I am reading this week the Third Passion Prediction in Matthew 20:17-19. In doing so I take note of the context of the three passion predictions (16:21-23; 17:22-23; 20:17-19). The first instance is an indirection quotation where it says “he must go to Jerusalem…”, but the second and third are in direct quotation and he refers to himself as the Son of Man.
I looked up the 23 quotations of the Son of Man in Matthew and found that the name is associated with Authority and Humility. The Authority passages have to do with his present authority over forgiveness of sins, and the Sabbath (9:6, 12:8). These also reference his authoritative future return (13:41; 16:27; 24:27,30,37,39). The Humility passages refer to his present unassuming appearance (8:20; 16:13) and his betrayal and death (12:40; 17:9,12, 22; 20:18) which serve as a ransom (20:28).
In the passion predictions Jesus calls for a kind of follower-ship that accepts humility: To “deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (16:24); “whoever would be great among you must be your slave” (20:27). The pattern of being a follower includes the pattern of Jesus life – suffering first, reward later. Greatness is achieved by service. Or as Jesus said, “the last will first and the first last” (19:30; 20:16).
Among the nations rulers lord it over the people. James and John longed for the best seats, to the left and right of Jesus in his Kingdom, so that they could be first and second in line and lord it over all the rest. Grasping for power leads to resentment as we see in the response of the others. “And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.”
And so in this season leading up to Good Friday and Easter consider that this came about as “Jesus was going up to Jerusalem” (20:18), “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (20:28).