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As in Mark, Matthew's repeated passion predictions (16:21; 17:22-23) keep the reader focused on where the story of Jesus is heading. Disciples may sacrifice much and be rewarded (19:21-20:16), but the ultimate sacrifice is martyrdom, the price paid by Jesus and many who would follow him all the way (20:17-19).
The placement of this prediction exposes the disciples' selfish conception of the kingdom in verses 20-22, 24: for them the kingdom is about reigning, but Jesus recognizes that reigning first requires suffering (vv. 22-28). Significantly, this passion prediction adds the notion of mocking by Gentiles, a horrifying image in a culture emphasizing shame (as in Epict. Disc. 1.4.10) and diametrically opposed to the picture of a militant Messiah triumphing over the nations.
The disciples had managed to ignore Jesus' warnings that did not make sense on their cultural and theological presuppositions; undoubtedly they felt that other sayings confirmed their predispositions (19:28). In this respect they were not unlike most Christians today.