In the English Standard Version, the heading over Luke 18.31-34 reads “Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time.” It seems someone miscounted. In reality, Jesus has either directly stated or implied he was going to die upwards to six other times thus far in Luke. According to Leon Morris, Jesus as predicted his impending death in 5.35; 9.22, 43-45; 12.50; 13.32ff; 17.25. Not to mention in 9.51 he “set his face to go to Jerusalem” and has been making this journey ever since. At any rate, in these verses we have Jesus predicting his coming death.
The Messiah’s Prophecy
We are not given the occasion of this prophecy, only that the Twelve were with him and he spoke it to them. First, he says that together, he and the Twelve are going up to Jerusalem. Of course, as mentioned above, he has been making this trek for some time. But he drawing ever closer to his final destination. Second, Jesus says that everything written in the prophets is about to come to pass or be accomplished. In other words, prophecy concerning the Christ is about to find its end in Jerusalem. You think of all the prophecies in the Old Testament by prophets of God concerning the death of Messiah: Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 immediately come to mind. These graphic predictions of the suffering of the servant of God would find final fulfillment in Jerusalem with Jesus.
Now Jesus goes into detail about what exactly will take place and be done to him in order for those prophecies to be accomplished. First, he would be delivered to the Gentiles. This is the first mention of this fact but it is significant. The Jews had no authority or power to kill Jesus. Ultimately, it would be a Roman cross he would be hung and die upon. Second, he would be mocked. In other words, he was going to be made fun off, turned into a laughing stock. Picture a kid mocking or making fun of a sibling and you have the idea of what Jesus is saying and how he would be treated. Third, he would shamefully treated. Well, the mocking is shameful, but this goes even beyond that. Certainly verbal abuse is present, but also mistreatment in general which would cause a person to be outraged by what is happening. Fourth, Jesus would be spit upon. Personally, to the best of my knowledge, I have never been spit upon. But to be sure, it is a shameful and dispicable act. Most see this predicted in Isaiah 50.6. Fifth, Jesus will be flogged. The word that is used is the word for the Roman scourging. This is the beating that is given with the Roman flaggelum, a cruel instrument of torture that not only beat the flesh, it would rip into the flesh and tear it away. Sixth, he would be killed. Though he does not specifically mention it, the cross is in view. There is yet one more thing for Jesus to experience in Jerusalem: resurrection. Jesus calls his shot, too. It would be on the third that the tomb would be empty.
Each of these acts finds fulfillment in the Passion narrative: Delivered to the Gentiles (Matt 27.2); mocked, mistreatment (Matt 22.63-65); spit upon (Matt 27.30); flogged (Mark 15.15; John 19.1); killed (Mark 15.37; Luke 23.46); raised on the third day (Matt 28.1-10; 1 Cor 15.4). Seven different and distinct details predicted and fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is a clear example of the supernatural at work.
The Disciple’s Perplexity
Now, we read verse 34 and think, “How in the world did they miss it?” To be fair, Jesus has talked in the past death in figurative langauge. For example, he talks about the disciple’s death to self (9.23-24) previously and that immediately following a context similar to this one in 18.31-34 (cf. 9.22). So to a degree, we might not want to be so hard on them. On the other hand, how in the world did they miss it? I mean the langauge is very plain and Jesus uses no uncertain terms to describe his future death and resurrection. When the text says “they understood none of these things” the idea is that they could not put all the pieces together, like a puzzle their puzzler could not properly ponder. But at the same time, there seems to be more behind the scenes in that these things were “hidden from them.” It was invisible or even kept secret from them. It was not the right time for them to fully understand everything Jesus is talking about, but when the time is right, they will see the picture clearly (see Acts 2). For now, it escapes their grasp.