This is the third time that Christ gave his disciples notice of his approaching sufferings; he was not going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the passover, and to offer up himself the great Passover; both must be done at Jerusalem: there the passover must be kept (Deut. 12:5), and there a prophet must perish, because there the great Sanhedrim sat, who were judges in that case, Luke 13:33. Observe,
I. The privacy of this prediction; He took the twelve disciples apart in the way. This was one of those things which were told to them in darkness, but which they were afterward to speak in the light, Matt. 10:27. His secret was with them, as his friends, and this particularly. It was a hard saying, and, if any could bear it, they could. They would be more immediately exposed to peril with him, and therefore it was requisite that they should know of it, that, being fore-warned, they might be fore-armed. It was not fit to be spoken publicly as yet, 1. Because many that were cool toward him, would hereby have been driven to turn their backs upon him; the scandal of the cross would have frightened them from following him any longer. 2. Because many that were hot for him, would hereby be driven to take up arms in his defense, and it might have occasioned an uproar among the people (Matt. 26:5), which would have been laid to his charge, if he had told them of it publicly before: and, besides that such methods are utterly disagreeable to the genius of his kingdom, which is not of this world, he never countenanced any thing which had a tendency to prevent his sufferings. This discourse was not in the synagogue, or in the house, but in the way, as they travelled along; which teaches us, in our walks or travels with our friends, to keep up such discourse as is good, and to the use of edifying. See Deut. 16:7.
II. The prediction itself, Matt. 20:18, 19. Observe,
1. It is but a repetition of what he had once and again said before, Matt. 16:21; 17:22, 23. This intimates that he not only saw clearly what troubles lay before him, but that his heart was upon his suffering-work; it filled him, not with fear, then he would have studied to avoid it, and could have done it, but with desire and expectation; he spoke thus frequently of his sufferings, because through them he was to enter into his glory. Note, It is good for us to be often thinking and speaking of our death, and of the sufferings which, it is likely, we may meet with betwixt this and the grave; and thus, by making them more familiar, they would become less formidable. This is one way of dying daily, and of taking up our cross daily, to be daily speaking of the cross, and of dying; which would come neither the sooner nor the surer, but much the better, for our thoughts and discourses of them.
2. He is more particular here in foretelling his sufferings than any time before. He had said (Matt. 16:21), that he should suffer many things, and be killed; and (Matt. 17:22), that he should be betrayed into the hands of men, and they should kill him; but here he adds; that he shall be condemned, and delivered to the Gentiles, that they shall mock him, and scourge him, and crucify him. These are frightful things, and the certain foresight of them was enough to damp an ordinary resolution, yet (as was foretold concerning him, Isa. 42:4) he did not fail, nor was discouraged; but the more clearly he foresaw his sufferings, the more cheerfully he went forth to meet them. He foretels by whom he should suffer, by the chief priests and the scribes; so he had said before, but here he adds, They shall deliver him to the Gentiles, that he might be the better understood; for the chief priests and scribes had no power to put him to death, nor was crucifying a manner of death in use among the Jews. Christ suffered from the malice both of Jews and Gentiles, because he was to suffer for the salvation both of Jews and Gentiles; both had a hand in his death, because he was to reconcile both by his cross, Eph. 2:16.
3. Here, as before, he annexes the mention of his resurrection and his glory to that of his death and sufferings; The third day he shall rise again. He still brings this in, (1.) To encourage himself in his sufferings, and to carry him cheerfully through them. He endured the cross for the joy set before him; he foresaw he should rise again, and rise quickly, the third day. He shall be straightway glorified, John 13:32. The reward is not only sure, but very near. (2.) To encourage his disciples, and comfort them, who would be overwhelmed and greatly terrified by his sufferings. (3.) To direct us, under all the sufferings of this present time, to keep up a believing prospect of the glory to be revealed, to look at the things that are not seen, that are eternal, which will enable us to call the present afflictions light, and but for a moment.