.21-22). And now the same information is being taught all over again.
Luke summarises what Jesus taught his disciples on this second occasion in the following way:
v.44 "The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men."
When we compare this with the accounts given by both Matthew and Mark it becomes clear that Jesus was in large measure repeating what he had earlier taught so clearly:
Mt.17:22-23 "As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.""
So the simple fact that Jesus repeats his teaching should alert us to the fact that what he has to say is important.
v.44 "Let these words sink into your ears:"
You don't use such language if all you have to say is banal or run of the mill. You only draw attention to what you're about to say if what you're about to say is important.
Jesus doesn't want his disciples to treat his words as though they were just a throw-away comment of no great significance. On other occasions he would use a different phrase: "verily, verily" or "truly, truly" I say to you. But this time he urges his disciples this exhortation: "Let these words sink into your ears."
I don't know whether you've ever heard somebody use these words but that doesn't stop you understanding what they mean, does it? We know at once that we're supposed to sit up and take note of what is about to be said. We know that we are to take the necessary time and make the necessary effort to ensure that we take onboard what we're about to be told.
We do in fact frequently hear just this sort of language being employed by others and we know what they're driving at. The underdog who has just won the tournament or the athlete who has just smashed a long-standing record when they're being interviewed after the event will say "It has sunk in yet". We know what they mean. They do know what they've done but they don't think that the significance of what they've done has really gripped them as they think it ought to.
The disciples had heard Jesus teach before that he was going to die but they hadn't liked the idea and found it hard to fit into their world-view. As a consequence they hadn't allowed this new idea to affect them or to change them. Now as Jesus prepares to tell them the same thing for a second time he urges them not to treat his words lightly, not to regard them as insignificant but to take them onboard, to let them sink in. Of course he means for his teaching to go further than just their ears too.
But why is it important?
The first time that Jesus spoke to his disciples about his coming sufferings, death and resurrection he spoke in terms of necessity:
v.22 "The Son of Man must suffer many things..."
Here as he repeats his teaching he introduces a different element that of inevitability:
v.44 "The Son of Man is about to be delivered..."
What did he mean when he talked about his sufferings in this way? Why was it necessary? Why was it inevitable?
The answers are simple to both questions but mind-blowing when we fully grasp what he meant.
Jesus' coming into the world was like no-one else's. His coming had been prophesied because his coming was to carry out a mission, a very important mission. Jesus came into the world in order to be the Saviour that men and women need.
Right at the outset of human history Adam had race the human race in a rebellion against God. And like a bunch of common mutineers we have all refused to accept the authority of our Heavenly Captain and we've set sail on our own. But mutineers in human history don't usually get away with their crimes and spiritual mutineers can never ultimately escape either!
Judgment awaits and that judgment will be utterly devastating and destructive unless somehow our rebellion can be atoned for. It was precisely to secure such an atonement that Jesus came into the world. He came into the world to save sinners.
But what has that to do with suffering and dying you might wonder? Well, our crimes of rebellion have provoked the wrath of a Righteous God and the claims of divine justice must be met. Sin, that is our rebellion, must be dealt with, a Holy God cannot sweep it aside and act as though it simply isn't there.
Our rebellion is no small matter – it is after all rebellion against the Infinite, Unlimited, Eternal God. Death is the penalty for such heinous crimes.
So if Jesus was to carry out his mission to be the Saviour of the World he had to deal with the death penalty that hung and hangs over us. The way, the only way, in which this was possible was by him dying in our place, taking our death and offering us his life in exchange.
Jesus sufferings etc. were necessary – not to set us an example – but to secure salvation for us. If Jesus did not die in our place we would be left in our sins and his reason for coming into the world left forever unfulfilled.
Jesus came into the world because of the love of the Father for sinners and because of his own love for sinners.
He came to save and as we've seen he would have to die if he were to successfully save sinners. Of course he could have decided that the price was simply too high for him to pay and who could have reproached him had he refused to do so? After all rebels have no rightful claim to mercy.
But his death became inevitable the moment love decided and determined to save those rebel sinners.
Let that sink in!
Jesus' death was necessary because of our rebellion! Your rebellion!!
Let that sink in!
