Things are starting to get real for those first followers of Jesus. Jesus speaks to his disciples at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading about his impending demise. He foretells that he will be handed over and killed. And the disciples are overwhelmed with grief. Certainly we can resonate with their grief. They’ve been following him and living day-in and day-out with him for quite some time now, and just when they are really starting to appreciate his message and mission, he’s talking about the end of it all.
We don’t have to spiritualize things too much to grieve ourselves over Jesus’ death. Because we know what brought about that painful, humiliating death: our many sins. Both our personal sins and the sins of our society have caused the evil which made his death the necessary means of salvation. And so, as we look up there on that cross, well, we might feel a bit of grief ourselves over such great suffering for so much evil.
But we can’t miss what the disciples seem to have missed. Right after the foretells his handing over and death, and before Matthew comments on their overwhelming grief, Jesus says this: “and he will be raised on the third day.” Now, granted, they had no idea what that meant, so probably it couldn’t have been much comfort for them. But we do know what it means – it means everything! Yes, the weight of our sins is ponderous, but they don’t define us. Yes, the evil in our world is overwhelming, but it is not triumphant. Yes, death is sorrowful, but it is not the end. It wasn’t for Jesus, and it doesn’t have to be the end for us either, if we believe in him and follow him and live the Gospel.