What Did Jesus Really Tell the Disciples About the Cross?

The other day I was listening to this Easter song (thanks to my musical sister who sends me seasonal playlists).

“They all walked away, nothing to say. They just lost their dearest friend.

All that he said, now he was dead. So this was the way it would end.

The dreams they had dreamed were not what they seemed, now that he was dead and gone.

The garden, the jail, the hammer, the nail – how could a night be so long?”

Guy Penrod

Of course, this is just a writer’s musings.

But I wonder. Did the disciples really think it was the end? Did they really think their dreams were over? If so, why didn’t Jesus tell them more?

What did Jesus tell them beforehand about the cross?

Wouldn’t it have been nice for them, if he had sat them down and categorically explained that he was going to be arrested in a garden? That he would be taken before the most powerful men in the country, mocked by a violent crowd, and beaten by the military?

More importantly, wouldn’t it have been nice if he had told them straight out, “Look, friends. I know this is hard for you to accept, but I’m not going to escape this time. I am going to die. But don’t be too discouraged, because I’ll be back.”

I find it fascinating to imagine what didn’t make it into the four Gospel accounts. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are particularly brief when it comes to the final discussions. We do know that he warned them that he would suffer many things. We know he told them someone would betray him, and that Peter would deny him.

There are a few options I can think of.

  1. He tried to tell them more, but they didn’t listen or couldn’t handle the details.
  2. He did tell them more, but they didn’t understand.
  3. He didn’t want want to tell them more.

I sort of think that number three is the most accurate. He gave them clues and hints and promises, but avoided graphic details. But why?

Then I thought of things from Jesus’ perspective.

Why would Jesus not tell them more, for his own sake?

If I were about to embark on a terrible night, I think I would want my closest friends to know what was going to happen. I would want to be able to count on them to never leave. To be prepared with as much knowledge and training as possible. Maybe do some drills about how they would handle themselves when the mob came to the garden, or what he expected of them when he was being tried before Pilate.

I think I would want to be able to look over the heads of the mob – as Jesus did to Peter – and see that my people were faithfully sticking out the long night with me.

Instead, it was a mass disaster. When he looked over the crowd, Jesus saw Peter claiming that he didn’t even know who the man on trial was. But let’s not be too hard on Peter. He was there! John appears to have been there too, from his own account. The other ten were missing in action. One would hang himself.

It was a bad, bad, BAD night. And Jesus was almost completely alone.

Is it possible that Jesus intentionally withheld excessive details? That he purposefully kept from telling them what would happen on the cross?

How can anyone know? And what would be his reasons for delaying the information?

Maybe he knew that God’s plan rested on Satan not knowing what would happen. When Jesus rose from the dead, Satan realized that his master scheme had crumbled. Maybe if Jesus had told his disciples too much, Satan would have known it too.

Regardless, of his reasons, Jesus’ caution with the details to the people he knew best and loved most has enormous implications for our suffering today.

Have you ever had a bad night? Maybe even a bad, bad, BAD night. It might have been a bad few months, or a bad year or a bad decade.

So many times, things feel confusing. We don’t understand what is happening or why. Where is God? Why doesn’t he give us answers to our questions? Why didn’t he at least warn us that this was coming?

Maybe, it’s because He knows there is victory waiting at the end of your dark night too. Maybe He doesn’t want to spoil the plot by warning Satan that the best is yet to come. Maybe He longs to tell you all the details, but the time is not yet right.

Only He knows when the night will turn into day, and the shadows will vanish before the dawn.

This is a 2012 recording by high school students. I like other versions too, but I found something meaningful about this quiet interpretation.

If you are not able to watch the embedded form of the video, try this link.

Happy Easter from my countertop to yours!

10 thoughts on “What Did Jesus Really Tell the Disciples About the Cross?”

  1. Lovely song. And I like your comments on why Jesus didn’t tell His disciples more.

    I remember hearing about a Christian school where there were apparently dark spiritual forces at work. It seemed whenever they verbally announced a meeting about it, there was spiritual interference. It was different when there was written communication. Perhaps Satan’s forces can hear but not read. I don’t believe they can read minds either, although it’s obvious they can plant thoughts. LRM

  2. You posed some very good thought provoking questions as to why Jesus did not tell everything He knew. But as I think about the thought of “the best is yet to come,” I think about my own life n health journey. Life in general. If we all knew what was going to happen, there would be no need for GOD. Also, we would place our focus on meaningless things to do before our death, n GOD would most likely not be in our sight. So, as much as I would live to know what is coming, at the same time, I am grateful God doesn’t let me see that. This way I am able to fully place my focus on HIM n notaking sure all my friends know that i am going to die, n let’s make a last trip together for memories….yes treasured memories, but not as important as spending time with friends in prayer, meditation in Gods word together n prepare together for what is to come. God is so amazing in how He plans things out n Ia ever so thankful that Jesus took the long night from me , so I can see the morning, when God calls my name. Happy Easter!

  3. Imagine my surprise as I was reading down through here and all of the sudden see two girls I recognized and then as I clicked on the song it was also my son and nephew singing! I had forgotten they had sung that song! My son is the short haired one, Byron.
    Hope these last few weeks of waiting for “Miracle” go well. I appreciate your blog!

  4. I fully believe that satan and his demons can hear, but can’t read our thoughts or written words. We always fully expect warfare to intensify after a particularly powerful breakthrough, such as a baptism or a confession of sin. I also believe that’s why it’s important to pray aloud, versus quietly in your mind, as it provides a powerful pushback to the evil spirit world. Just be prepared for the battle! This post really touched my heart and I can relate to the dark night and the desperation for victory in the morning. We won’t find complete rest until we go Home to be with Jesus, but until then, let’s hold fast and lean on His strength even though the night doesn’t make sense. -kim

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Great thoughts Kim. I have heard the same myself. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing! I stumbled across your blog sometime within this past year and have enjoyed reading your weekly post! This post especially blessed and ministered to my heart. Blessings in Christ!

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