Summary: Jesus' passion prediction in Luke 18:31-34 teaches us that what happened to him was in fact a fulfillment of prophecy.
In his book Future Babble, journalist Dan Gardner explores our obsession with “experts” who claim to predict future events. Gardner relies on the work of Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who produced a massive 20-year analysis of 27,450 predictions from 284 “experts.” Tetlock concluded that as a group the “experts” did little better, and sometimes considerably worse, than “a dart-throwing chimpanzee”!
Gardner’s book lists a number of examples of these inaccurate predictions:
• In 1914 the British journalist H. N. Norman proclaimed that “there will be no more wars among the six great powers.” There have been two world wars since his prediction.
• In 1968 the president of Anaconda Copper Mining Company predicted that his company would be successful for 500 years. Less than ten years later, fiber optics trumped copper and Anaconda was out of business.
• Also in 1968 Paul Ehrlich predicted that overpopulation would produce a total collapse in the world’s food supply. Instead, the world’s food supply has increased dramatically.
• In 1974 Ehrlich confidently asserted, “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” England, of course, is still in existence today.
• In 2008 experts at Goldman Sachs predicted that oil prices would surge to over $200 per barrel within six months. Instead, the price for petroleum fell to $34 per barrel.
So why do we keep listening to these “expert” predictions even when they’re wrong? According to Gardner, people hate uncertainty. “Whether sunny or bleak,” Gardner wrote, “convictions about the future satisfy the hunger for certainty. We want to believe. And so we do [keep listening to these ‘expert’ predictions].”
While on his final journey to Jerusalem Jesus made yet one more prediction about his upcoming passion. We shall learn how accurate Jesus was about predicting his own future.
Let’s read about Jesus foretelling his death a third time in Luke 18:31-34:
31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31-34)
Jesus was on his final trip to Jerusalem. In fact, he was only a few days from arriving in Jerusalem. The closer he got to Jerusalem the clearer Jesus became about his upcoming passion.
The word “passion” is interesting. We usually think of passion as referring to an emotion that is deeply stirring, such as love or sexual desire. And that is its usual meaning in our modern English. However, the Latin root of the word “passion” (passio) means “suffering.” Understood in this sense, the word “passion” refers particularly to the suffering of Jesus Christ.
Jesus wanted his followers to understand his upcoming suffering. He did not want them to be alarmed or confused about what was about to happen to him. And so Jesus made another prediction about his upcoming passion.
Jesus’ passion prediction in Luke 18:31-34 teaches us that what happened to him was in fact a fulfillment of prophecy.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Prediction of Jesus (18:31-33)
2. The Perplexity of the Apostles (18:34)
I. The Prediction of Jesus (18:31-33)
First, let’s look at the prediction of Jesus.
Jesus had been teaching about the entry requirement into the kingdom of God in Luke 18. He wanted people to understand that to enter the kingdom of God and inherit eternal life a person needed a dependent humility on the mercy of God. There is nothing that any person can do to merit or earn entrance into the kingdom of God by good works, righteousness, or obedience to God’s Law. “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6), and there is nothing in any one of us to make us acceptable to God. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6a). That is why God sent Jesus “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
In the previous section in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus had just explained to the rich ruler how to inherit eternal life. Eternal life is received by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. In the case of the rich ruler, he had to repent of his attachment to his riches, and follow Jesus. The rich ruler was unwilling to do so, and thereby forfeited eternal life. Peter then wondered if he and the other disciples would receive eternal life. Jesus assured Peter and the other disciples that because they had surrendered everything (as an evidence of their repentance) and followed him (as an evidence of their faith), they would received eternal life (Luke 18:30b).