Springboarding off of the Apostle Paul’s life focus, clearly expressed in 1 Corinthians 2:2, Pastor Greg launched an “open-ended” message series on January 12th, 2020 – focusing on “Just Jesus.” He is walking us through the entire New Testament, pulling passages from the Old Testament for context, and keep us focused throughout the year on “Just Jesus.”
This is Just Jesus, Week 62, Matthew, Part 50 in the series. Today Pastor G covers Matthew 16:21-28. As Jesus begins to share His plan for being crucified and resurrected, Peter pulls Him aside and rebukes Jesus. Jesus, in turn, rebukes Peter and goes on to talk more about, not only His own death, but also the need for Peter and the other disciples to be willingly martyred for their faith. Pastor Greg shares how, on day, we too might be faced with severe persecution for following Jesus. It is vital to our salvation that we stay firm in the faith and not deny Jesus to save our physical lives. We don’t want to gain the whole world and lose our souls.
Welcome to week 62 of our Just Jesus series. This is Matthew Part 60. Last week Jesus had a discussion with the disciple and He asked them who people were saying He was. Some thought he was John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the other Old Testament prophets. Then Jesus turned the question back on them and asked them “Who do YOU say that I am?” Peter answered first but was really functioning as the spokesman of the group and told Him, “You are the Messiah! You are the Son of God!” Jesus affirms this answer, tells Peter the Holy Spirit revealed that wisdom to Him and tells us for the first time that He has an intent to build a whole church on this truth. He told them to keep that news secret for now. Later would be the time to proclaim it far and wide. Then, He went on to talk about how He would soon be arrested and crucified. Today we’re going to talk about how Peter responded to this news. If you are ready to hear what God has put on my heart to share with you today please do me a favor and say or type Hit Me Wit’ It G! I’m Ready!
Let’s revisit that last verse from last week as we pick up the story today. 21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. ~ Matthew 16:21
So, Jesus is not speaking in parables or hidden meanings here. He’s telling them straight up what is about to happen. He is going to go to Jerusalem, where He will be arrested, falsely accused, unfairly tried, convicted to death and crucified. He also tells the, He will rise from the dead, ON THE THIRD DAY. As we’ve discussed many times this year He is referring to the third day of the Passover and Unleavened Bread Feast. How does Peter respond? Look at verse 22.
22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” ~ Matthew 16:22
Now, think about this for a second. Peter has just proclaimed His faith that Jesus is the Son of God. In the next breath, he rebukes Jesus. Let’s talk about the word REBUKE. It comes from the Greek word epitimaó which can be translated to rebuke, chide, admonish or warn. Peter REBUKES Jesus and says TO GOD IN THE FLESH, “God forbid it, Lord!” That’s a little arrogant of him yeah? If I tell you I’m going to the beach later today would it make any sense for you to pull me aside and say “Greg forbid it Pastor!” Actually, the original Greek uses the word hileós which in ancient Greek carried with it the idea of appeasing divine wrath. So, it’s almost like Peter is warning Jesus, the Son of God, not to incur His own divine wrath by saying He is going to be killed. Isn’t that crazy?
It is understandable that Peter and the other disciples did not like what Jesus was saying about His death but they seemed to completely miss two vital facts about Jesus’ mission as the Messiah. First, Peter, like all the rest of Jesus’ followers, was still hanging on to the hope that Jesus, as Messiah, would establish an imminent earthly kingdom where He would reign as the king of Israel and expel their Roman conquerors. They were looking at all the prophecies about the Messiah coming as a conquering king. Jesus will come again like that one day but the first time He came as a different kind of Messiah. The prophecies were very clear about this as well. The Messiah will first come as a suffering servant. Jesus came first to be that kind of Messiah and the second thing Peter and the others missed was that the key part of that suffering servant role included dying to pay for all of our sins. Jesus’ mission was to establish a new, permanent covenant between God and humanity where sacrificed animals were no longer necessary.
