Then Jesus took the Twelve aside and said to them, "Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything the prophets have written about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.
I. REPEATED PREDICTIONS ON THESE SUBJECTS. The disciples required line upon line on this subject; they were so slow to grasp it and so loth to entertain it. It appeared to them inconceivable and incredible. When it was first directly and definitely announced, Peter deprecated it in the strongest terms, and so far forgot himself that he presumed to rebuke his Master, which drew down on him in turn that severe and sharp reproof, "Get thee behind me, Satan," as though Satan had employed Peter as his emissary, and to do his work on that occasion by tempting our Lord to shrink from the sufferings he foretold. Instead of affording our Lord that support and sympathy, that strength and encouragement which, in view of the approaching ordeal, his human nature craved, his servants whom he loved and who loved him so well, though not always wisely, fell in with Satan's own suggestion at the temptation to the Savior, to seek the crown without the cross. Why not prove his Messiahship and assume his Kingship over the nations with out such suffering and sorrow, without the sharpness of death and shade of the sepulcher?
II. PREVIOUS PREPARATION. The previous training which the disciples had received from the Lord would, one might think, be sufficient to have disabused their minds of the prejudices of their race and nation to which they were so prone. Even after they had been convinced of his Messiahship, and after Peter's notable and noble confession of it, they needed to be repeatedly reminded of the necessity of his suffering and death to the completion of his work, and to be instructed once and again about the needfulness of his resurrection to demonstrate the divinity of his mission, and that he had power to lay down his life and power to take it again, as also that, delivered for our offenses, he was to be raised for our justification. The notion of a temporal kingdom was so firmly fixed in their minds, and intertwined with all their Messianic hopes and expectations, that it was next to impossible to eradicate it. And yet, at an early period of his ministry, and almost immediately after his proclaiming the near approach of the kingdom of heaven, he expounded the principles, laws, and spiritual nature of that kingdom. Thus, in the sermon on the mount, he explained the object and elucidated the rules of that kingdom in the fifth chapter of St. Matthew; he then interpreted, according to the rules of the kingdom, those religious exercises in which the subjects of the kingdom engage, in the sixth chapter of the same Gospel; while in the seventh he lays down the mutual duties of the members, with other duties of a more general but practical kind. In his seaside parables, again, as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of the same Gospel, he traces the gradual progress, steady development in spite of all obstacles, and ultimate success of that kingdom. When thus prepared for it, he proclaimed to them once and again, and now the third time, in distinct, definite, and decided terms, his passion, death, and resurrection.
III. AN ADDITIONAL FEATURE IN THIS PREDICTION. In this third direct prediction a new element is introduced, the Gentiles are mentioned for the first time in connection with our Lord's death. "The Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles. And yet, strange, yea, passing strange, they understood," as St. Luke tells us, "none of these things." It is probable that they understood his Language as figurative, and expressive of the great difficulties to be overcome, and the formidable obstacles he would have to encounter in making his way to his Messianic throne. Hence it was that they were amazed at his alacrity, as he went before them and led the way as they were going up to the capital. This much, at the least, they must have known, that he was soon to face his bitterest foes; they must have had some foreboding of the risk he was about to run, and the perils to which he was going to expose himself. Consequently they were amazed at the more than wonted energy with which he pressed forward to the place of danger and the scene of suffering; and though, like a dauntless leader, and fearless but faithful general, he marched at their head, preceding them and leading them forward, they fell timorously behind, afraid to follow him in the perilous path he was pursuing. We may here recall to mind that the first direct prediction of his death was in the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, soon after Peter's confession; the second shortly after, as they were returning to Capernaum; and now, on their way up to Jerusalem, he states the particulars more fully and clearly than ever before. The "spitting" is here mentioned by both St. Mark and St. Luke, the condemnation of the Jewish Sanhedrim is referred to by St. Matthew and St. Mark; the execution by the Gentiles is recorded by all three synoptists; while the mode of death by crucifixion is mentioned by St. Matthew alone. - J.J.G.
Behold we go up to Jerusalem. I.
WE GAZE AT THE LORD, AND INQUIRE HOW HE ENTERED THE SEASON OF PASSION.
