Don’t Mess With My Painting: Matthew 17:22-23
“22) And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; 23) and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.” Matthew‬ ‭17‬:‭22‬-‭23‬
It would be a fascinating study to read the four gospels and count how many separate occasions Jesus foretold His disciples about His coming death, burial and resurrection. This is the forth time in the past two chapters alone.
In Matthew 17:22-23, Jesus makes this the main subject of His conversation with His disciples. Matthew said, “They were deeply grieved.” Mark 9:32 adds; “But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.” Luke 9:45 adds even more commentary; “45) But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they might not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement.”
Foretelling His coming death, burial and resurrection now becomes a major theme in His conversations with the disciples. He was trying to prepare them, but His warnings were falling on deaf ears.
In a previous conversation recorded in Matthew 16:21-23, Peter took Him aside and rebuked Him for mentioning the subject. One must wonder what was happening? Let me pose a few natural possibilities.
First, they were so attached to Jesus they were experiencing emotional denial. This seems to be the motivation of Peter rebuking Jesus in Matthew 16:22. His words are telling; “God forbid it Lord! This shall never happen to you.” His emotions were blinding him.
Second, they were experiencing willful denial. They were so focused on His identity as Messiah and the promise of His coming Kingdom, they willfully ignored His warnings. This may help explain the next conversation between the disciples as they walked on with Jesus. It’s hard to imagine, but they were arguing about which of them would be greatest in the coming kingdom. (See Matthew 18:1, Mark 9:33-37, and Luke 9:46-48)
Third, they were experiencing subconscious denial. Their minds simply could not reconcile this kind of cruel treatment of Jesus with His continual acts of compassion, mercy and kindness toward people. If it is true that we reap what we sow in life, there was no way anything bad could happen to Jesus. He was the nicest, most loving, honest and kind guy that ever walked on earth. After all, life is supposed to be fair! Right?
This leads to the final possibility; their minds could not reconcile paradoxical truths. Concepts like love and hate, light and darkness, good and evil, mercy and justice, blessings and suffering, faith and works, sovereignty and free will, and even heaven and hell are so opposite that our minds naturally cling to one and dismiss the opposite. Wait a minute; if Jesus was indeed God, how then could He die? God is immortal; isn’t He?
The above four things happen to people all the time. It is nearly impossible to have a balanced view of reality. We naturally want to tip the scale in the direction of our experience and bias. Everyone sees the world through colored lenses.
A huge example of this is seen in the contrast between the western church and the persecuted church today. Because life is so good in the Laodicean church, it is hard to imagine that the church at Smyrna even exists. Our western minds subconsciously erase things like poverty, suffering, exploitation, persecution and the doctrine of martyrdom. They don’t line up with our daily experience.
Jesus spent significant time preparing His disciples for His coming suffering, death, burial and resurrection, but it did not register in their thinking until after the fact. Why? It did not fit the puzzle of His identity they had been assembling up to that point in His public ministry.
They couldn’t imagine an old rugged cross suddenly superimposed as the new main feature on the beautiful paintings of the life and works of Jesus Christ they were painting. It didn’t fit the picture! But it happened… just as Jesus said!
So what does your painting of Jesus and the Christian life look like? Are you saying to God, “Don’t mess with my painting!”
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global