Those little daily acts of rebellion that you regard as so insignificant are not insignificant at all you see. To secure forgiveness and cleansing from all these Jesus had to die. If he doesn't stand in your place and take your punishment then the death and separation from God that he experienced is the very same sentence that hangs over you still and which you will have to pay in full.
Let that sink in!
But there is hope because amazingly there is a wonderfully strong divine love for sinners to be found in the heart of the Father and of the Son. This love is so strong that it took Jesus all the way to Calvary to die for sinners!
Let that too sink in!
Jesus was no morbid depressive
Jesus didn't start talking about his death as though it were the inevitable outcome of a series of events as the tide of support turned inexorably against him.
We're familiar with prophets of doom and gloom, those doom-mongers who always see things in the worst possible light – think of Private Frazer in Dad's Army with his "Doom, doom". But Jesus wasn't like that and in fact he began to teach about his coming sufferings and death not when things began to turn against him but when his popularity was high and the crowds flocked to him.
This second lesson on his coming sufferings was taught immediately after he had demonstrated remarkable power and authority in victoriously delivering a boy who was possessed by an unclean spirit. The crowds were astonished at the majesty of God that was revealed through him. Everyone marvelled at him and at what he was doing.
And it is at such a high point that Jesus speaks clearly about his sufferings and death. Perhaps he did so to try to remove for all time any thought that his death was merely the end of a failing resistance movement, the end of just one more religious reform movement. His death was to be no failure at all but the most triumphant of all his victories!
Failure to Understand
The disciples hadn't grasped what Jesus had told them the first time that he spoke to them about his sufferings, death and resurrection and they failed again at this particular juncture.
It wasn't that Jesus' language was difficult to understand, indeed he spoke very clearly and plainly to them, but, we are told, they did not understand.
Let me ask you have you understood? Do you understand why it was necessary for him to die? Do you understand how his death is a tremendous statement about God's love for sinners? Have you come to understand and embrace Jesus' death as proclaiming God's love to you and as dealing with your problems of rebellion and sin?
You may have heard talk about Christian matters over many months, many years even, but have you allowed the truth to sink in? How we all need to take these matters seriously! How we need to respond to them when finally we do come to understand!
So we read that the disciples still didn't understand but we also read something else – here it is:
v.45 "it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it."
The disciples' failure to understand is not put down simply to these ideas not fitting in with their preconceived views concerning the Messiah. Here we are told something different – they were kept from seeing the truth of these things (at least they were at this particular time).
Who kept them from seeing these things?
Satan would like to be able to keep men and women in the dark and tries his hardest to do so but ultimately he can't do so – in this very context he has just been triumphed over by Jesus.
Jesus is the one who is busy teaching his disciples returning to the subject matter so that his followers might understand – he is not the one concealing the truth.
It would seem then that we are left with the divine passive. God the Father was the one concealing the truth and what are we to make of that?
We men and women love to imagine that everything is within our own power and ability. We love to imagine that we can do what we set ourselves to do, to understand what we set our minds too and here we are brought up short. In reality we can only understand on the spiritual front when truth is revealed to us. We may hear with our ears but we don't grasp until God speaks to our hearts. In other words we will only ever become Christians when God works in our lives – we are utterly and totally dependent upon him.
You'll remember that Jesus elsewhere taught the need of new birth, a birth from on high, a spiritual birth that is brought about by the gracious sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in a human life. There are profound implications for us in this. We must not rely on ourselves but on God. We must go to him pleading with him to open the ears and eyes of our understanding, to give us grace, to grant us faith and trust in Jesus.
Have you done that? Are you doing that? Have I? Am I?
An Example to Avoid
One last thing before we finish this morning. The disciples failing to understand what Jesus said to them were afraid to ask him – how foolish they were! Don't be afraid to ask for help, for instruction, for explanation. You can ask it of others but don't forget to ask help of Jesus!
Perhaps the disciples were afraid of receiving a rebuke for being slow to understand, slow to believe. Perhaps they were smarting from Jesus' stern words when they had failed over the healing of the sick boy: "O faithless and twisted generation" and feared more of the same.
But their reasoning, whatever it was, was faulty.
Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He did that by dying in their place and because he loved them.
May that truth sink into our lives and transform us as we respond in faith and trust in him!