1. Not unprepared, but with a full, clear consciousness —(1) not only of His sufferings in general, but also in all their particulars; and(2) of the relation between His sufferings and the Divine Word and will.
2. His consciousness afforded Him the peace, courage, and decision to endure the sufferings willingly and patiently.
II. WE GAZE AT OURSELVES, AND INQUIRE HOW WE SHOULD ENTER THIS SEASON OF THE CHURCH YEAR.
1. Not like the world, whose custom is to celebrate it with all kinds of amusement and folly; but, as the followers of Christ, let us get ready to accompany the Lord in His season of suffering.
2. Yet not like the twelve, of whom we read that they understood none of these things. We must know why and for whom the Lord suffered and died.
3. The blind man of Jericho is a good example to show how we should enter in with the Lord as He approaches His sufferings.(1) He appeals again and again for mercy.(2) He concentrates all his desires into one plea — that he might see. And the Lord opens his eyes.
I shall proceed, accordingly, to indicate some personal ways in which it seems to me we may learn to enter, in some degree, into Jesus' consciousness that He must needs suffer. Yet only in some degree, and in no full measure, can we hope to comprehend in our human experience the mind that was in Jesus. The open and most natural way of thought for us to take, in our desire to understand this most sacred truth, seems to me to be in general as follows: Study what forgiveness of injuries involves to the most Christian man or woman, learn what forgiveness of wrong may cost the most Christlike heart, and from such knowledge gain the means of understanding why the Christ from God must needs suffer on the Cross. If we have not been compelled by some bitter experience of our own to learn the moral necessities of suffering in forgiving sin, let us search with reverent sympathies the depth of the trouble into which others have been plunged by some erring one to whom they were bound by vital ties; learn how father, mother, wife, must needs suffer in the continued charity, and shielding love, and ever open forgiveness of the home towards one who has gone forth from it, unworthy of it, and been lost in the world. Such in general is the vital method, the personal way, in which we may study the doctrine of the atonement of Christ for the sin of the world. Let me briefly indicate several more definite truths which we may find in such study of the Cross. First, In our experience of forgiveness, and its moral necessities, we find that there must be penitence or confession on the part of the person who has done wrong. The sense of justice and right which demands confession of wrong and restitution is as human and as Divine as the love which would forgive an offence, and accept another's willingness to make restitution. Secondly, Human forgiveness involves a painful knowledge of the wrong which has been inflicted. Forgiveness is always born of suffering. You surely cannot forgive a friend if you have never known and felt the hurt of his unkindness. Some suffering for the injury received is an indispensable condition, or antecedent, of the exercise of forgiveness. Thirdly, We approach now another element in the history of human forgiveness, which is of deep moral significance; viz., the suffering of the injured person must be so discovered to the wrong-doer that he can know it, and have some appreciation of it, in order that forgiveness may be granted and received, and its perfect work accomplished. But you will ask, Is it not the glory of the forgiving spirit to hide its sense of hurt? And the human forgiveness is never more than a polite fiction, if there is not in the hour of reconciliation this frank declaration and acknowledgment of the wrong done, and the suffering received from it. One thing in it seems to me clear as conscience. That wronged man cannot forgive his repentant enemy by treating his sin as though it had been nothing, by making light of it as though it had not cost him days of trouble, by hiding it in his good nature as though it were not an evil thing. Somehow that sense of injustice in his soul must find vent and burn itself out. Somehow that sense of wrong must manifest itself, and in some pure revelation of itself pass away. It cannot pass forever away except through revelation, as the fire expires through the flame. Yet in forgiveness justice must be a self-revealing flame, and not a consuming fire. Something like this has been the process of all genuine human reconciliations which I have observed. As an essential element of the reconciliation there was some revelation of pure justice. There was no hiding of the wrong. On either side there was no belittling the injury. There was no trifling with it as though a sin were nothing. It was no thoughtless forgiveness out of mere good nature, in which the heart's deeper sense of righteousness was not satisfied. I have left myself time only to point to the way by which we may ascend from this our human experience of forgiveness to the Cross of Christ, and the necessity for it in the love of God. It is a part of the penalty of sin that in every human transgression some just one must needs suffer with the guilty. This is a natural necessity of our human, or organic, relationship. And because we are so bound up together in good and in evil, we can bear one another's burdens, suffer helpfully for another, and to a certain extent save one another from the evil of the world. Now, according to these Gospels, God in Christ puts himself into this human relationship, and, as one with man, bears his burden and suffers under the sin of the world. The Father of spirits in His own eternal blessedness may not suffer with men; but in Christ God has humbled Himself to our consciousness of sin and death. In Christ the eternal love comes under the moral law of suffering, under which forgiveness may work its perfect work. More particularly, in the life and death of Christ these several elements which we have found belonging essentially to our experience of reconciliation with one another, have full exercise and scope. For Christ, identifying Himself with our sinful consciousness, makes a perfect repentance for sin and confession of it unto the Father. Christ experiences our sin as sinful, and confesses it. And again, Christ realizes the cost of the sin of the world. His loneliness of spirit, the cruel misunderstandings of Him by all men, His Gethsemane, His Cross — all realize the cost and suffering of sin, and in view of such sufferings of the Son of Man sin never can be regarded as a light and trifling thing. And still further, Christ reveals to the world what its sin has cost, and enables man who would be forgiven to appreciate it, and to acknowledge it.
