Matthew 16: 21-28, Following Him!
General Idea: Peter, who had just boldly proclaimed his faith, quickly forgets it and stumbles to his own will. Do you do this too? I know I have. Peter sees that the Lord is in danger and thinks it is his role to protect The God of the universe. He does not see Jesus' will and plan, and desires to protect the Lord from His willful destiny. Peter, the stone is now Peter, the stumbling block.
Christ calls us to take up the cross and deny ourselves; this is extreme discipleship, a call that is to cancel out our will so we can submit to His. When we confess Christ as our Savior, it means He is our Lord. We are to surrender to His direction, call, and purpose. When we claim to be His, we need to commit and follow, leaving behind all that hinders and causes us to go astray. This goes against our will and our culture that says, you are number one, and you deserve whatever you want. But, usually what we want is not what is best. Yes, we deserve better; and better is to be in Christ and to follow His ways. When we deny ourselves, we are liberating ourselves from misdirected ways to His way, from temporary, skewed fun to eternal wonder.
1. From that time, Jesus now shifts from the focus of His pubic ministry to the vigilant training of the Disciples, His role as the Messiah, which requires His death and resurrection-not political agendas (Mark 9:30-31), and foretelling His mission of the cross.
a. Rabbis would often teach their disciples the deeper truths when they were alone.
b. Peter knew of Jesus "secret identity," secret, because people would try to use Him for a mission for which He was not meant, or shape Him into something that He was not. Hence, we understand the following verses that tell us we must deny ourselves to be real in Him. Peter had a defective perception of who Jesus was. Peter knew Jesus was God, but did not treat Him as so. He tried to protect Jesus, a noble concept; but Peter, who knew Jesus was the great I AM, must have realized He did not need protection.
c. Jesus goal was martyrdom (Matthew 20:28). This goal was necessary to pay our dept of sin, and He became the Ultimate Servant!
i. Most OT prophets had a level of self preservation and did not seek martyrdom; but, if it came, they were willing (1 Kings 19: 3-4; Jer. 20:7-18).
ii. Peter tried to superimpose His plan upon our Lord's. This is an act we often try to do!
d. Rebuked Him. It was tradition that sought a militant Messiah, not Scriptures. Peter was standing up for His tradition of a Messiah that triumphs for the people, and did not understand Jesus' true role, even though He had just told him.
i. His Triumph was a million times greater than their expectations.
ii. Peter publicly criticizes his teacher, a cultural "no-no;" a teacher or rabbi was never to be criticized-especially publicly.
iii. A century after Jesus' crucifixion, Jewish tradition switches to a suffering messiah!
2. Stumbling block. Jesus continues to play on the word "petros," Greek for Rock, as a humorous witticism or pun. In the previous passage, Jesus is the Rock that cannot be moved, and Peter is the little stone that was to set on His foundation-as we all are living stones on His foundation. Here, Peter goes from lying on the foundation to lying on the ground, causing himself and others to trip and fall (Mark 8:30-32).
a. This image of a stumbling block is also an illustration of sin and losing one's way.
b. Throughout Scripture, Jesus uses humorous witticisms and puns; in the Greek, Jesus is, at times, literally doing "stand up comedy" (Psalm 24; 23; Prov. 17:22; 26:1-17; Matt. 5:39, 46; 6:24; 7:3-5, 16; 12:48-49; 15:14; 17:24-27; 19:24; 23: 24, 27; Luke 11: 5-13; 12:13-21;15:1-7).
c. So many things can get in our way and cause us to stumble unless we remain on His Rock, our foundation.
d. Satan here refers to adversary; Jesus is probably not calling Peter a devil. Jesus identifies Peter with Satan, meaning they are both tempting others (Matt. 4:7-10). Both wanted the Kingdom of God without the Cross. But, the cross was the essential component for the Kingdom as this was the only way we could be allowed into the Kingdom; His cross covers our sin so we can be in God's presence. Jesus, making the connection to Satan, shows the severity of Peter's error. To us, it is the seriousness of authenticity and obedience!
e. Get behind me meant, get in line, shape up, and know your place.
f. Many rabbis taught that the Messiah must come from the line of David, who then would restore Israel's sovereignty and/or deliver the people from oppression. The David part is correct, but sovereignty rests in God alone-not in a nation (Psalm 2; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-10; 52:13-53:12).
g. Our chief oppression is sin-not who occupies the neighborhood.