Jesus, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, was going to become the one, true sacrifice, putting the power of our sins to death with Him on the cross. Then, to show His power over sin and death and all of the rest of creation and eternity Jesus would rise again as the first fruits of our faith. That’s what the Apostle Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 15:20-24
20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:20-24
It’s was ALL THERE – all of it – in the Old Testament scriptures but Jesus’ followers, including Peter, missed it. The idea that Jesus would allow Himself to be captured, tried, tortured, and killed by the very system He had come to oppose was unthinkable to Peter and the others! Even though they had seen Jesus raise others from the dead it was clear they did not really believe He could come back from the dead Himself. Peter, like we so often do, thinks he knows better than Jesus. We do that too don’t we? We pray about something, some need, some problem in our life, and then we proceed to tell God how we think He should handle it. Peter looks Jesus in the eye and says of Jesus’ carefully worked out plan to redeem all of humanity “God forbid it!” and then states his intent to do whatever is necessary to prevent this mission of Jesus from happening. How does Jesus respond to Peter rebuking Him in this way? Look at verse 23.
23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” ~ Matthew 16:23 WOW! What a turn of events! In the blink of an eye, everything has changed for Peter. Peter has gone from hearing “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah – I now give you the honorary title little rock, the original Rocky, the one who has just spoken the ROCK SOLID truth of who I am, to now being referred to as Satan. In Greek, Jesus calls Peter Satanas which can mean AN adversary, or THE adversary of adversaries, Satan himself. Not only does Jesus link Peter’s words to the adversarial nature of Satan, He also calls Peter an OFFENCE to Him. In Greek the word is skandalon. We translate it as stumbling block or stumbling rock. It refers to the piece of bedrock earth that pokes up through the soil, where we can trip on it. That happens to me down at Anaehoomalu Bay sometimes when we walk along the coast. Little chunks of solid lava barely peak up through the sand and trip me and plant me flat on my face.
Just a few moments ago, Peter, the little rock was linked to the bedrock truth of Jesus’ true identity and now he has been called a stumbling rock instead. He’s trying to trip up Jesus’ redemption plans. The word skandalon can also be understood as the bait-stick of a trap. It is the stick in the trap that springs and closes the trap when the animal touches it. This is the piece of metal on a mousetrap to which a piece of cheese is attached. Jesus is saying to Peter, “If you are trying to tempt me, trip me up, trap me into preserving my humanity in order to escape My divine purpose in life you are in league with the adversary Satan. You are an adversary to me. If that’s where you are coming from go away and leave me alone. I don’t need your tempting words. Back up, get behind me. Stay out of my way. Let’s continue. Look at verse 24.
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. ~ Matthew 16:24
He makes it clear that His mission, His purpose is to go to the cross and die for our sins AND He makes it clear that fully devoted followers of Jesus (especially these first followers in the first century) may be martyred for their faith as well and they need to be willing to do so to preserve the faith and not flinch from that responsibility. Amen? This is not the first time they have heard Jesus say this. Way back in Matthew 10:38 He said
38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. ~ Matthew 10:38
This is a very strong expectation that many in the modern American church miss. Being a true Christian is not about singing peppy worship songs and listening to a preacher for one hour a week and then going out and living your life without Jesus the rest of the week. That’s not true Christianity! Jesus calls us to be fully committed in our following. If we ever find ourselves faced with denying Him or being put to death, He expects us to choose death. He makes sure this is crystal clear. He says if we choose to persevere our life in that situation we are not worthy of Him. Back in Chapter 16 He continues and says the same thing:
25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. ~ Matthew 16:25
If we deny Him in times of persecution to save our physical, temporary lives, we will lose our eternal life in the process, we lost our salvation in that situation. Again, this is not the first time Jesus has given this warning. Share this with your once saved, always saved friends. Just before Jesus talked about taking up our cross as we follow Him in chapter
33 He also said But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. ~ Matthew 10:33
Think about that. We don’t really know persecution in the modern American church but imagine if we did. What if someone threatened to kill you and your family unless you renounced your faith in Jesus? What would you do? Would you choose death or denial? If we choose denial, Jesus will deny us too. We will lose our salvation, lose our chance at eternal life. This is part of that unpardonable sin situation, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit thing we talked about many weeks ago. As the author of Hebrews said it, these are people who were enlightened and had tasted the heavenly gift of Jesus. They had been made partakers of the Holy Spirit. They had tasted the good word of God but then fell away from the faith with persecution and trials came.
