Bible Insights

Ash Wednesday: Jesus Predicts His Death

Today’s passage: Matthew 16:21–28, Mark 8:31–38, Luke 9:21–26, and John 12:23–26

Focus verse: Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem . . . be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21)

We open our Lenten devotional with Jesus predicting his death. This is key. It confirms that Jesus knows what will happen. His Father has a plan. Jesus agrees with the plan and moves toward it.

This means his death is intentional and he is willing to die. It’s not unexpected. Jesus’s purpose in coming to earth is to save us by dying for our sins—the sins of all humanity throughout all time.

He will soon offer himself as the ultimate sin sacrifice to end all sin sacrifices. He knows this and tells his disciples what will soon happen.

This highlights the essential part of the passage. Jesus knows he will die.

Yet two perplexing items follow his declaration.

First, Peter objects. He pulls Jesus away from the other disciples and offers correction. He wants Jesus to live and doesn’t understand that the Messiah must die. Jesus’s response shocks us.

He says, “Get behind me, Satan.”

Is he calling Peter Satan? Is Satan controlling Peter? Possibly. But an alternate understanding is that Peter speaks from his human perspective.

Satan tries to use the disciple’s words to attack Jesus. The enemy desires to cast doubt into Jesus’s mind, cause him to question his mission, and consider a non-lethal alternative.

So, when Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan,” he addresses the accuser. We can do the same.

The other confusing statement happens next. Jesus says that anyone who wants to be his disciple should pick up his cross and follow him. What does he mean to pick up our cross to follow him?

Jesus has said he will die and then overcome death. We know that in doing so, he dies so that we will live.

Yet, if we follow him, we need to be likewise ready to die for our faith, to die for him. Figuratively, we are to pick up our cross—the Roman tool for death.

Most of us won’t need to die for Jesus, but we must be willing to do so if the situation calls for it.

This means we must adopt a spiritual point of view to replace our human perspective. We need to exchange our worldly outlook with an eternal expectation.

Our life here on earth means nothing compared to our life eternal with Jesus. We prove we understand this when we pick up our cross to follow him.

We don’t need to be willing to die for Jesus before he will save us. Instead, our willingness to die is in response to him saving us.


  • What do we do when we face temptation?
  • What must we change to best pick up our cross and follow Jesus?

Prayer: Jesus, may we live a life worthy of you and your call to follow you.

Discover more about celebrating Jesus and his passion to save us in Peter’s new book, The Passion of Jesus. It is part of the Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.