A Brief Bible History/Section 2/Lesson 9

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A Brief Bible History, Section II
J. Gresham Machen
Lesson 9: The Prediction of the Cross


The Prediction of the Cross

Peter's confession at Cæsarea Philippi was a triumph of faith, for which Jesus pronounced Peter blessed. Through a revelation from God, Peter had been made able to endure the disappointment involved in Jesus' refusal of kingly honors. But another trial of faith was soon to come.

Matthew 16:21-28, and Parallels

After Peter's acknowledgment of Jesus as Messiah, our Lord began to teach the disciples more of what his Messiahship meant. Matt. 16:21–28, and parallels. It meant, he said, not worldly honors, and not merely a continuation of the humble life in Galilee, but actual sufferings and death. This teaching was more than Peter could endure. "Be it far from thee, Lord," he said, "this shall never be unto thee." In such rebellion against God's will Jesus recognized a repetition of the temptation which had come to him at the first, immediately after the voice from heaven had proclaimed him to be the Messiah—the temptation to use his Messianic power for his own worldly glory. And now as well as then the temptation was resolutely overcome. "Get thee behind me, Satan," said Jesus: "thou art a stumbling-block unto me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men."

Jesus was thus ready to tread the path of suffering which he had come into the world, for our sakes, to tread. And he called upon his true disciples to tread that path after him. Yet all the suffering was to be followed by a greater glory than Peter had ever conceived; and almost immediately there was a wonderful foretaste of that glory.

Matthew 17:1-13, and Parallels

Six days after the scene at Cæsarea Philippi, our Lord took Peter and James and John, his three most intimate disciples, with him up upon a high mountain—no doubt somewhere on the slopes of the lofty Mount Hermon. There he was transfigured before them. Matt. 17:1–13, and parallels; "his face did shine as the sun, and his garments became white as the light." With him appeared Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And they were talking about what seems to be a strange subject at such a moment. They were talking not of the glories of Jesus' Kingdom, but of the "departure" which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Luke 9:31. The "departure" included not only the resurrection and the ascension, but also the crucifixion. Even the shining light of the transfiguration was intended to point to the cross.

Matthew 17:14-20, and Parallels

After the glorious experience on the mountain, our Lord came at once into contact with the repulsiveness of human misery. Matt. 17:14–20, and parallels. But he did not shrink from the sudden transition. As he came down from the mountain, he found at the bottom a boy possessed of a demon, who "fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming." It was a depressing sight, very unlike the brightness of the transfiguration. Even more discouraging, moreover, than the condition of the boy himself was the powerlessness of the disciples. They had tried to cast the demon out but had failed miserably, not because the power might not have been theirs, but because of their unbelief. The father of the boy, too, was lacking in faith. "I believe," he said; "help thou mine unbelief." Jesus did help his unbelief, and the unbelief of the disciples. He rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy.

At this period Jesus repeated on several occasions the prophecy of his death. The tragedy on Calvary did not overtake him unawares. He went deliberately to his death for our sakes.

Matthew 18:1-6, and Parallels

Even on such solemn days, when the shadow of the cross lay over the path, the disciples were unable to overcome the pettiness of their character. On the very journey when Jesus had told them about his approaching death, they had quarreled about the question as to which of them should be greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. Thereby they had shown how far they were from understanding the true nature of the Kingdom. If the Kingdom was finally to be advanced under the leadership of such men, some mighty change would have to take place in them. That change did take place afterwards, as we shall see, at Pentecost. But at present the pettiness and carnal-mindedness of the disciples added to the sorrows of our Lord. Despite the intimacy into which he entered with his earthly friends, he towered in lonely grandeur above them all.

After the transfiguration and related events near Cæsarea Philippi, our Lord returned to Galilee. But apparently he did not resume permanently his Galilæan ministry. Soon we find him passing through Samaria, and laboring in Judea and in that country east of the Jordan River which is called Perea. This part of Jesus' ministry is recorded particularly in the Gospels According to Luke and According to John, although Matthew and Mark contain important information about the latter part of the period. The general character of the period is fixed by the expectation of the cross. Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem to accomplish the atoning work which he had come into the world to perform.

Luke 10:1-24; John, Chapter 5

At the beginning of the period Jesus sent out seventy disciples, to prepare for his own coming into the several cities and villages which he was intending to visit. The Seventy were in possession of something of Jesus' power; they were able to report with joy that the demons were subjected to them.

During the same period we find Jesus in Jerusalem at the feast of tabernacles. Even during the period of the Galilæan ministry Jesus had gone up to Jerusalem at least once, at the time of one of the Jewish feasts; and in connection with the healing of a man at the pool of Bethesda he had then set forth the true nature of his person and his relation to God the Father. John, ch. 5. At the later period with which we are now dealing, the same teaching was continued. Chs. 7, 8.

Matthew 11:27, and Parallels

It is particularly the Gospel of John which records the way in which Jesus set forth the nature of his own person, but what is fully set forth in the Gospel of John is really implied all through the Synoptic Gospels, and in Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22 it is made just as plain as it is in John. According to his own teaching, Jesus stood in a relation toward God the Father which is absolutely different from that in which other men stand toward God. In the plainest possible way, our Lord laid claim to true deity. "I and my Father," he said, "are one." All the Gospels present the true humanity of Jesus, the Gospel According to John, no less than the Synoptists. But all the Gospels also set forth his deity. He was, according to a true summary of the Gospel teaching, "God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person for ever."


  1. What trial of Peter's faith came just after his great confession?
  2. What was the meaning of the transfiguration?
  3. What event took place just afterwards?
  4. Give an account of Jesus' teaching at the time of the feast of tabernacles. John, chs. 7, 8. How was this teaching received?
  5. Give an account of the mission of the Seventy and compare it with the previous mission of the Twelve.