The author of Hebrews said of people like this
6 … it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. ~ Hebrews 6:6b
Or as Jesus said it – He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Again, in response to Peter trying to stand in the way of Jesus’ divine purpose, speaking with the same kind of pride exhibited by Satan himself, Jesus summarizes this very important thought in verse 26. He says,
26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? ~ Matthew 16:26
This inspired TOBY MAC to write [PASTOR G SINGS] I don’t want to gain the whole world and lose my soul. Don’t wanna walk away. Let me hear the people say. I don’t want to gain the whole world and lose my soul.
27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. ~ Matthew 16:27
Again, Jesus references that Daniel vision of the Messiah, where he saw one “like a son of man” like a human being – come in the clouds and meet with the Ancient of Days – this one like a son of man met with God in the clouds and God gave the son of man dominion over all of creation. Jesus is telling Peter and the others this is only His first visit to earth as the Suffering Servant Messiah. The Messiah they are expecting, the King of the Universe who comes in the clouds, Jesus will come as that Messiah one day as well. When He does He brings judgment of all humanity with Him. The clock is up. We will be judged as either for Him or against Him. Again, back when Jesus was talking about the unpardonable sin the first time, in Matthew 12, He said this in verse 30.
30 He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. ~ Matthew 12:30
Every human being will be repaid according to what they have done. Have they lived a life for Jesus or have they lived life as an adversary of Jesus? Have they lived a life proclaiming their faith in Jesus, or have they lived a life of denying Jesus to save themselves? What we do in this life matters. We need to live every moment of every day as preparation for eternity.
We put so much time and energy and thought toward temporary things. How long will we live on this earth? 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 years? My 40th high school class reunion is coming up in September. On the Facebook page, over the last few weeks, they’ve been sharing about how many of my classmates have already passed away. Some before they were 20 years old. Many before they were 50 years old. Jesus wants us to know, this earthly life and all its trappings, money, possessions, fame, comfort, success, influence, it won’t last. It’s all going to burn. Only God and the things of God last forever. Peter and the others wanted Jesus to preserve His human life longer, seize political power, etc. That was not the purpose of Jesus’ earthly life. That’s not the purpose of our earthly lives either. Spend your life with this goal in mind.
I want to make a difference for Jesus, with other people who want to make a difference for Jesus, doing things, together, that actually make a difference for Jesus.
That’s the purpose of life on this earth. Don’t let anything this world has to offer pull you away from that goal. If you deny Him you lose Him. [PASTOR G SINGS] You don’t want to gain the whole world and lose your soul. Don’t wanna walk away.
When He comes again each of us will be repaid for what we have done in this life. Are we for Him or against Him? Matthew 16 closes out with this astonishing statement by Jesus.
28 “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” ~ Matthew 16:28
This, like several other verses we’ve studied over the past 62 weeks, is a VERY controversial and difficult verse. There are a variety of interpretations about what Jesus meant by this statement. First, some skeptics say this proves that Jesus was deluded. He thought He was going to return very soon but He didn’t. He thought His return would be within the natural lifetimes of the disciples. Yet, the disciples all died almost 2,000 years ago, and still no second coming of Jesus. They say, clearly Jesus was wrong about this. Others have speculated that maybe some of the disciples didn’t actually die and are still alive today somewhere on earth, awaiting Jesus’ return. Kind of Immortal Highlander style. In fact, this was a belief of some of the disciples even right after Jesus’ resurrection. At the end of the Gospel of John we see Jesus reinstate Peter as a disciple – undoing Peter’s three denials by giving Peter a chance to make three affirmations of his love and faith for Jesus. Jesus again gives His initial invitation to Peter, “Follow Me.” As Peter begins to follow he looks back and sees John following them as well. Peter asks Jesus about John’s status and Jesus replies.
