This last study before Good Friday takes us to Jesus' last prediction of his death before he arrives at the cross. In this study in Luke 18:18-34, we'll begin by examining verses 31 to 34 and make our way back up to verse 18.
(A) Jesus teaches the Cross: the passion of the Son of Man (Luke 18:31-34)
This is the third prediction Jesus makes about His death in the book of Luke. Let us take a moment to examine the language in each of these predictions. How has He described His death in the book of Luke?
|Predictions||Details about the Cross||Jesus’ tone|
| First |
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised”
Notice that Jesus never mentions the cross explicitly. Neither did Jesus refer to him obviously, merely referring to the "Son of Man".
|Jesus was trying to emphasise to them that it was necessary for Him to suffer and there was no other way. Jesus was not just certain about it, and taking an active role, but from the tone, we can hear His total commitment to it! It's almost as if His desire is for the cross.|
| Second |
“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”
Here, Jesus highlights His betrayal. He emphasizes the relationship between the Son of Man and the people who are going to turn Him in.
|He commands them to listen carefully and does not want them to neglect His words because they are important. The cross is also about their betrayal.|
| Third |
“And taking the twelve, he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. After flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise”
|He wanted the disciples to realise that their journey into Jerusalem and the events that would follow was a confirmation of what the prophets have said. Their very action in traveling together is fulfilling Scripture.|
In Jesus' three predictions of his death, we learn things about the cross, but Jesus misses out the actual mention of the cross What do we know about his death (on the cross) from all that He has said? There is suffering and betrayal, with mocking and insults and done by the religious leaders and also the Gentiles. Jesus will die but will rise again. These are incredibly detailed predictions, and every detail involved in His death was a fulfillment of what had been previously prophesied in the OT! Why is this important for us to note and to go one step further to meditate on the details? Jesus' death was not a generic death, and we are not spectators in a cosmic event. Each and every single event -- the mocking, the rejection, the separation from God -- was on our behalf. He was rejected and mocked by man, so that we would be accepted by God, and we have no fear about rejection by man. He was killed, so that we can have eternal life. In each of these, Jesus stood in our place. This is what substitution means! This Good Friday, would you take some time to pause, and consider how each of the detail about His death really applies to you?
(B) Jesus teaches about our hearts: the impossibility of self-salvation (Luke 18:18-25)
In these 3 episodes, Jesus has been preparing His disciples for His death all along. In each, He attaches additional teaching and implications. Here, we see that He meets a young ruler in verses 18 to 25. This young ruler came to Jesus with a question -- he wanted to find out what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. In verse 19, we realise that Jesus does not answer his question directly. He questions the young man's definition of good, and outlines the commandments (v.20).
What was Jesus doing here? Jesus was trying to help the young ruler see that thinking about this issue of eternal life in the wrong way. "No one is good except God alone" (v.19b), so why was he calling Jesus good? He had a flawed understanding of "good", and it was certainly not possible for him to do or be good enough. Notice also the commandments that Jesus highlighted. Jesus spoke about the latter commandments, which were horizontal in nature. Yet Jesus also missed out the last commandment on coveting. The young man did not pick up on the missing commandment, and instead, proudly declared that he has kept all of them from his youth. There is no mistaking the pride in the tone of his answer. This young ruler really did consider himself to be good, and was completely blind to the traps and nuances in Jesus' answer to him.
Jesus, on hearing his response, commanded the young man to do one thing, but gave some details to flesh out this one thing. Jesus said that he still lacked one thing, and told him to sell all that he had, distribute it to the poor and follow Him, and in doing so, he will receive treasures in heaven (v.22). Upon hearing this, the young man "became very sad, for he was extremely rich" (v.23). Jesus was telling this young man to give up his idols and treasures on earth for something greater -- treasures in heaven and Jesus himself. But this young ruler was completely unable to give up his idol and security, and was utterly devastated but this. Indeed he was truly unable to obey the last commandment, the warning against coveting and setting our human hearts on material possessions and securities.
Jesus knew the heart of the young man. In verse 25, He remarks that indeed he would rather cling on to the security and joy of created things. In His interactions with him, He was showing the young man (and us too) how to get eternal life. At the heart of the matter (literally), we cannot save ourselves. This man wanted a secret method and way, but Jesus highlighted something greater and truer -- that he was a sinner unable to save himself. He (and us too) attach our faith and securities to many things apart from God, and in doing so, we try to save ourselves by our works. Notice how Jesus did not mention the first four commandments, which really relate to our relationship with God. Jesus was trying to help him, and us, see that we receive eternal life not by what we do, but in first admitting that we cannot do anything to earn our way there, repent of our self-salvation, and wholly admitting that none is good but God alone!
(C) Jesus teaches about hope: the assurance that following Jesus (the reward) is worth it (Luke 18:26-30)
How did the disciples react to Jesus' teaching? They start to panic, and wonder who it is that can be saved. Peter also seeks some form of assurance, for the disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus and now had nothing (v.28). Jesus reassures them that God can do the seemingly impossible task (v.27) of changing hearts. He can actually take the heart of someone like the rich young man, who is in love with wealth and make it new (v.27)! Dear friends, do you see that in this verse, we too are being reminded that people who seem impossible to us and closed to the gospel completely are not out of reach of God's transforming power! He is the one who can change the leper's spot and melt the heart of stone. Is there someone you need to pray for? Or perhaps some of us are struggling with feeling a sense of distance from God. Take heart! This verse reminds us that what is impossible with men and with our own efforts, is possible with this God.
Jesus also provides a great assurance to the disciples in verses 29 to 30, just before He mentions the cross again. He begins with the word "truly", which means "Amen", indicating that they can count on what he is going to say next. Jesus reassures them that none of their sacrifice and suffering for the sake of the gospel will be wasted (v.29). He promises that they will receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life" (v.30). What wonderful words! And these words apply to us today too! To all who sacrifice relationships, time, energy, efforts, dreams for the sake of the kingdom of God and to follow Him, Jesus gives the same promises to us. Throughout church history, promises like these have led many like Jim Elliot to give their lives for the gospel.
After providing this hope, Jesus spoke about his death a third time (v.31-34). This Good Friday, we know that all Jesus predicted about His death came through. We know that the Son of Man needed to suffer and die. In Luke 18, we are also confronted with a response to this truth. Jesus is calling us to turn away from our attempts to save ourselves and do good to earn eternal life. If there was another way for us to be saved, God would have certainly allowed for it. Yet, there is not, and the impossible task of us saving ourselves, was met with the equally inconceivable truth that God Himself had to come to save us. What are you keeping and holding on to? What is on your heart?
Jesus spoke of his death, but also about His resurrection! He also speaks of the glorious hope and reward that awaits us. Luke 18 challenges us to spend everything we have for Jesus and Jesus alone, and promises that we will never be shortchanged! God knows how to do the accounts, and we don't have to worry or keep track on His behalf. What can you say that you've given to Him? This Good Friday, let us consider the cross afresh and meet Him there once.