3. Deny himself is the stance of real commitment. Commitment is remaining obedient in our trust and faith regardless of our feelings, false opportunities, or oppression.
a. God is much more concerned with our spiritual growth-maturity that develops our character, and relationships that glorify and make Him known-than anything else. Our focus tends to be comfort; we strive to seek personal betterment though careers and money, manipulation and greed. His focus is on how to sanctify and perfect us, not to please and pamper us!
b. This is not about bearing a burden or rallying to a cause, but identifying with Christ as our Lord.
c. People then, as now, did not want suffering, even though the Bible warns us that suffering precedes the Kingdom-for Him, and, for us, to a much smaller degree. They wanted the triumph without the cost. We can take comfort in our setbacks and sufferings when we are obedient, as it brings Him glory and prepares us for the reality of the Kingdom (1 Peter 4:19; James 1:2-4).
d. Take up the cross is carrying the crossbeam to the crucifixion. Jesus was warning us of what is in store for those who are serious and real with the faith. Crucifixion was the most heinous form of execution ever devised in terms of pain and the terror it caused. It is not the entire cross that weighs hundreds of pounds. It is the horizontal portion; the pike portion was usually permanently placed. It literally means a condemned criminal or person carrying their own crossbeam to be used in their execution while the spectators would cry out insults. This is symbolic, and refers to our enduring mockery and scorn for being obedient.
e. What profit. We tend to see life in terms of the power and possessions we have, but God sees the value of life in spiritual growth that leads to the character and relationships we form. There is no real profit in money and treasures-only in who we are in Christ. Jesus plays on the words to say, how can you play with your stuff if you are not alive (Psalm 49:7-9; 15).
f. Reward each. Here is another proclamation to judgment. Jesus is the Judge who will evaluate us, whether we are saved or not, and reward us for how we serve and represent Him (Psalm 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Ezek. 18:30). This passage quotes Daniel 7:13-14 and Zechariah 14:5.
g. Taste death. This phrase is colloquial to say "die."
i. Some have said this means Jesus was to come back in the Disciples lifetime, but this is not the real meaning; others said it can mean the Transfiguration in the next passage which is a part of it (Matt. 17:1-13).
ii. Coming ties with death, and means a process. This means the events of the Passion, Resurrection, Ascension, and the role of the Holy Spirit, which all the Disciples experienced-except Judas. Jesus was to endure the Passion to usher in the Kingdom and proclaim His dominion.
h. The process of tasting death applies to us, that our lives are a process. The Spirit of God is living in us! God's mission is to transform our hearts so we can live in the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom with His values and purpose, regardless of any opposition we might have or the opposition others give us. Usually, it is our own opposition that hinders us the greatest!
The ultimate battle in life is not with arms, it is with wills. This passage is not about choosing suffering; it is about following God's will regardless of suffering. This means we surrender our will to His. This means we are focused upon building our lives on His precepts, not ours. The only way to be a real, authentic follower of our Lord Jesus Christ is to deny what we want and pursue what He wants (John 3:29-30; Gal. 5:24). This means that who we are and how we are, to God and others around us, is essential. We must never be the stumbling stone, trying to muddle with God's plans for ourselves or others. We must conduct ourselves with utmost integrity (Psalm 15) that points to His example. Jesus does not force us to submit and surrender; He models it for us to follow.
1. If you could gain the whole world, that is, have anything you want, what would that be? What would this do to your personal life, spiritual growth, and relationships?
2. Why do you suppose Peter, who had just boldly proclaimed his faith, quickly forgot it? Have you done this? If so, how, and why?
3. What would cause Peter to think he needed to protect Jesus?
4. To you, what would be considered extreme discipleship?
5. What hinders you or causes you to go astray from the principles to surrender, submit, and commit?
6. Why was Jesus' goal of martyrdom necessary to pay our dept of sin (Matthew 20:28)? What other passages can you think of to support this fact?
7. Peter tried to superimpose His plan upon our Lord's. How and why do you, or people you have come in contact with, do so?
8. Peter publicly criticized his Teacher-a cultural "no-no." Why would he do this? If you had been there, what would you have done?
9. Throughout Scripture, Jesus uses humorous witticisms and puns; in the Greek, Jesus is, at times, literally doing "stand up comedy." How does this affect your image of Christ?
10. How, and why, does sin cause a person, you, for example, to lose his or her way? Why is sin more attractive than the eternal Truth and Way of God?
11. What does the committed Christian need to do to remain on His Rock, our foundation? What do we need to do so we do not become stumbling stones?
12. Our chief oppression is sin, not who occupies the neighborhood. Can you expound on this? How, and why, is this so?
13. Explain what deny himself has meant to you? What should it mean; what can it mean?
14. What is your greatest struggle in surrendering and being more committed to Christ as Lord?
15. What does take up the cross mean to you? What should it mean? What can it mean?
16. We tend to see life in terms of the power and possessions we have, but God sees the value of life in spiritual growth that leads to the character and relationships we form. How do you struggle in this area? What would it take to succeed in God's ways more, instead of the worlds?
17. How is it that the ultimate battle in life is not with arms, it is with wills?
18. Where are you in the process of redemption and growth? Such as, what are the things that hinder you? How have you been transformed so far? Where do you still need to be transformed?
19. Why is it the only way to be a real, authentic follower of our Lord Jesus Christ is to deny what we want and pursue what He wants? Why is this so hard? Why do so few Christians do this? Have you?
20. What do you need to do to be focused upon building your life on His precepts? Can you benchmark some goals? What can you do to see that these goals turn to reality and not trash?
© 2004, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org