Then he took the twelve aside and 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 handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. Luke 18:31-34
This passage is a little about courage. There are two distinct types of courage. There is the courage of the one who suddenly finds themselves in a situation of emergency or crisis and jumps in to do what needs to be done. There is also the courage of the one who sees a terrible situation in the future and knows no other way out of it, so they face it head on. There is no doubt in my mind which is the higher courage. Anyone can be courageous on the spur of the moment when faced with an emergency situation, but true heroism comes when one can see the danger but continues. This type of heroism takes supreme courage to face, and that is what we see Jesus doing in this passage from Luke’s Gospel.
I am sometimes dumbfounded as to why the Cross came as such a surprise to those who followed him. Time and time again Jesus tells them that the Cross is coming yet they cannot see it. We often miss what is right before our eyes because we are not capable of seeing what is right there in front of us. We are blinded by our prejudice and our surroundings, and we do not have an open enough mind to see clearly. Jesus disciples were obsessed with this sense of a conquering king, someone who was going to free them from their physical captors. Their ignorance of their Scripture and tradition blinded them to the fact that Jesus is a conquering king but not over some physical being but over the spiritual one of death.
There is a significant warning in all of this for all of us. The human mind has a way of listening to only what its wants to hear the way it wants to hear it. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see. We have this tendency to believe that the unpleasant truth cannot be right, and that what we don’t want to happen will not happen simply because we wish it so. We must continually struggle against this desire to hear and see only what we want to hear and see.
Jesus never foretold of the Cross without telling of the resurrection. He knew what was coming for him. He knew of the shame and pain and humiliation that was coming in the next few days, but he was also sure of the glory that was to follow all of it. He knew what the malice of men could do, but he was also certain of what the power of God could do. It was with the knowledge of ultimate victory that Jesus faced the apparent defeat of the Cross. But he also knew that without that cross there would be no crown. Jesus knew what he was to face, but he faced it with courage because he knew it was not the end.