Apart from Him we can do nothing

4 Times Jesus Predicts His Death

A black and white picture of a crown of thorns. There are 4 times Jesus predicts His death and resurrection in the Gospels.

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There are several times Jesus predicts His death and resurrection in the Gospels. Why is it important to our faith that He did?

Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. (Romans 14:9)

Followers of Christ proclaim that He is the Divine Lord and that He was raised from the dead (Romans 10:9). It is the revelation and acceptance of these two basic facts that form the cornerstone of faith in Christ. It is out of these two acknowledgements that all our understanding of our faith comes forth.

That Jesus Christ, the God-Man entered history and was born, died, and returned to life is a mind-blowing concept. Even for those who believe, we can still marvel at the magnitude of it. We can still appreciate how a non-believer’s mind must rebel against the belief that it is possibly true.

This event would have life-changing meaning whether Jesus had something to say about His death and resurrection or not. But in fact, He does have quite a bit to say about it. Jesus predicts His death or alludes to it in some way multiple times in the Gospels. Also, Jesus predicts His resurrection.

So where are some of the places in the Bible where Jesus predicts His death and resurrection? And why is it important to our faith that He did? Let’s find out together.

What did Jesus Say About His Death and Resurrection?

If we simply focus on the references in the Gospels where Jesus outright predicts His death and resurrection using plain language, we find 3 predictions that are replicated across the synoptic (similar view) Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. There is also a fourth time Jesus predicts His death and resurrection in a straightforward way only found in Matthew. Therefore, we’ll use the Matthew references. Let’s look at what did Jesus say about His death and resurrection.

Matthew 16:21

From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. (Matthew 16:21)

Taken chronologically, this is the first time we are told that Jesus predicts His death and resurrection. We can possibly deduce from this that Jesus may not have previously talked to the disciples about such matters.

In this verse and the ones that follow, each time this is referenced, it tells us that Jesus predicts His death AND resurrection. Not only does Jesus predict His death, but He predicts He will actually be killed. In each instance we’ll see that when Jesus predicts His death He always includes the prediction of His resurrection. We’ll come back to that.

Also of note – at the beginning of chapter 16, Matthew relates the conversation that Jesus had with the Pharisees and Sadducees demanding a miraculous sign from heaven that would prove His authority. Jesus cryptically tells them that the only sign they will be given is the sign of Jonah, after which He departs (Matthew 16:1-4). The sign of Jonah being the allegory of Jonah spending 3 days in the belly of the great fish before being returned to dry land.

This was one of a few times when Jesus was speaking metaphorically of His death and resurrection. We aren’t told that the Jewish leaders understood; it’s likely they didn’t.

Matthew 17:22-23

After they gathered again in Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” And the disciples were filled with grief. (Matthew 17:22-23)

Between the first and second time Jesus predicts His death and resurrection, Matthew recounts the event known as the Transfiguration, where Jesus’ glory was revealed. Immediately following this, Jesus heals a demon-possessed boy. Then Jesus predicts His death and resurrection for the second time.

This time, we are given an additional detail not given in the first prediction. We hear that the disciples were filled with grief. Jesus also brings a little more focus into the circumstances of His death, saying that He is going to be betrayed.

Matthew 20:17-19

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” (Matthew 20:17-19)

This third time that Jesus predicts His death and resurrection, He and the disciples are proceeding to Jerusalem for the final time before the events of the Passion week unfold. Jesus’ triumphal entry is described at the beginning of the next chapter.

Again, Jesus provides a little more detail, identifying who will betray Him, and that they will hand Him over to the Romans for punishment and death.

So with each prediction, Jesus reveals a little more. Was this because He was giving the disciples as much information as they could handle each time? For whatever reason Jesus chose to provide more details each time, it’s reasonable to trust that this was intentional.

Matthew 26:31-32

On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” (Matthew 26:31-32)

Here, Jesus predicts His death and resurrection for a fourth and final time. This time is immediately following the Last Supper as they are making their way to the Mount of Olives to pray.

This must have been the most difficult of the four for the disciples to hear, as they had surely just spent a most emotional and intimate moment with Jesus. They would have all been feeling raw and vulnerable, so to be told by Jesus they would desert Him must have been incredibly painful to hear.

It certainly was for Peter, as he claimed He would never desert Jesus, only for Jesus to tell Peter about his specific betrayal before the sun would rise next (Matthew 26:33-35). Jesus would later restore Peter in a beautiful example of His mercy.

Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection

So the question of whether or not Jesus predicts His death and resurrection are pretty clearly settled. Just more reason to be confident that Jesus Christ is the way of salvation. But there are a few other reasons why it is important that Jesus predicts His death and resurrection.

When Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection it is a Sign for Us

There is a purpose when Jesus predicts His death and resurrection. Jesus is not just speaking random words. Yes, He is preparing the disciples for what is to come. But in the recording of His predictions in the Gospel record, we have insight into His divinity. This is one reason why it is important to know that Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection. It is a sign that Jesus Christ is who He said He was and that He could do what He said He could do.

Recall when Jesus healed the paralyzed man, first telling the man his sins were forgiven. When the nearby observing religious teachers were offended, even calling this blasphemy, Jesus heals the man to prove that He has the power to forgive sins. (Matthew 9:1-8).

This is the same thing, but it’s a sign for the entire world. Jesus tells us that He is the resurrection and the life, and those who live in Him and believe in Him will never die (spiritually) (John 11:25-26). How can we know this is true? Because He told us that He would be put to death, and then come back to life. And then He did it.

The predictions that Jesus made regarding His death and resurrection and their progressive expansion also shows us that He foreknew the future, and specifically His future. And in very specific terms. Because everything He said would happen came true.

Also note that His predictions about his death were not about things that He could control. The people involved, the timing of it, their specific actions—none of these were His to manipulate or to gain behind-the-scenes knowledge about.

Defending Jesus’ Prediction of His Death and Resurrection

Picture from inside of an empty stone tomb; part of a round rock to cover the entrance can be seen. Caption: If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, Christians have no hope; Praise Jesus! He is risen!There is another reason it is important to know that Jesus predicts His death and resurrection. Why? Because there are many who refute Jesus is God who died and rose again to pay the penalty for our sins so that we may spend eternity with Him. And some will refute that by simply saying that Jesus never claimed to be God. Some of those same people will also deny that Jesus rose again.

If we don’t know our Bible, when someone makes such a statement, we don’t have a good answer for that. This is just another example of why we need to follow the abiding disciplines, which includes Bible study, prayer, and fellowshipping with other believers. However, think how powerful it is when we are able to show in scripture that Jesus did rise from the dead, had many witnesses to this truth, and even went so far as to predict His death and resurrection!

Peter tells us to always be prepared to defend our faith (1 Peter 3:15-16). And for good reason. If we can’t answer the arguments of the world, we will be unequipped to share our faith with those who challenge us with such statements as above. Worse still, we may be led astray by questions we can’t answer.

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then Christians have no hope (1 Corinthians 15:12-14). Praise Jesus – He is risen!

More Bible verses about Jesus predicts His death and resurrection:

Luke 24:44-46; John 2:18-22; Acts 2:22-24; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Philippians 3:10

All Biblical reference links courtesy of Bible Gateway, a searchable online Bible tool hosting more than 200 versions of the Bible in over 70 languages.

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