Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, (Luke 18:32)Furthermore, they didn't understand what he was talking about after he told them this:
The disciples did not understand any of this. (Luke 18:34)
Two mysteries of this statement
There are a couple of things that make this statement difficult to understand. The first relates to Jesus' statement about "everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man..."
The second thing that makes this statement more difficult to understand is the fact that Jesus is speaking in the third person - about the events that will be taking place.
Notice that in the beginning of the statement, he speaks in the first person plural as he says, "We are going up to Jerusalem..."
But then his statement switches to third person as he speaks of the "Son of Man" and what will take place. He says, "he will be delivered" and "they will mock him" and "insult him" and so on - as if this will be happening to someone else besides Jesus.
Why wouldn't he just say "they will mock me" and so on?
Why did Jesus speak of himself in the third person?
Does anyone speak like this? If we had a friend named Bob would he say to us, "Bob would like to go to the store"? No. He'd say, "I would like to go to the store."
It is not as if Jesus doesn't say "I" or "my." He does frequently in his teachings. But when he refers to the "Son of Man" and what the prophets wrote and so on - he suddenly goes into the third person. Why?
Because Jesus is not referring exclusively to himself. Jesus is speaking of a role.
Let's use an example. Let's say that A CEO is speaking about what his corporation's bylaws say about how the CEO is appointed. He might say something like: "The CEO is appointed by the board of directors according to the bylaws."
Why doesn't the CEO say "I am appointed by the board"? Because he isn't the only CEO the board will ever appoint, and assuming the corporation was around before the CEO came in, there were previous CEOs who were previously appointed by the board. For this reason, the CEO doesn't speak about this matter in the first person, because being appointed by the board is not exclusive to him.
Furthermore, as the CEO explains what will happen during the board meeting, he might say, "The CEO will wait in another room while the board discusses his appointment."
In the same way, Jesus is speaking of a role - the "Son of Man." Just what is a "son of man" anyway? Why would such a phrase be distinct? Isn't every male a son of a man?
Actually, this is a mistranslation. Here is an explanation of the Greek term, υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, which is being mistranslated* to "son of man."
As this link describes, the more appropriate translation of this phrase is:
In fact, God called Ezekiel "son of man" [servant of humanity] at least 60 times in the Book of Ezekiel.
So what do these prophets all have in common?
They were preaching the message given to them by God. They were preaching to humanity about coming to love and serve the Supreme Being. For this reason, they were serving all of humanity. There were thus, "servants of humanity."
In fact, all the prophets were servants of humanity, because they were all spreading the teachings given to them by God.
So how does Jesus' persecution play into this? The reality is that many prophets were persecuted - many by the Judean people. Jesus himself describes this:
[Speaking to his disciples]"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matt. 5:11-12)
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!" (Matt. 23:29-32)
[Speaking to Jewish authorities]"So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs." (Luke 11:48)
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you..." (Matt. 23:37)Jesus also described how future prophets - servants of humanity - would be persecuted after him. He said this to the sectarian Jewish teachers and their followers:
"Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town." (Matt. 23:34)Furthermore, Jesus also described how God knows that His messengers are often persecuted by non-believers:
"Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’" (Luke 11:49)
Jesus and the Prophets
Thus we see that Jesus' teachings included the following facts:
1) Many prophets who came prior to Jesus' arrival were persecuted - many by the Judeans, just as Jesus was.
2) Many prophets spoke of and wrote of their own, previous and future persecutions among messengers of God. This is why Jesus states here, "everything written by the prophets..." They spoke of their persecutions just as Jesus is doing.
3) Some of Jesus' disciples or disciples of disciples were to become prophets after Jesus and be persecuted. Peter and James were examples of this. Both were persecuted.
4) God knew and sanctioned Jesus and the prophets being persecuted.
This is why Jesus spoke in the third person
Thus there are specific reasons why Jesus spoke in the third person about the Servant of Humanity. We thus find that Jesus emphasized his role for a couple of reasons:
The reason for Jesus' persecution was due to Jesus assuming the role of Servant of Humanity. He could have slipped away into the wilderness and stopped teaching for a while and escaped persecution. He could have traveled to another region and avoided capture. But he didn't, because being persecuted was part of his role he took on to represent God.
Secondly, Jesus was wearing a physical body, so he knew his coming persecution was only going to happen to his body - not himself. Jesus knew he wasn't the physical body:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Matt. 10:28)The spirit-person or "soul" of Jesus left his physical body at the time of death. This is described in multiple verses among the Gospels. Here are two clear statements:
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matt. 27:50)
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)The phrase "gave up his spirit" means that Jesus' spirit-person or soul left the physical body. This is what happens at the time of death. Each of us will leave our physical body. We may not have the power to re-appear as Jesus did three days later. But we know from these descriptions that Jesus certainly left his body at the time of death.
For these reasons, Jesus speaks in the third person as he explains what will happen to him.
But there is also an important point here - regarding the Supreme Being sanctioning Jesus' and the prophets' persecutions by the Judeans over the centuries (see Luke 11:49 above).
Why did God allow Jesus' body to be murdered?
Others have put it slightly differently. Even people watching Jesus' persecution asked why God didn't come down and save Jesus.
Did God want Jesus to be killed? And flogged and tortured?
Don't be ridiculous. The Supreme Being is certainly saddened by how the Judeans mocked, insulted, tortured and murdered Jesus' physical body. Jesus is God's loving servant and representative. God was not pleased with how Jesus' body was treated.
But this doesn't mean that God will interfere. If God prevented the torture and murder of Jesus' physical body then he would essentially be taking away the freedom of those Judeans to act offensively. He would be taking away their freedom to reject God and the freedom to reject God's messengers.
Why is this freedom so important?
Because the Supreme Being wants our love. And love cannot be forced. Love requires having the freedom not to love. Love requires having the freedom to reject the person.
Love for God requires having the freedom to insist that God doesn't exist, or that God is a mean God.
If the Supreme Being didn't give everyone the freedom to accept or reject His messengers, then we would also not have the ability to love God out of our own free will.
You see, we are here in the physical world, away from God, because we rejected Him in the past. That's why we're here wearing these temporary physical bodies - which will die at some point. Every body dies.
But now that we are here, God is giving us each the chance to have a change of heart and return to Him. So He sends His messengers - His servants of humanity - to offer each of us the guidance to return home if we want.
This might be compared to a president sending people into prisons to help prisoners reform. Some of those teachers are bound to get hurt by inmates. Why? Because the inmates are criminals - so many already have a propensity for violence.
In the same way, the residents of the physical world are constantly fighting each other - killing each other's bodies - and in general, being violent. That's why there are so many wars and violence throughout the world.
So it is not surprising to the Supreme Being that some of His messengers will be persecuted - and some even murdered.
Furthermore, for God to intervene and prevent His messenger from being persecuted would also prevent His messenger's ability to exercise his right to commit his life and sacrifice himself for the purpose of spreading the teachings of love for God.
This is, in fact, how Jesus' persecution has the ability to save people. His willingness to be persecuted for his teachings showed all of us just how important his teachings are. That Jesus - and the prophets before him - would stand behind the message of love for God. Jesus didn't run off. He stood his ground as a testament that the most important teaching - taught by Jesus, Moses and all the prophets - was important enough to give his life for:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)
*Here is the translation of these verses from the Gospels of Jesus:
Then he took the twelve aside and told them, “Look, we will be headed up to Jerusalem and everything written about the Servant of Humanity through the Prophets will be accomplished. He will be handed over to the materialists and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon. And after they have whipped him, they will murder his body – but on the third day he will appear.” (Luke 18:31-33)