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“Jesus Had to Die”

By using the word must, Jesus is indicating that he is planning to die—that he is doing it voluntarily. He is not merely predicting it will happen. This is what probably offends Peter the most. It is one thing for Jesus to say, “I will fight and will be defeated,” and another to say, “This is why I came; I intend to die!” That is totally inexplicable to Peter.

That’s why the minute Jesus says this, Peter begins to “rebuke” him. This is the verb used elsewhere for what Jesus does to demons. This means Peter is condemning Jesus in the strongest possible language. Why is Peter so undone, that he would turn on Jesus like this right after identifying him as the Messiah? From his mother’s knee Peter had always been told that when the Messiah came he would defeat evil and injustice by ascending the throne. But here is Jesus saying, “Yes, I’m the Messiah, the King, but I came not to live but to die. I’m not here to take power but to lose it; I’m here not to rule but to serve. And that’s how I’m going to defeat evil and put everything right.”

Jesus didn’t just say that the Son of Man would suffer; he said that the Son of Man must suffer. This word is so crucial that it’s employed twice: “the Son of Man must suffer many things and . . . he must be killed.” The word must modifies and controls the whole sentence, and that means that everything in this list is a necessity. Jesus must suffer, must be rejected, must be killed, must be resurrected. This is one of the most significant words in the story of the world, and it’s a scary word. What Jesus said was not just “I’ve come to die” but “I have to die. It’s absolutely necessary that I die. The world can’t be renewed, and nor can your life, unless I die.” Why would it be absolutely necessary for Jesus to die?

Peter found the necessity of Jesus’ death difficult. Why was this so difficult for him—and for us—to accept?

Excerpt from JESUS THE KING by Timothy Keller
Reprinted by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2011 by Timothy Keller

And from JESUS THE KING STUDY GUIDE by Timothy Keller and Spence Shelton, Copyright (c) 2015 by Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishers.

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