They understood none of these things
The disciples' failure to understand the Master suggests an always timely question for the followers of Jesus: What misunderstandings of Christ may still be lingering in Christianity? The question is the more pertinent and the more necessary because one reason for the disciples' failure to perceive the things that were said by Jesus on His way to the Cross, was the knowledge of Him which they already possessed. Two truths in particular which they had learned better than any one else concerning Jesus, they allowed to stand in the way of their further understanding of Him. They had been taught His wonderful power. They had been eye-witnesses of His mighty works. They began to believe that Jesus could do anything. This truth of the power of the Son of Man they were ready to receive, and they stopped with the knowledge of it. He who had power from God could not be taken and killed by the Pharisees. So they grasped with eager hope the truth that Jesus was the promised Messiah of Israel, and missed the deeper truth of His character, that God so loved the world. Then again the truth which they had learned better than any others of Jesus' wonderful kindness, and justice, and humanity, in their partial view of it, may have hidden from their eyes the full revelation which He would have them perceive of His Divine life. How could He who had power over death, and who had so pitied two sisters that He had restored their brother to them, and who had enveloped their lives in a friendship of wonderful daily thoughtfulness — how could He, having all power, go away from them, leave them comfortless, throw them back again upon the world, and disappoint their high hopes of Him? No wonder Peter thought it was impossible, and even said impulsively, "Be it far from Thee, Lord!" The truth of Christ's friendship which they did know prevented them from understanding the diviner secret of God's sacrificial love for the world, which they might have learned. So they who knew the Lord best, misunderstood Him the most; and Jesus went before His disciples in a deeper purpose and a diviner thought than they perceived. Our text reads like a devout apology of the disciples for their singular misunderstanding of Jesus Christ. The providence of God had taught them their mistake. And very instructive for us is the method by which God corrected the false perception of the disciples, and opened their eyes to true and larger knowledge of the Lord. They overcame their misunderstanding, and were brought to better understanding of Jesus Christ, through the trial and the task of their faith. These two, trials and tasks, are God's ways of correcting men's imperfect faiths. For you will recall how those disciples, at the time of the crucifixion, and while they were waiting in Jerusalem, learned in their disenchantment, and were taught through that fearful strain and trial of their faith, as they had never been before, of what Spirit Jesus was, and what His real mission to this world was; and thus they were prepared to see and to become apostles of the risen Lord. That trial of their faith, while Jesus was mocked, and scourged, and delivered to death, and crucified between two thieves, and buried — all the light blotted from their skies, all the proud ambition broken in their souls — yet in His death a new, strange expectancy awakened in their hearts, and on the third day a vision seen which made all things a new world to them — that trial of their faith was the Lord's method of teaching the disciples what before had remained hidden from them even in the plainest words of Jesus. And then this knowledge of the new, larger truth of Christ's work was rounded out, and filled full of a steady, clear light to them, by the task immediately given them to do in the name of the crucified and risen Lord. They learned at Pentecost what Christianity was to be.
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