Matthew 20:17-19

TOWARDS THE CROSS

Matt. 20:17-19

As he was going up to Jerusalem, Jesus took the twelve disciples apart, and said to them, while they were on the road, “Look you, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the Scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and they will hand him over to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify; and on the third day he will be raised.”

This is the third time that Jesus warned his disciples that he was on the way to the Cross (Matt. 16:21; Matt. 17:22-23). Both Mark and Luke add their own touches to the story, to show that on this occasion there was in the atmosphere of the apostolic band a certain tenseness and a certain foreboding of tragedy to come. Mark says that Jesus was walking ahead by himself, and that the disciples were amazed and afraid (Mk.10:32-34). They did not understand what was happening, but they could see in every line of Jesus’ body the struggle of his soul. Luke, too, tells how Jesus took the disciples to himself alone that he might try to compel them to understand what lay ahead (Lk.18:31-34). There is here the first decisive step to the last act of the inescapable tragedy. Jesus deliberately and open-eyed sets out for Jerusalem and the Cross.

There was a strange inclusiveness in the suffering to which Jesus looked forward; it was a suffering in which no pain of heart or mind or body was to be lacking.

He was to be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests and Scribes; there we see the suffering of the heart broken by the disloyalty of friends. He was to be condemned to death; there we see the suffering of injustice, which is very hard to bear. He was to be mocked by the Romans; there we see the suffering of humiliation and of deliberate insult. He was to be scourged; few tortures in the world compared with the Roman scourge, and there we see the suffering of physical pain. Finally, he was to be crucified; there we see the ultimate suffering of death. It is as if Jesus was going to gather in upon himself every possible kind of physical and emotional and mental suffering that the world could inflict.

Even at such a time that was not the end of his words, for he finished with the confident assertion of the Resurrection. Beyond the curtain of suffering lay the revelation of glory; beyond the Cross was the Crown; beyond the defeat was triumph; and beyond death was life.

Back to: THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW (Chapters 11-28)

Back to: Barclay’s Commentary

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