Summary: We all have to deal with the unpleasant realities in life--death and taxes among many others. Even the Son of God was not exempt from these. How Jesus handles these situations gives us wisdom for dealing with the same.in our lives.
Eyewitness to the Messiah
Dealing with Unpleasant Realities
The old sage of American History, Ben Franklin, commenting on his hope of the new U.S. Constitutions permanency, wrote in 1789: “But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
And of course, his quote has become historic. I suspect it’s because of the unlikely similarities between death and taxes in many ways. They are both seemingly universal, and both similarly dreaded realities of human life.
And this morning we come to a section of Matthew which encompasses a mere six verses, but involves two different stories, one on each of these two topics—one on death and one on taxes.
And we might have expected that the greatest person who ever lived, God-in-the-flesh Himself, might have been exempted from the experience of at least one or both of these unpleasant realities, but it was not so. So this morning, we take up the topic of unpleasant realities—the unpleasant realities of life which we all face, and which we must navigate in life appropriately to honor and obey God. And fortunately for us, Jesus experienced these two unpleasant realities, and many more, and we can gain some wisdom from how we handled them for our own lives, and the unpleasant realities, whatever they might be that we each face.
So, how do we deal with the unpleasant realities of this life? And I might say at this moment, that they are not limited to death and taxes. They include our own sins, the sins of others, the evil of this world, and the very mundane, comparably trivial things of life like dirty clothes, dirty
dishes, home & car repairs, paying bills and difficult relationships, among so many other things.
Well, what I gather from this passage this morning is this: Graciously & responsibly face unpleasant realities asap, for God’s glory and your good. Graciously & responsibly face unpleasant realities asap, for God’s glory and your good.
As we come to Matthew 17:22, Jesus has just gotten back with his 12 disciples after he and three of them had the Mount of Transfiguration experience. They are now regrouping after the deliverance of the deaf and mute boy and Jesus again reminds them of fact that they would rather not be remind of—“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him and He will be raised on the third day.” And we’re told that the disciples were deeply grieved.
This is now the second time, the second of three times in the Gospel of Matthew when the disciples would be told of this coming alarming turn of events for Jesus. It was only a couple weeks before, right after Peter’s Great Confession that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, that Jesus had broken this bad news to the disciples. And as I said before, it appears that Jesus goal in the first 2 ½ years of his ministry had been to convince the disciples absolutely of this single fact—that He was the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and therefore God in the flesh. Once that had been accomplished and confirmed by Peter’s great confession, he had to prepare them for the unexpected, the second half of the Gospel or the Good News, that the God-man would die on the cross for their sins and be raised again on the third day.
Now did Jesus have some obsession with the morose, or the morbid? Why did He insist on repeating this seemingly bad news to His disciples?
Well, it was because there was a problem. It was a very serious problem--a problem that needed to be faced as soon as possible. The problem is that the disciples did, in fact, expect that Jesus, as the Messiah, would be exempt from death. They shared the contemporary Jewish expectation that the Messiah would live and rule forever, and would deliver Israel from all its political enemies. They were expecting they he would lead them and Israel into a Golden Messianic Age in accordance with their understanding of all the prophecies of the Old Testament.
The problem was that they and their teachers had missed other incredibly important teachings of the Old Testament—that the Messiah would also have to die, and to die for the sins of the nation and the human race, and then would also be resurrected. The Jews did not know how to reconcile the prophecies of Daniel 9:26 and Isaiah 52 and 53 with the many prophecies that the Messiah would live and rule forever as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
So now that the disciples were convinced that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus needed to begin preparing them for this shocking fact, that He, too, despite being the Messiah, would also experience death.