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You Can’t Have Christ Without the Cross. Matthew 16:21-23


You Can’t Have Christ Without the Cross

Text Matthew 16:21-23
In our last study in Matthew 16, we saw Jesus pronouncing a blessing upon Peter. ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’ Within a very few verses, just a short time later, it seems that the blessing has been completely reversed, ‘Get behind Me, Satan.’ Why the reversal, and why the strong language? Let’s explore this interesting passage…

1 Jesus Prepares His Disciples for His Death. v21
He began to show. Now that the disciples have learned who Jesus is, from that time he begins to show them the cross, the grave, the resurrection, to teach them the only way of salvation. He tells them the very location of his final days on earth and he tells them who will be the earthly cause of his suffering. But, was that what they really wanted to hear?

2 Peter’s Rebuke. v22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!
This is:-

  • Peter – perhaps speaking out of loving concern? Peter took Jesus aside – Don’t think that Peter is chastising Jesus here. He’s concerned. He loved the Lord Jesus! He says so publicly later, in John 21:15-17 Perhaps this chiding remark was no more than his loving desire to keep the master there with him!
  • Peter – perhaps emboldened by the words he has just heard – the blessing and commendation that Christ has just given him, upon his confession of Christ. Had it made him feel self-important?
  • Peter – needful of the lesson that God’s way is always perfect. For here he is, carefully taking aside the One who had already pre-determined all of history, and confidentially rebuking him for speaking negative words over himself. Peter began to rebuke Him, and to say that it would not happen. Do we, did Peter, have any right to question the will of God? Romans 11:34

The cross would happen – it MUST happen and the main reason it would happen was because it had been so determined from before the foundation of the world.

3 Jesus’ Response. v23
Jesus rebukes Peter very sternly indeed. In fact to our ears it is a shocking rebuke! Let’s analyse it:-

  • Peter MUST remember that his role as a disciple is to be FOLLOWER of Jesus! Haven’t you wondered from time to time, what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Get behind me?’ Our rightful place is BEHIND HIM. To Peter, who had gone away off on a doctrinal journey of his own, inventing some ungodly human-centred religious philosophy, Jesus simply says, ‘get behind me, and stop being Satan.’
  • Even disciples can be complicit in Satanic activity! Peter is doing the very work of the devil himself! It must have been a great shock to Peter to hear those words. Yet any believer can find him or herself doing Stan’s work – the devil is such a subtle foe. It could just as easily be me. It could be you, and even our best friends can be cruelly and subtly used by Satan to bring us a trap, a snare to make us stumble. How was Peter doing the devil’s work?
  • There is a great temptation to think like the world. for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men. We are so wrapped up in world in which we live, that our minds are warped into its mould and we think like the world. Peter thought with worldly wisdom when:-
    • He thought about suffering. Of course we don’t want to suffer and die, and we don’t want others to suffer and die either. But the Christian view of suffering and death is different to the perspective of the world. Romans 8:18
    • He thought about his own circumstances. You see Peter didn’t want Jesus to die. He wanted him to stay with the disciples; to enjoy his presence here on earth, to have his best life now. And if that was the case in Peter’s lifetime, how much more so today, when our minds are continually being pounded with ungodly messages by the media.

I wonder how far Peter got in his rebuke of Jesus before the Master stopped him and began to put him into his place? We are taught only that Peter ‘began to rebuke him’ – not that he ever got to finish what he was saying.

What application can we find in this passage?
We cannot ever have Christ, without the cross. Peter, at this point in his education wanted the Messiah, but not Calvary. He wanted to love Jesus, but reject the way of salvation. Now this is common in Christendom, and even very common among evangelicals. There is a great temptation to want to bypass difficult subjects, to avoid topics and beliefs that make people uncomfortable, like sin, and death and judgement and hell. And you’ll hear evangelicals say, “I’m not interested in all that sin and condemnation and punishment stuff, I just want to love Jesus, you know, I really really love him… but that is doing Satan’s work! To tell people that you can ‘just fill in love with Jesus’ and not preach about sin and repentance and atonement and the cross where all our sins were laid upon God’s Son, is leading people into dangerous false professions, making them feel good about themselves on the road to a lost eternity. Peter was doing the devil’s work by believing that there was some other way that excluded the cross of Calvary. Every time we think that way – we are doing Satan’s work! That’s why Jesus was so offended by Peter’s words.

So Peter learns another great lesson. To be motivated by a selfish desire to ‘just love Jesus – to make this life better’ is not the Gospel of saving grace. Peter learns that to attempt to live for and with Christ, without the cross is to be doing Satan’s work. Peter’s place, as a disciple is to be a humble follower of Jesus, fully surrendered to God’s will and purpose.

© BobMcEvoy December 2018.

From → Bible Study, Matthew

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