20th April 2023
Read (Matthew 16v21-27)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Peter was right, Jesus was indeed the Christ and the Son of the living God. But what sort of Messiah would Jesus prove to be? Perhaps Christ would destroy the Romans? Maybe Jesus would restore the earthly throne of David? Or would the Lord reclaim the land once promised to the Jewish people?
If the disciples were excited at the prospect of the Romans finally getting sent home with their tails between their legs, Jesus would quickly point His followers in another direction. As the true reality of Christ's nature became clear, the Lord began to teach more clearly what His Messiahship would look like. Defeat of the Romans would have to wait, for Jesus stressed "that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." (v21).
Nothing that would come later at Calvary would be a surprise to the Lord - His suffering, death and resurrection were a necessity. Peter was the man who had boldly confessed Jesus as the Christ but he simply could not conceive that the Lord's future was humiliation and death. He took Jesus aside and rebuked Him saying “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (v22).
It would be easy to see Peter's words as harmless concern for a beloved friend but unwittingly he had walked the path of Satan. During the Lord's temptation the devil had offered Him all the kingdoms of the world if only Jesus would worship Satan. It was an offer of a kingdom without the suffering of the cross and needless to say Christ rejected Satan's offer completely.
As Peter's words rang in His ears, Jesus replied “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (v23) Wow. Can you imagine the sting that Peter must have felt? He could only see the kingdom from a human perspective and it didn't include the suffering and death of the Messiah. But the Lord's ways are not our ways and without the shedding of blood there could be no forgiveness of sin. Christ the Messiah had come to suffer and die.
If this was the path of Messiahship then Christ's followers cannot expect the sheltered side of the hill. Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (v24). Christ calls us to self-denial and death of self. The follower of Jesus must understand that the road to eternal life is marked with difficulty, suffering and trial. Christianity is not about behaving ourselves for an hour on Sunday morning as we seek to impress God. Instead the faith once delivered to the saints is exactly as described by the hymn "When I survey", true Christianity "demands my soul, my life, my all."
I understand that this message doesn't sound too appealing. The Gospel would seem much more pleasant if it was all health, wealth and prosperity. But Jesus calls us to follow Him and to carry our cross as we do so - He calls us to come and die. Nevertheless, the one who heeds this call will find true life (v25). All the riches of the world are of no value if we lose our soul to hell (v26a). Indeed our soul is of such value there is nothing in this world that we can give in return for it. Jesus is coming back with His angels in glory, power and might (v27). All will stand before the judgement seat of Christ and He will repay each person according to his/her deeds upon this earth (v27b).
Satan seeks to keep us blind to the seriousness of this situation but the wise individual rejects the advances of the enemy. Trying to preserve your life by pleasure and ease is a fool's errand. The Christian instead turns in faith to Christ and daily takes up their cross. The road ahead is full of trouble but it ends in heavenly glory. Brothers and sisters, there is a cost to following Jesus, we do not pretend otherwise and we are honest in our evangelism by refusing to offer a false gospel of ease. As Christ has suffered, so we follow.
"Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. "(Hebrews 13v13-14)
Q25 How doth Christ execute the office of a priest? Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.