Jesus predicted His death multiple times during His earthly ministry as recorded in the four Gospels. By examining key passages in the Gospels, we can identify at least four specific occasions when Jesus directly foretold His death and resurrection to His disciples.
1. Jesus predicts His death after Peter’s confession of Christ (Matthew 16:21-23; Mark 8:31-33; Luke 9:22)
After Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law. He would be killed and on the third day be raised to life. This disturbed the disciples greatly. Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him, saying this should never happen. But Jesus turned and rebuked Peter, stating that he did not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man.
Key details from this first prediction:
- Jesus predicted He would go to Jerusalem
- He would suffer at the hands of the Jewish leaders
- He would be killed
- He would be raised to life on the third day
2. Jesus again predicts His death on the way to Capernaum (Matthew 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32; Luke 9:43-45)
As Jesus and His disciples traveled together in Galilee, Jesus told them that the Son of Man was going to be delivered into the hands of men. They would kill Him, but on the third day He would be raised to life. The disciples did not understand this and were afraid to ask Jesus about it.
Key details from the second prediction:
- Jesus would be betrayed into the hands of men
- He would be killed
- He would rise on the third day
3. Jesus predicts His death at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:1-2, 21)
On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, as Jesus was sharing the Last Supper with His disciples, He told them plainly that He would be handed over to be crucified in two days’ time. Yet this did not deter the disciples from arguing among themselves about who would be considered the greatest. Later, as they were eating, Jesus said one of them would betray Him.
Key details from the third prediction:
- Jesus stated He would be crucified in two days
- He foretold His betrayal by one of the Twelve
4. Jesus predicts His death after the Last Supper (Matthew 26:31-32; Mark 14:27-28)
On the way to the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples that they would all fall away on account of Him. But after He had risen, He would go ahead of them into Galilee. Peter insisted he would never fall away even if all the others did. But Jesus said Peter would disown Him three times before the rooster crowed.
Key details from the fourth prediction:
- The disciples would abandon Jesus
- Jesus would rise again
- He would see them again in Galilee
Further analysis of Jesus’ death predictions
By examining Jesus’ words across these four occasions, we can make several important observations:
- Jesus made His predictions quite some time before the actual events took place, underscoring His foreknowledge of what would happen.
- The predictions escalated in specificity as the time drew nearer, from a general statement to naming the exact time frame.
- Jesus repeatedly emphasized the resurrection, showing its integral connection to His sacrificial death.
- He wanted His disciples to be prepared, though they still did not fully grasp what He told them.
- The number, detail and repetition of the predictions emphasizes their importance.
In summary, Jesus directly predicted His crucifixion and resurrection at least four times: after Peter’s confession, on the way to Capernaum, at the Last Supper, and on the way to Gethsemane. His foreknowledge highlights Christ’s divinity and how His death and resurrection fulfilled God’s sovereign plan. Despite Jesus’ clear words, the disciples struggled to understand until after the events had taken place. Yet these predictions prepared them to be witnesses of the Risen Christ.
Jesus’ death and resurrection are at the very heart of the Gospel. These predictions provide assurance that what happened was no accident of history. Rather, the cross was the fulfillment of God’s redemptive purposes prophesied long ago. Jesus was delivered over to death by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). He was the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). Though Jesus was perfect and without sin, He willingly gave His life to make atonement for sin, so those who believe can receive forgiveness and eternal life.
The four specific occasions where Jesus predicts His death and resurrection testify to Christ’s divine omniscience and complete control over the events leading to the cross. He foretold the treachery of Judas Iscariot. He predicted Peter’s three denials. In Matthew 16:21 Jesus spelled out exactly what would happen – He would go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the Jewish leaders, be killed and rise again on the third day. The accuracy, details and repetition of His prophecies authenticate the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts. Jesus’ words came directly from the Father who was working out His predetermined plan through His Son.
Though Jesus clearly predicted His death and resurrection multiple times, the disciples still did not fully comprehend it even after seeing the risen Christ! This underscores the incredible plan of God that was operating. The events of Jesus’ death and resurrection did not happen as a reaction to circumstances, but rather as a direct fulfillment of God’s divine plan revealed in Scripture centuries earlier. What God predetermines will come to pass, despite mankind’s inability to fully grasp His ways.
In totality, we can safely conclude from Scripture that Jesus predicted His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection at least four times during His earthly ministry at key moments and events. He purposefully and repeatedly revealed it to His disciples well in advance so they could believe He is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through believing have life in His name (John 20:31).