As discussed in a prior note, the three Passion-predictions relate specifically to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, and, in the Synoptic Tradition, they serve as a framing mechanism for the journey narrative (cf. my outline in the earlier note). Within this narrative setting, the final Passion-prediction effectively marks the end of the journey. After this point, the tone and focus of the Synoptic narrative changes significantly, with a sudden emphasis on Jesus’ role as the Davidic Messiah (“Son of David,” Mk 10:47 par)—a role which takes on prominence with the ‘Triumphal Entry’ scene (11:1-10 par), and continues throughout the Passion narrative.
As previously mentioned, Luke has greatly expanded his version of the journey narrative by making it the location for a wide range of traditional material—sayings, parables, and narrative episodes—that covers nearly nine full chapters (9:51-18:14). This disrupts the framing device of the Passion-predictions, but the third prediction (18:31-34) still serves to mark the end of the Jesus’ journey. Though he has only reached Jericho (18:35ff; Mk 10:46 par), he is close enough to Jerusalem that reader is able to make the transition into the Passion narrative.
Mark introduces the third Passion-prediction with a rather lengthy narrative summary that emphasizes Jesus’ approach to Jerusalem and which helps to build the dramatic suspense:
“And they were on the way, stepping up to Yerushalaim, and Yeshua was leading (the way) before them, and they wondered, and the (one)s following (him) were afraid.” (Mk 10:32)
Immediately preceding this narration we have the episode with the ‘Rich Young Ruler’ (vv. 17-22), along with the important teaching on discipleship (vv. 23-31) that follows in the Tradition. It is not clear why the disciples “wondered” as they walked behind Jesus; the idea seems to be that it was the bold way that Jesus took the lead in their journey that caused their surprise (cp. the Lukan wording in 9:51, at the beginning of the journey). At the same time, Jesus’ disciples were afraid—a fear that is meant, at the very least, to evoke memory of the previous Passion-predictions, in which Jesus’ emphasized the suffering and death he would face in Jerusalem.
Primarily, however, this narrative description is a literary device for dramatic effect, meant to build suspense leading up to the third prediction. The narration continues to this effect:
“And (hav)ing taken along the twelve again, he began to recount to them the (thing)s being [i.e. that were] about to step [i.e. come] together for him…” (v. 32b)
The wording here makes clear that Jesus is addressing the Passion-prediction specifically to the Twelve. This simply makes specific what was implied in the context of the first two predictions—namely, that Jesus was speaking to his close disciples, and that the Passion-predictions are central to what he was teaching them on the journey. A principal theme throughout this teaching was discipleship—the cost of being a disciple, etc (on this, cf. my earlier outline). The importance of this theme is brought into high relief by the Passion-predictions, as if to emphasize what the disciples, too, will face as a result of following Jesus. On this specific connection between discipleship and Jesus’ suffering/death, note the Synoptic episode that immediately follows the third prediction (Mk 10:35-44 par).
In typical fashion, Matthew follows the Synoptic/Markan narrative, but presents it in a much simpler manner (his relative freedom in this regard indicates, again, that the surrounding narrative was less well-established in the tradition than the prediction itself):
“And Yeshua, (as he was) stepping up to Yerushalaim, took the twelve [learners] alongside, down by (him)self, and on the way he said to them…” (20:17)
The main detail added by Matthew is the expression kat’ i)di/an (“down [by him]self”), i.e., close to him, privately. This emphasizes the intimacy of the moment, and that the Passion-prediction was intended for these disciples alone.
Luke’s version of the narrative introduction is even simpler:
“And, (hav)ing taken along the twelve, he said to them: ‘See, we are step(ping) up to Yerushalaim…'” (18:31a)
He has effectively eliminated the dramatic buildup and, more significantly, the approach to Jerusalem is retained only as part of the Passion-announcement itself. It is a most elegant modification of the Synoptic tradition, and it places the emphasis, not on the narration, but on the words of Jesus. Luke adds another important detail in his version of the Passion-prediction, but that is best dealt with as we begin discussing the prediction proper, in the next daily note.
The Passion-prediction may be outlined as follows, being comprised of these components:
- The approach to Jerusalem
- The betrayal of Jesus to the (Jewish) ruling authorities
- The judgment by the Council, handing him to the (Roman) authorities
- The suffering and death of Jesus (represented by a sequence of four action-verbs)
- His resurrection after three days
This is essentially a thumbnail outline of the Passion narrative itself, and likely is not all that different from the most rudimentary form of the narrative that developed as a result of the early Gospel preaching. Indeed, the earliest core of the Passion narrative almost certainly had such kerygmatic origins, as can be glimpsed from passages in the sermon-speeches in the book of Acts—cf. 2:23-24; 3:13-15; 4:10, 27-28; 5:30-32; 10:39-41; 13:27-31.
We will begin analyzing these components in the next note.