Mark 10:32-34 (NIV): They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
As the group headed to Jerusalem, Jesus led the way, and was intent on getting there. This confused and worried the disciples. Jesus had already told them a couple of times all that was going to happen. If that was all true, wouldn’t it make way more sense to stay away from Jerusalem than to march boldly right into the lion’s mouth?
But Jesus had come to the world for precisely this time. All else had been waiting and laying the groundwork for the coming of God’s kingdom which His suffering, death, and resurrection would make a reality. He had told His followers, “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” (Luke 12:50 (NIV) And so He was anxious to go, anxious to get to Jerusalem to play out the last act of His ministry, anxious to get to the other side of the suffering that was waiting for Him.
Jesus saw with absolute clarity all that He would go through. First, He would be betrayed to the religious leaders by one of His closest disciples. They would try Him and condemn Him to death. Then, because the Jews were not allowed to execute anyone (cf. John 18:31b-32), they would hand Him over to the gentiles, the Romans, to have Him crucified. The guards would mistreat Jesus, mocking Him, spitting on Him, and flogging Him. Finally they would nail Him to the cross to kill Him.
All of that was terrifying to the disciples, and they couldn’t see anything beyond it. Even when Jesus proclaimed the coming victory that would make it all worthwhile, “Three days later he will rise,” they couldn’t hear Him; their ears were so full of the coming terror, that there was no room to hear of victory on the other side. So Jesus pressed on toward the victory, while all the disciples could see was that they could very well be walking into a great tragedy.
Father, it is easy for us, who already have the testimony of these witnesses, to sneer at their fear, and to wonder at their deafness. But if we had been them, I don’t think we would have been any different at all. Even today, we let fear of trouble, fear of persecution, fear of tragedy stop us cold in our tracks. We, like them, cannot see the victory that lies on the other side of these earthly trials if we will only be steadfast and obedient. We fail to believe Your promise to be with us always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 18:20b) when we find ourselves facing trouble or tragedy. Father, help us to be more steadfast where our own rubber meets the road, so that we can do Your work powerfully and bring glory to Your name. Amen.