Once again everyone missed it until after the resurrection. God hid himself as he had done since the manger. But prior to this, at least 700 years prior, God hid a message what Isaiah the prophet had spoken:
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53: 3-5)
It was hidden way back before Jesus was born. It was kept hidden and no one anywhere saw it until after the resurrection. The Apostle Paul even says that the spiritual powers didn’t see it. “We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2: 7-8). All the gospel writers referred at some point to this prophecy of the Suffering Servant in their writings after the events of Easter.
“When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8 v 14-22)
Jesus fulfilled every aspect of what Isaiah saw. Matthew could see that now. In the middle of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and the crowds of people at the door wanting healing and deliverance, Matthew inserts a verse from Isaiah 53 to show this fulfilled that prophecy. And it seems ever since the Church have argued about it. A crowd gathers to write books and speak at conferences, debate and argue: Did Jesus die on the cross for our sins and our sicknesses? Healing in the atonement? The crowd gets bigger and the years go by but Jesus has moved on long ago! Once again we have missed it. We keep missing what God is doing by messing it up because we need to be in control. Knowing the answer doesn’t qualify you to either be forgiven and/or healed anyway. Grace is the qualification.
So Jesus moves on.
Two men, a teacher of the law and a disciple come to Jesus and they reveal that again they couldn’t see, they missed this move of God.
Jesus could have been a lot more lenient. His responses seem somewhat unfair. But remember Jesus could see the motives and attitudes of the hearts of man. He could see right through their statements. He knew what they were thinking. Therefore, not only was there something wrong with what these men said, there would appear to be something even more wrong with their hearts. Looking at the responses of Jesus, let me suggest this is what Jesus was saying:
- This is no pleasure trip. I am not the Saviour that you think I am. Do you know where I am going? I am headed to Jerusalem? It will cost me everything and you say you will follow but I know you are not ready to pay the cost.
- The dead do not come first, the message of life is first. I need you to put me first but before you have taken a step you are talking of others as first. You are not ready to follow me. Let those others of your life who are dead, spiritually dead to who I am, let them be the ones who take care of the physically dead, otherwise you too will be known as spiritually dead, understanding who I am but not willing to follow just yet.
There is no understanding to personal situations. You cannot sugar coat this. It is radical discipleship.
If anyone of us had suggested such things, if the Church’s response to what seemed like positive responses to Jesus were these then that Church would have been rejected and slandered all over town. I guess just like Jesus was when he was rejected and slandered!
If Jesus is first then nothing else can be first.
I pray that this Holy Week we will not miss it. We will not be caught up with things that are not as important as following Jesus to the cross.