We All Crucified Him
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 20:17a (Holman) While going up to Jerusalem,. . .
This will be Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem. Hourglass sand was running out. Though called the Holy City, Jerusalem had a less than stellar reputation as to how it treated God’s servants. John Trapp, a Puritan, called it the “slaughter-house.”
Matt. 20:17b Jesus took the 12 disciples aside privately. . .
Quiet, private places are the best place to meet Jesus. “If we do not recharge our batteries in the stillness, our lights will be dim in the streets” (Ivor Powell).
We know the contents of this private meeting because our author was there. Due to Matthew, who heard every word, we are able to listen in. Let’s do so.
Matt. 20:17c-18a . . .and said to them on the way: “Listen!”
All roads to Jerusalem were clogged with travelers going to Passover. Privacy would be hard to find, but Jesus deemed it essential. Maybe He needed to waylay erroneous expectations possibly being spawned in the 12 by the throngs.
Swelling crowds could easily fuel political messianic fervor in the Disciples. Thus Jesus again warned them, their stay in Jerusalem would be ugly and painful.
For the third time (see Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23), Jesus warned what loomed before them. This third tolling of the bell pealed out a thrice-booming death-knell.
Jesus was not thinking of Himself, not seeking their sympathy. He wanted to help them face the pain looming large before them. He spoon-fed them, piecemeal, slowly, in order to save them from a crushing tsunami hitting them all at one time.
Jesus will be killed, not crowned. Knowing what lay ahead, He foretold the future in minute detail. No speculation, hunch, maybe, or possibly, only certainty.
This catastrophe is the way it will be. Jesus desperately sought to forestall a letdown. Bitter disappointment has driven many a believer to quitting. Beware false expectations. Anticipate with certainty only promises provided in Scripture. All else, however strongly we believe it will happen, is at best hopeful speculation.
Matt. 20:18b “We are going up to Jerusalem.”
In the Bible, people always go “up” to, and “down” from, Jerusalem. This is partly due to the fact the city sits on a hill, surrounded on three sides by a valley. This wording is used also as a way to pay respect to the Holy City. It is high and lifted up, the seat of the King. Even if on Everest, a person goes “up” to Jerusalem.
Matt. 20:18c “The Son of Man will be handed over . . .”
Jesus was betrayed. Few distresses are worse than being turned against by unfaithful so-called friends. Jesus would not have been tempted in all points as we are (HB 4:15) had “He not known failing, forsaking friends” (Pulpit Commentary).
All of David’s first 72 Psalms deal with rejection. It grieved him. This recurring theme indicates for us an effective way to pray the Psalms. David’s ongoing, pressing need was comfort for rejection, and protection from it.
I encourage us, when we read and pray David’s Psalms, to substitute our specific trouble in place of the Psalmist’s trouble with enemies and treacherous friends. For instance, the most famous “enemy” passage is the one in Psalm 23:5a, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” When praying a Psalm, insert your affliction for David’s, as in, “Lord, You prepare a table, a pasture land, for me in the presence of my illness, bereavement, disappointment, or failure, etc.” This custom can be a huge prayer-aid in times of trial and need.
Matt. 20:18d “ . . .to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death.”
The ones who should have championed Jesus, and been His most ardent defenders, became His worst enemies. How bitter to be opposed by people who were supposed to be good. They hated Him, condemning to death the life-giver.
Matt. 20:19a “Then they will hand Him over to the Gentiles. . .”
Jesus was betrayed by a disciple, condemned by Jews, crucified by Gentiles. Do not miss the deep truth contained in this. We were all there.
Each human being shares equal blame for Jesus’ cross. We all had to have been there because He came to die for us all.
How much demonic anti-Semitism has raised its ugly head due to rejection of this truth? No group is more to blame for Jesus’ death than any other. The Jews bear no more responsibility than anyone else. It was after the crucifixion, not before it, that Paul said the Jews were beloved for the fathers’ sakes (RM 11:28).
I refuse to speak against the Jews. I (as Dad did before me) allowed no Jewish jokes in my household. Is Israel perfect? No. Do we have to agree with everything Israel does? No. Should our support for them be above debate? Yes.
I will not lift one finger against the Jews. Everyone who has dared to place a hand on the Jews has nosedived into an ignominious fate—Egypt, Spain, Russia, and Germany. The list goes on. A major reason God has blessed the USA is because we have been a haven for the Jews. Do they as individuals have an inside track on being salvation? No. All are saved the same way, through faith in Jesus the Messiah. Do they as a group have a special place in God’s economy? Yes.
Even the soldiers, the human instruments of Christ’s crucifixion, were no guiltier than are we who live 2000 years separated from it. They were definitely guilty, but “were only small-part actors in the drama of redemption” (Interpreter’s Bible). Jesus said no one took His life from Him; He laid it down (John 10:11,18).
Jesus’ death, no surprise and no accident, was foreknown and foreordained, a promise made to us by Jesus before we were created. He pledged in advance He would give His life for us. When He later stood at the fork in the road, as presented in our text, He chose to take the dangerous path, as He had promised He would. He kept His word. He went through with it. This was what He came to do.
Jesus chose to drink our cup of damnation dry because there was no other way to save us. Only one thing could have caused Him more agony than a cross—the thought of our perishing. He knew what was coming, but went anyway, for us.
Matt. 20:19b “. . .to be mocked, flogged, and crucified,. . .”
“Mocked.” Spat on, scorned, slapped, hit with a reed. “Who hit you?”, they taunted Him. They dressed Him in a royal robe, and made Him a crown of thorns.
“Flogged.” The Roman scourge was brutally administered to reduce the amount of time a person could survive on a cross. “Crucified.” A torture started by the Phoenicians, and perfected by Rome. Hands and feet were nailed to wood.
Accurate at every point, Jesus stacked up detail after detail, thereby proving He had Divine foreknowledge. He knew how many thorns would be in His crown.
When Jesus entered our world, He emptied Himself (PH 2:5-7). His sinless life was due to constant dependence on the Father. He prayed, thus proving He was totally human. At times His totally-God nature would break through, as it did here.
Matt. 20:19c “. . .and He will be resurrected on the third day.”
All three times Jesus predicted His pending death, He also mentioned His resurrection. He knew the final victory was in God’s hands. Death would lose. Never forget this. Jesus didn’t. We should never let our message end at Calvary.
Jesus and the disciples were heading toward the saddest, happiest weekend in history. The gloom of the cross would be swallowed up in the glory of the resurrection. Rising again would be the grand sequel, the climatic curtain call.
That resurrection Sunday morning was so blessed that it would be celebrated not only once a year, on Easter, but would be commemorated every first day of the week, 52 times a year. Every seven-day cycle forces us to re-visit at least once the resurrection. This is to be our recurring theme. Tell others about it whenever we can. Jesus spoke of His death and resurrection often. We must do the same.