I imagine that the disciples spent quite a bit of time wondering what the future would hold for them. What people thought of Jesus may have varied – He was called everything from prophet to rebel, from blasphemer to Messiah – but it was certain that nearly everyone thought something about Him. As He healed, delivered, and spoke the Words of God, crowds sought Him out… and at times they wanted to make Him their king.
But at other times, they wanted to stone Him.
So where, exactly, was Jesus leading the men that had given up their lives to follow Him?
Perhaps the disciples, like many others in that day, would’ve been waiting for Him to spark the movement that would overthrow the Romans. Perhaps they waited for Him to declare Himself King of Israel.
We know that the mother of James and John, sons of Zebedee, respectfully asked for her sons to be given a place on either side of Jesus in His kingdom. (Matt.20) The other disciples were indignant when they heard this request and I have to wonder – were they hoping to have the places of honor for themselves? Were they waiting for His reign to begin and anxiously wondering what their own role in His kingdom would be?
But Jesus didn’t respond with titles and job descriptions. Instead, He said “whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:26)
Instead of talking about a plan to overcome their enemies, Jesus talked about being betrayed and condemned.
Instead of a revealing a plan to take the throne over Jerusalem, He talked about days of trouble and the end of the age. Instead of coordinating His rise to power, He talked about returning some day.
The disciples did not yet understand what was to come…they couldn’t comprehend the thought of Jesus being handed over to the Romans. They didn’t really know what He meant when He declared His life a ransom for many.
They did not yet know that it would be in the willing surrender of His life that mankind’s worst enemy would be defeated. They did not yet know that Jesus would carry a cross before the day that every knee would bow and every tongue declare Him Lord and King.
They did not yet know that the Kingdom of God would be built through the hearts of men…and that their futures did not hold positions of earthly glory, but empowerment by the Holy Spirit to build God’s kingdom upon the cornerstone of Christ.
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” -Luke 17:20-21