Pastor James J. Barker

Text: MATTHEW 20:17-28


  1. We see here that Jesus is "going up to Jerusalem" (20:17). He is heading towards Mount Calvary, where He will soon die on the cross (20:17,18).
  2. Our Lord went to Jerusalem deliberately to die for you and for me.
  3. This is now the fourth time that our Lord announced His arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection (cf. Matt.12:38-40; 16:21; 17:22,23).
  4. This is certainly our Lordís most comprehensive statement so far.
  5. And yet, somehow the disciples could not comprehend what our Lord was telling them. And there are many people today who cannot comprehend the death of Jesus Christ.
  6. I saw an interesting documentary on television about Michaelangelo. A great deal of Michaelangeloís art dealt with the death of Christ. But by reading what he said on the subject, it is clear that even the great Michaelangelo was a bit confused about the death of Christ.
  7. Let us look into Godís Word today and get a better understanding of the death of Christ.



    1. In Matthew 12:40, 16:21 and 17:23, our Lord did not specify how He would die. Back in those days, people were often stoned to death. That is how Stephen was killed.
    2. Sometimes people had their heads cut off. That is how John the Baptist died. But Jesus had to die by crucifixion (cf. Ps.22:16).
    3. When David wrote Psalm 22, 1,000 years before Christ, crucifixion was unheard of among the Jews. It was practiced by the Romans, but not the Jews. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 are remarkable prophecies, written hundreds of years before Calvary.
    4. By the way, by accurately predicting His betrayal, trial, mocking and scourging by the Gentiles, crucifixion, and resurrection (Matt.20:18,19), Jesus did something no one else could ever do. Only God could foretell the future accurately, infallibly, and in such minute detail.



    1. The word "baptism" is used in various ways in the Bible. Usually it refers to the ordinance of baptism (cf. Matt.3:6-8).
    2. But notice that John used the word "baptize" in a different way (3:11). In this context, the baptism with the Holy Ghost refers to the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and fire refers to the judgment of God (cf. 3:12).
    3. Here in Matthew 20:22, our Lord uses the word "baptism" to refer to His death on the cross (cf. Rom.6:3,4).
    4. Our Lord asked James and John if they were able to undergo the terrible ordeal of His suffering, and to be plunged (immersed, baptized) into those same sufferings (20:22).
    5. They answered, "We are able" (20:22), indicating they really did not understand what Jesus was saying.
    6. Let us look at the context: The mother of James and John was ambitious for her children (20:20,21).
    7. Evidently the disciples still thought the Lord was about to set up an earthly kingdom. It is extraordinary how thoroughly they ignored all the Lordís statements concerning His impending death.
    8. They were acting as if there would be no cross.
    9. They wanted to skip through the sufferings and the cross and the resurrection and get right to the kingdom (20:21). Jesus said to them: "Ye know not what ye ask" (20:22). Likewise today there are many, many religious people who do not understand the cross.
    10. You listen to most of these radio and TV preachers. They do not say much about the cross. Many people have come to me and said, "I have attended church services for years and this is the first message on the cross I have ever heard."
    11. By the way, Paul refers to "the offence of the cross" (Gal.5:11). There is something about the cross that is offensive to the unregenerate. I am not talking about a pretty gold cross hanging on a chain. I am talking about Jesus Christ dying for all our filthy sins on a cruel cross.
    12. In case you are wondering why the mother of James and John should ask such a question, go back to Matt.18:1; 19:27-29. Even though the disciples were with our Lord every day for three years, they still had worldly ambitions.
    13. High places in Godís kingdom are not "given" out (20:23b); they are not arbitrarily granted. They will not be given out the way politicians give important positions to their friends and relatives (20:23b).
    14. God the Father has everything "prepared" (20:23b). Everything is divinely arranged and nothing is left to chance or fate.
    15. These positions in the kingdom are not rewarded by favoritism, but are given to those who are faithful servants (20:27). And the Lord Himself is our great example (20:28).
    16. Someone put it this way: "Although God gives unmerited salvation, He never gives unmerited reward" (John Phillips).



    1. Our Lordís death was substitutionary Ė He gave His life "for many" (20:28). He died that we might live.
    2. Our Lord told the mother of James and John that she did not know what she was asking for (20:22). Worldly people like to lord it over others. But followers of Christ are called to be servants (20:25-27).
    3. The goal in Godís kingdom is not to rule, but to serve.
    4. The word "minister" (20:26) means "servant" (see margin). Spurgeon said, "The lower we have stooped, the higher we have risen."
    5. Unfortunately, there are not too many church-members stooping these days. I have observed that oftentimes people either do not want to do anything in the church, or they want to be a big-shot in the church.
    6. We are not producing servants in our churches today. May God help us! Most church-members are like spectators. Some Christians do not even want to join a church because they are scared someone may ask them to do something.
    7. Jesus said He came into this world for this purpose: to minister to (serve) others, "and to give His life a ransom for many" (20:28).
    8. Why is there so much confusion concerning the death of Christ? Because people have failed to give this verse serious consideration.


  1. Let us always be mindful of the sufferings of Christ and what our Lord went through on the cross for you and for me. Mark those words in verse 19: "to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him."
  2. Spurgeon said: "Here were three sharp swords: one scarcely knows which had the keenest edge. Our hearts are to melt as we think of this threefold sorrow: scorn, cruelty, death. Our blessed Master, however added a word which overpowered the bitterness of the death-draft. Here was the bright lining of the black cloud: ĎThe third day He shall rise again.í"

| Customized by Jun Gapuz |