Scripture: 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.” And they were greatly distressed. Matthew 17:22-23 ESV
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Observation: Recapping yesterday’s Daily Focus (click here to read it), a crowd awaited Jesus as the four returned from the Transfiguration and reached the mountain’s base. Matthew tells us a man from the gathering rushed to Jesus and begged him to heal his son, who exhibited epileptic symptoms. The father then pleads for Jesus to heal his son if he can. Jesus questions his uncertainty and challenges him to believe, to which he responds, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24b ESV). Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus cast out the unclean spirit in the boy, and Mark adds that the boy convulsed and then lay still. So Jesus took him by the hand, and they entered the father’s house, where Jesus’ disciples questioned him privately about why they could not cast out the demon. And while Matthew focuses on faith, Mark recounts Jesus’s response that prayer is essential to healing those bound by demonic forces.
In today’s short reading, Matthew tells us they traveled south, returning to Galilee. At this point in this last leg of Jesus’ ministry (with his sight set on the Passover in Jerusalem, where he will complete his mission), Jesus tells the disciples for the second time that the Son of Man will face death but rise on the third day. Wisely, this time, Peter refrains from insisting that his Master should not think this way, as he did days before the Transfiguration (click here to read the passage and here for the corresponding Daily Focus). And this time, as reality begins to set in, Matthew reveals they were greatly distressed.
Takeaway: The Greek word paradidosthai (translated above as “into the hands”) means “to be betrayed.” Contextually, the weaker sense of the verb (presented in the above Scripture) is applicable here because of the disciples’ ambiguity as to if or who would betray their beloved Master. And while the disciples took on board his predicted death, they did not comprehend his resurrection. We later see this when the eleven reject the women’s report that Jesus had risen from the grave (see Luke 24:8-11, click here to read). But Jesus is clear and unwavering about his mission. He is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah:
- “He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.” 42:2-4 ESV
- “And now the LORD says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him—for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength—he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” 49:5-6 ESV
- “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” 50:6-7 ESV
- “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.” 52:13-15 ESV
- “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” 53:3-5 ESV
And his disciples would come to this realization when the Holy Spirit would later enlighten their minds. Indeed, the aged and wise Peter would write: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed“ (1 Peter 2:21-24 ESV).
Our takeaway? Like Peter, we need to adjust our expectations based not on our world’s cultural or political climates but on who Jesus says he is: the Suffering Servant. And, like Peter, Paul, and the other apostles, we need to adjust our expectations of what it means to follow our Suffering Servant and fellowship with him in his suffering and resurrection power (Philippians 3:10-11).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who clearly knew and faithfully fulfilled his mission as the Suffering Servant. And we thank you for the Holy Spirit who matures our understanding of your Son and our identity and mission as his disciples. Still, we confess that fellowshipping with him in his suffering and resurrection power feels like a two-edged sword. We want the resurrection power but fear the suffering. So would you please help us to take one step at a time to trust and obey the lead of your Holy Spirit in following your Suffering Servant? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling