Jesus Predicts His Death | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
January 2018

Jesus Predicts His Death

By Neal Bowes

This passage begins with the phrase, “From that time on,” (NIV) signaling a shift of some sort. Indeed, Jesus is winding down his earthly ministry and is now looking ahead toward his suffering and death. His message is quite clear: he needs to return to Jerusalem where he will suffer at the hands of the authorities. Peter speaks up immediately and actually admonishes Jesus. The “suffering servant” was not the kind of Messiah that the disciples were expecting. Rather, they were anticipating a mighty warrior who would lead Israel to overthrow the Romans and reestablish David’s kingdom. Now Jesus was saying that he would be killed before the fighting even started. Peter was having none of that, declaring that “This shall never happen to you.” (NIV)

Jesus’ response to Peter is “Get behind me Satan!” It seems especially harsh to be called “Satan” by the Son of God, especially in contrast to just being declared the rock on which He would build His church (Matthew 16:18). One way to understand that is to assume that Jesus is actually talking directly to Satan, who has capitalized on the strong emotional bond that Jesus shares with Peter, trying to use it as an avenue to tempt Jesus into abandoning his Holy mission. Remember, without Jesus’ death, there would be no redemption of sins and Satan would win. It’s more of the same kind of tempting from Matthew 4. Strange as it seems to say, Satan wanted, more than anything, to keep Jesus from dying on the cross.

Jesus goes on to say that he expects his followers to give up their own lives as well. Certainly, there would be martyrs in the early church, and in many parts of the world, people risk their lives to remain faithful still today. But this statement goes beyond physical life or death and speaks to a spiritual yielding of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. What would we be unwilling to do or give up for Jesus?

Warm-Up Questions

  • What are some creative ways in which you have tried to avoid doing your most-despised chore?
  • What is the hardest thing you have ever had to face head-on?
  • If you knew you only had a few weeks to live, what would you want to tell your closest friends?


Matthew 16:21-28

Discussion Questions

  • What is stunningly different about what Jesus is teaching here?
  • Besides his death, what does Jesus predict?
  • How does Peter react to hearing this? Why is he upset?
  • What doesn’t Peter understand about Jesus’ purpose here?
  • Why does Jesus call Peter “Satan?”
  • What does Jesus mean by “you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men?” (NIV)
  • Why did God plan to have Jesus suffer and die?
  • Why would Satan want to stop that?
  • What would you say about Jesus, that he knows he’ll die in Jerusalem but plans to go anyway?
  • What does Jesus want from us in exchange for his sacrificing his own life?
  • What do verses 24 and 25 mean for Christians today?
  • What parts of your life are you unwilling to turn over to Jesus? What makes it hard to do?

Related Scripture

Matthew 4:1-11

Wrap-Up Questions

  • What activities and attitudes signify that somebody is following Jesus?
  • How are you living for Jesus today?
  • Having read today’s passage, how might you need to change your priorities?

Sending Forth

Jesus was obedient until death and sacrificed his own life so that our sins would be forgiven and we would live eternally. Jesus urges us to follow him, which means turning our lives over to him. That can be difficult because there are things that we like to do that are not consistent with his teachings and desires for our lives. Spend time this week, giving careful consideration to the choices you make and the company you keep. Spend some time in prayer asking if there is any part of your life that isn’t as Jesus would want it to be.

Closing Prayer

Thank you, God, for your Son Jesus—for his life, for his death, and for his resurrection. Thank you that that means that our sins are forgiven and that we are eligible to live with you eternally. Speak to us, oh God. Tell us how we can be more faithful followers of Jesus. Give us the courage and strength to change the things that you would have us change. And help us to always feel your presence and guidance as we go about making our choices every day. We pray in the name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.

Neal has had the privilege of being in ministry with the youth at Jesse Lee for the last 15 years. He also works through the New York Annual Conference to train and support volunteer youth workers in local churches. He loves speaking at youth gatherings--group retreats or conference-wide events.