Handed Over to the Gentiles

Today is a special day. One of reflection and remembrance. It is “Good Friday,” when Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. We call it “good” because of what it resulted in—”For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God,” (1 Peter 3:18, emphasis mine).

A perfect passage of Scripture to meditate upon this morning is found in the tenth chapter of the gospel of Mark, which quotes Jesus’ words to His disciples:

And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again. (10:32b-34)

R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary that because Jesus had been so specific in telling the disciples what was to occur to Him, “liberal critics of the Bible [began to] declare that these words must have been attributed to Him after the fact.”

MAR08_book_3d-RGBThey deny that Jesus could have foreseen what would happen to Him in such precise detail. They are so allergic to anything supernatural, and so opposed to the idea of predictive prophecy, that they prefer to assume that Mark committed fraud in writing this gospel.

In reality, however, it is entirely possible that Jesus could have known what He faced even without supernatural revelation. In the first instance, if He knew He was going to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies, it was clear what the method of execution would be—a Roman cross. Furthermore, Jesus was not just a student of the Old Testament Scriptures, He was the actual subject of those books, so He was aware of passages such as Isaiah 52-53, which describes the sufferings of the Servant Yahweh in great detail… So even without any direct revelation from the Father, He knew that He would be treated with scorn, that He would be scourged, and that He would be spat upon.

Perhaps the  most important detail in this text is His announcement that He would be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. First, He would be betrayed into the hands of His enemies among the Jewish hierarchy, the chief priests and the scribes. They, in turn, would deliver Him to the Gentiles. The Jewish leaders did not have the authority to set a death sentence under Roman occupation, so they would hand Him over to Pontius Pilate to be put to death.

On the Day of Atonement in ancient Israel, an animal was killed and its blood was spread on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies, then the sins of the people were symbolically transferred to the back of the scapegoat, which then was driven out into the wilderness, outside the camp, into the outer darkness (Leviticus 16).

That was what it meant to a Jew to be delivered to the Gentiles. To be placed into the hands of the Gentiles was to be sent outside the covenant community, outside the camp, outside the place where the presence of God was concentrated and focused.

So, the disciples must have been aghast when Jesus told them that He was going to be handed over to the Gentiles.

The events of Good Friday, the darkest day in human history, should cause us to meditate upon God’s mercy. How is it that the Father would send His Son to suffer and sacrificially die in order to draw us near?

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins… Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them. (1 John 4:10; Hebrews 7:25)


 Sproul, R.C. St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Mark (Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2011). 265-66.