The previous success should not be misunderstood. Rejection still awaits Jesus. So he again predicts his fate. The juxtaposition of success and rejection is important, highlighted as it is by the introduction to these remarks: while everyone was marveling all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples . . . Even though he is the Son of Man, Jesus will be handed over to others, betrayed and rejected. The betrayal's nearness is underscored by the term mellei. It is "about to come." The disciples do not understand the saying. In fact, its significance is concealed from them. And they do not dare to ask about it.
How can the disciples not understand? Matthew 17:23 notes their distress as they hear Jesus' words. That text indicates that the meaning is probably not that they fail to understand the content of what Jesus said. What they fail to grasp is its import. How can the promised one, the recently confessed Messiah, possibly accomplish God's will and be rejected? Is he not to be a glorious, victorious figure? Is he not to bring deliverance? The disciples fail to grasp the answers to questions like these. Their lack of understanding is why they must listen to him. The lessons are just beginning, and some expectations need revision.