A Guest Post by Katrina D. Hamel
This is the time of year, perhaps more than any other, when we pause to reflect on the life-giving death of Jesus Christ. We dwell on the astounding plan of God to send Jesus to be delivered over, nailed to a cross, and to rise again as Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:22-36)
Throughout the centuries, many have tried to discredit Jesus’ sacrifice as an accident and his resurrection as a farce. After all, what kind of savior dies the most embarrassing and humiliating death devised? It was laughable to the first century world.
Today, many people try to say Jesus was a good man who tried to teach love and truth, but his run-in with the religious leaders led him to an unfortunate death. These naysayers smile patronizingly and say that his believers tried to make Jesus more than he ever claimed to be.
So we know what the doubters believe, and we know what we believe. What did Jesus believe about himself? What did Jesus see his mission to be? He strode through the land telling the people to repent and prepare for the kingdom of heaven. Did he go to Jerusalem hoping to preach or be crowned king, and ended up on the cross by accident?
Jesus knew exactly what he was doing, and exactly what would happen to him. In the gospel of Matthew we see Jesus tell his disciples four times that he would die, and not only that, he told them when, how, and by whose hands he would die. (Matthew 16:21, 17:22, 20:17-19, 26:12)
It is clear he did not see his impending death as an end, or as a failure of his mission. In fact, the first time Jesus prophesied his own death was right on the heels of quietly revealing himself to his disciples as the one they hoped he would be: the messiah! It seems he held his death in one hand, and his role as savior in the other, a combination which was incomprehensible to his followers.
As the sunlight faded, they made a simple camp away from the city. Beth sat near the fire, and the cold night pressed against her back. She studied the faces of the others by the flickering light. Their faces showed excitement, eagerness, and deep longing.
Judas leaned towards Jesus. His tone was pleading, “Rabbi, I understand that this isn’t the time you will show yourself to the world. Can you tell us when that time will come?”
Everyone stared expectantly at Jesus. He looked around the fire before he spoke, his voice serious and low, “The day is coming when I will go up to Jerusalem.” The disciples shifted eagerly. “And I will suffer many things.” Beth felt the mood change to confusion and alarm as Jesus continued, “I will suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes. I will be killed, and raised up on the third day.”
Jesus’ prophecy of his own death fell like a hammer to her head, leaving Beth staggered. She wanted to cry out that he couldn’t die. He was their friend, their rabbi, and he needed to lead the people to the Kingdom.
Peter jumped to his feet, and beckoned Jesus away from the fire. He hissed near his ear, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”
“Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus’ voice was like a whip crack, and Peter quailed. “You are a stumbling block to me; for you aren’t setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Jesus strode away into the night, and Peter stared after him, his shoulders slumping.
Taken from my novel,
Jesus is even more explicit later on: “Behold we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify, and on the third day He will be raised up.”
The disciples were not expecting their long-anticipated messiah to die at the hands of their own people, and definitely not before he had freed Israel and brought it back to glory. We can’t really blame them for their confusion. Jesus repeatedly calls himself the “Son of Man”. This title was not a self-depreciating way for the Son of God to sound humble, this was a name that would ring through the ears of the Jewish people as a title of authority and power! In Daniel 7:13 we see “one like a Son of Man” who is presented before the Ancient of Days (God), and given dominion, glory and an everlasting kingdom that will not pass away, that all people of every nation and language might serve him.
While the scholars of the day debated who this Son of Man was – was it a person or was it the nation of Israel itself – Jesus calling himself the Son of Man tells us that he understood this authoritative role was for himself.
However, it seems Jesus also took another scripture upon himself, one that did not sound messianic at all: the suffering servant. When Isaiah was inspired to write about the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, he likely saw this as being Israel itself, like in 49:3. The amazing thing about prophecy is it can be filled in one way at one time, and in another way at another time. We see this with Isaiah 53. Go and read the whole, amazing chapter. Listen to some of the heart-rending language:
“Our griefs He Himself bore . . . He was pierced through for our iniquities, the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. My Servant will justify the many . . . He Himself bore the sins of many . . .”
While in the beginning Peter openly opposed Jesus’ prophecy of his own death, it’s clear he eventually understood Jesus’ role as suffering to justify the many, because this suffering servant in Isaiah is the scripture that Peter references in 1 Peter 2:22-24.
Jesus, with these two roles in his heart – Suffering Servant and Son of Man – strode boldly towards Jerusalem, healing and teaching on the way, believing he would soon die. The people sang Hosanna’s as he arrived, but in the back of his mind, Jesus knew the fickle people would soon change their cries of “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” to “Crucify him!”
He did not try to work in secret, slinking about trying not to get caught. In Matthew 21 he marches into what is likely the busiest place in the whole country, and creates an uproar by tossing the tables, calling the temple courts a robbers den, and then healing the blind and the lame.
When it came time to celebrate the Passover – a meal to commemorate when God redeemed the people from slavery and took them as His own – Jesus carefully and explicitly forms the meal around himself. The meal these men and women had celebrated all their lives becomes about Jesus’ body and his blood, as he tells them his blood will be poured out for the forgiveness of sins.
There is no evidence in the gospels that the disciples foisted a role upon Jesus that he neither wanted nor claimed. We see Jesus working in confidence of his dual mission: the Suffering Servant who takes away our sins, and the Son of Man who is given an everlasting kingdom over all the nations.
As we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection at Easter time, we remember that Jesus came to give his life for mankind, because he doesn’t want that kingdom without us!
Katrina is a mom of four, a wife and a Christ follower. When Katrina isn’t writing she’s surviving Canadian winters with copious amounts of coffee and boardgames. You can find her short stories on her blog www.katrinadhamel.com.