Read: Mark 10:32-52
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“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise” (vv. 33–34).
– Mark 10:32–34
Christ’s teaching during His journey from Galilee to Jerusalem at the end of His earthly ministry, a journey Mark narrates for us in his gospel (9:9–10:52), is striking. Our Lord emphasizes that greatness comes through humility and dependence (9:33–37; 10:13–16), that we must take drastic measures to deal with sin (9:42–50), and that we must be willing to give up everything we own if that is what He calls us to do (10:17–25). Furthermore, Jesus also predicts His death twice during His travels to Jerusalem (Mark 9:30–32; 10:32–34). Today’s passage features the second of those predictions.
To understand why the prediction of Christ’s death would have been striking, even unbelievable, for our Lord’s first disciples, we have to put ourselves as best we can in the shoes of those men. The idea that the Messiah would suffer and die was almost completely unheard of for first-century Jews such as the Twelve. Most Jews expected a conquering king who would throw off Roman oppression, not the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52:13–53:12.
The idea of a suffering Messiah was strange enough for the disciples, but the idea that this suffering would happen at the hands of the Gentiles was even harder to believe. Yet, that is what our Lord predicted in saying that He would be delivered “over to the Gentiles” (Mark 10:33–34). To be handed over to the Gentiles was the worst fate a first-century Jew could imagine. The Jews were handed over to the Gentiles in the exile, which was the worst of all the covenant curses because it meant being outside of the land of blessing (Deut. 32:64–68). To be delivered over to Gentile authorities, then, was to be under the judgment of God. Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary Mark, “To be placed into the hands of the Gentiles was to be sent outside the covenant community, outside the camp, outside the place where the presence of God was concentrated and focused.”
Consequently, Jesus’ prediction of death at the hands of Gentile authorities was a prediction not only of physical suffering but also of His death as the sin-bearer. It was a prediction of penal substitutionary atonement in which the Messiah, standing in the place of His people, receives the curse that His people deserve for their sin. At the time, the disciples did not fully grasp that fact. But they did know enough about the horror of what Jesus was predicting that they were absolutely terrified by it (Mark 10:32).
Jesus, as well as the New Testament authors, tells us that Christ’s death was a propitiatory sacrifice. It was a death that satisfied the wrath of God because Christ bore the curse of God on our behalf. To bear the curse of God is a horrible thing to imagine, but it was motivated by the grace, love, and mercy of our Creator. Because Christ was delivered over to the Gentiles, we who trust in Him never need to fear that we will have to bear the curse ourselves.