22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” 23 Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” ~ John 21: 22-23
Others says Jesus is referring to the disciples, except for Judas (who has committed suicide by that point) seeing Him after He has been resurrected. Other’s say this is a reference to Pentecost, a new beginning of the Kingdom of God when the Holy Spirit comes with power. Others say Jesus was referring to only Peter, James, and John getting to witness His transfiguration that occurs just six days later. We’ll study that next week. What is He referring to? Let’s pull in some context from Mark and Luke’s gospels. How do they record this same conversation?
9 And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” ~ Mark 9:1
27 But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” ~ Luke 9:27
Ahhhh. So, while Jesus was clearly talking about His second coming in Matthew 16:27 He’s talking about something else in Matthew 16:28. Some later scribe made an assumption in Matthew 28. Both Luke and Matthew refer to the coming of the Kingdom of God when it comes in power. This is different than the second coming of the Son of Man Jesus referred to in Matthew 16:27. We can’t really know for sure what Jesus was referring to here but, certainly, the birth of the church, the kingdom of God beginning to blossom on earth, in Acts two, on the day of Pentecost is a prime possibility. Peter, James, and John witnessing the transfiguration is another prime possibility. Most Christian scholars think this is the best answer.
Peter, James, and John get to see the true glory of Jesus and the Kingdom of God without dying. They get a glimpse of heaven without first tasting death. The other disciples had to die before they got to see that. So what is our takeaway from all of this today? We’ve got two. First, we saw Peter make a common mistake, thinking he knew better than Jesus. We are all in danger of doing that as well. We find ourselves influenced by Satan, engaging in the original sin of pride and we try to tell God what to do instead of faithfully trusting His will in our lives. So, let’s all take a pause today and realize how quickly we can stumble like that in our faith. In one breath Peter announces the revolutionary truth about Jesus’ divinity and in the next breath, he puts himself in the place of God. Satan did that and you and are capable of doing that as well. We need to regularly check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. Amen?
Our second takeaway is that Jesus has clearly revealed Himself to the original twelve and to all who read His words 2,000 years later, Jesus has clearly made the claim that He is the prophesied Messiah and, more than that, He is the Son of God. As we read the rest of Scripture we learn more about what this actually means. First, His human body is the result of divine impregnation of his virgin mother. He is the Son of God in that sense. However, Jesus also says He and the Father are one. If we have seen Him we have seen the Father. If we know Him we know the Father. We are all faced with a choice. Do we believe that or do we not believe that? Do we place our faith in Jesus as our God or do we reject that? This is the ultimate question of human life on earth. Jesus could return at any moment. In a very real sense today, there are some of us sitting here today that will not taste death before the Son of Man does appear in the clouds with glory. We want to be found ready.
Because the Scriptures tell us if we have not died to self, died to pride, died to the idea that we are our own God, before Jesus returns, then it will be too late. We are kind of still back on last week’s question that Jesus asked of the twelve. “Who do YOU say that I am?” If you have reached the point of faith where you are willing to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, God in the Flesh, your one, and only God, and you are ready to die to yourself and live only for Him, not trying to tell Him what to do but willing to do whatever He asks of you, then let’s make that relationship solid and real today. Die to self before you taste physical death. Because the Bible says, if we have not died to self – if we have not experienced salvation by putting our faith in Christ – before we taste physical death, then there is also a second death in our future, a spiritual death, an eternal death. It’s referenced several times in Revelation. One of those places is in Revelation 20:6
6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. ~ Revelation 20:6
If you are not a follower of Jesus yet, if you’ve been putting it off, acting with pride like Peter did, acting like you know better than God, acting like you are the god of your own life, waiting to give your life to Jesus until some other acceptable time, listen to me now. Listen. Don’t miss this. Listen. Like the Apostle Paul wrote … Behold, NOW is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation.” Amen? Make sure you don’t taste death before you see and join the kingdom of the Son of Man.
[PASTOR G SINGS] You don’t want to gain the whole world and lose your soul. Don’t ever walk away. Let me hear the people say. I don’t want to gain the whole world and lose my soul. AMEN?
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~