Things Plainly Said

james-john


Devotional for Friday, April 3

Matthew 20:17-19
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

Despite being so stuck in place, we need to ready ourselves for a journey. Starting Sunday, we are going to walk with Jesus into Jerusalem, following him through the week toward the cross. And once we’re through the horror of it all, we will experience something astonishingly beautiful.

We will spend today and tomorrow remembering some of what we heard while we were gathered in our sanctuary earlier this year. Jesus did not sugarcoat what was going to happen to him. In fact, as demonstrated in the verses above, he was quite plain about being arrested, beaten and killed on a cross, and then raised from the dead.

Clearly, what Jesus was saying went over the disciples’ heads, despite his bluntness. After hearing Jesus say he would be crucified, James and John, aided by their mother, began jockeying for positions alongside Jesus in his kingdom, one at his right hand, one at his left.

“You don’t know what you are asking!” Jesus replied.

It is obvious none of the disciples understood God’s plan to redeem the world through Jesus Christ until after the resurrection had occurred. Hindsight is much clearer. If I had lived among them, raised in their context amidst the confusion roiling their world, I’m sure Jesus’ plain teachings would have eluded me, too.

Recognizing their confusion will help us better understand some of their behaviors in the stories we will see during Holy Week, as we move toward Easter on April 12.

The disciples’ confusion also reminds us that we need to stick to the plain teachings God gave to post-resurrection people. We can forget some important principles in the midst of our modern-day troubles.

Yes, the world remains a broken place. Jesus said suffering and sadness would abound.

Yes, Christ will return, setting all things right, undoing in a most final way the power of sin and death! Jesus made us a promise.

And yes, in the meantime, we are to be busy declaring who Jesus Christ is, sensing the Holy Spirit’s leading. God still empowers us, comforts us, and works through us for the betterment of the world.

Lord, may we be plain examples of your kingdom for all the world to see. Amen.

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