Introduction. Read Matthew16 21-28

Jesus, from now onward during his earthly ministry, attempts to prepare his disciples for the future. He tells them of future events about which they need to be forewarned. It is only fair that the disciples should be made aware of Jesus' agenda - his suffering, death and resurrection.

(A) Peter's objection.

After Jesus foretold his apparently ignominious end, Peter took his Master aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"

Why did Peter rebuke Jesus? He may have thought Jesus was being:

(1) Fatalistic. Why did Jesus say he must go to Jerusalem as though this was his only option? Why couldn't he make Galilee his power base?

(2) Negative. There was no need for Jesus to suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the Law. Peter probably thought it was time for Jesus to stand up for himself and to use his undoubted power to confound his opponents. If the Jewish leaders came out on top - nothing would change. The hopes of Jesus' disciples would come to nothing. Peter was of the opinion that Jesus needed to raise the morale of his followers - not undermine it.

(3) Foolish. Peter is likely to have objected strongly to Jesus talking about being put to death. How could the Son of God be put to death? If Christ's enemies succeeded in silencing him they would win. This hardly seemed the way to carry out God's will. Jesus was the Messiah - anointed by God to deliver his people from their enemies. He couldn't do this dead!

(4) Incomprehensible. I don't think Peter had any idea what Jesus meant by being raised to life the third day. Very little was written about resurrection in the Old Testament and there was no clear understanding of what it entailed. Even after John had visited the empty tomb and seen the grave clothes lying there and is said to have believed, the apostle was still surprised to see Jesus in 'the flesh'.

Peter may have thought Jesus was speaking enigmatically when he spoke about being raised to life. As far as Peter was concerned the time for riddles had long passed. It was time for the Messiah, the warrior king, to establish his kingdom.

It is almost as if Peter had put his hand on Jesus shoulder and said, "Come on Lord - no more mucking about."


I wonder if we are ever disappointed in Jesus. Do we feel the need for a champion to speak powerfully and effectively in God's name against the forces for evil in our country. We Christians have few allies in the media. The BBC gives the clear impression that Gays have won the battle against religious bigots. We have even fewer allies in Parliament where a small minority of MPs seem concerned about the persecution of Christian all over the world. Huge amounts of money are spent on advertising betting companies on Sky Sports. Very little is spent promoting the cause of Christ. So I could go on - does Jesus know what he is doing??

(B) Jesus' correction.

Jesus correction was:

(1) Forceful. Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behnd me Satan."

Jesus turned round to face Peter. He confronted his right hand man. Jesus accused Peter of speaking on Satan's behalf, of being his mouthpiece, his agent, his tool.

Satan was in two minds about Jesus. Such was his hatred of God, his malice and spite, he wanted to see Jesus the Son humiliated. As far as Satan was concerned, the more Jesus suffered the better. But, on the other hand, Satan did not under any circumstances want God's plan of redemption to succeed.

(2) Insightful. Jesus said to Peter: "You are a stumbling block to me."

This comment does, perhaps, give us an insight into the conflict going on in the mind of Jesus. He does not dismiss Peter's ill chosen words lightly. They carried weight because the way ahead did not greatly appeal to Jesus. Right to the end, Jesus wondered if there might not be another way to redeem the lost - a way similar to what Peter expected. But there wasn't! God handed Jesus a bitter cup and in filial obedience he drank of its contents to the full.

Peter's intervention did not help Jesus prepare for the great saving work God had for him to do.

(3) Hurtful. Jesus told Peter: "You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of man."

Peter thought it was in the will of God for Jesus to be crowned King of the Jews. He could use his amazing powers to overcome the Romans and rule righteously and gloriously.

BUT THIS WAS NOT THE WILL OF GOD who was far more concerned about delivering men and women from sin than delivering the Jews from the Romans. God intended Jesus to offer himself as a sacrifice at Calvary - a sacrifice that he would graciously accept on our behalf.

This great truth is still denied by liberal churchmen who prefer to teach that Jesus showed love in dying on the cross and identifying with victims everywhere. This is not the teaching of the New Testament. For example, the author of Hebrews wrote: But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God ..... . By one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy. Heb10v8to14. See also Heb9v11to27, Romans5v8to11 and Eph1v7.

When we participate in the Lord's Supper we do not remember the example he set us but the sacrifice he made for us.

(C) The Master's expectation.

Jesus has high expectations of his disciples. He calls for:

(1) Subjugation. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself." Self-denial is not easy! Perhaps, I will be forgiven for mentioning a few examples:

  • I loved cricket - it was my passion - but I never played on Sunday or prayer meeting night. When my mother died I gave it up altogether to care for my father.

  • In the course of my ministry of visitation I have needed to be a patient listener - especially when the person I am visiting has dementia or an obsession.

  • I bite my tongue and do not react when visiting speakers at my church make comments on Creation, the Genesis Flood or Calvinism with which I profoundly disagree. I do not retaliate when the preacher attacks people like me!!

(2) Emulation. Jesus tells his disciples to, "Take up the cross and follow me."

Let me make a few suggestions on how to follow Jesus' example:

  • Graciously accept the kindness of others as Jesus did from his female supporters.

  • If you are Bible teacher or preacher emulate Jesus' use of illustrations, anecdotes, stories and colourful language. Don't be dry as dust or bland or boring!

  • Forgive those who let you down - as Jesus did Simon Peter.

  • Wash one another's feet. Be willing to do menial tasks on behalf of the church - there are plenty.

  • Be prepared to upset the people who matter, especially legalistic, self-righteous Pharisees.

  • Make provision for your parents as Jesus did his mother, Mary, even as he hung on the cross.
(3) Speculation. Jesus said: "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."

There have been many times and places since the time of Jesus when it has been dangerous to be a Christian. Whenever Christians are discriminated against and persecuted they are tempted to preserve their earthly life by forsaking Jesus. People who make that decision forfeit their hope of eternal life. It is better to remain faithful and die in this life than lose out on the inheritance kept in heaven for us.

William Barclay explores another aspect of this teaching of Jesus in his excellent commentary on Matthew:

In our day and generation it is not a question of martyrdom, but it still remains a fact that, if we meet life with the constant search for safety, security, ease and comfort, if every decision is taken from worldly-wise and prudential motives, we are losing all that makes life worthwhile. Life becomes a soft and flabby thing, when it might have been an adventure. Life becomes a selfish thing, when it might have been radiant with service. Life becomes an earthbound thing when it might have been for ever reaching for the stars. Someone once wrote a bitter epitaph on a man: "He was born a man and died a grocer."

This seems a bit hard on grocers - but I know what Barclay means. I knew two men whose whole life, until retirement, was taken up by their village grocery business. It was only in old age that they played a part in the life of our church. They missed many opportunities of laying up treasure in heaven.

(4) Evaluation. Jesus said: "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done."

We need to work out what is best, whether to priorities our material well being in this life or whether to make it our main task to please God and ensure we have a future with him. We can have everything money can buy in this life, an abundance of good things, but lose one's soul. This was the case with the rich and successful farmer of Jesus' parable. His barns were full, he anticipated a happy retirement, the future seemed bright, but God called his life in before he had laid up any treasure in heaven.

Jesus' question is as relevant today as it was during his life-time. "What can a man give in exchange for his soul?" The most important thing we possess is our soul - our inner life. The only way to preserve it, is to commit to Christ and his service.

(D) The disciple's motivation.

The disciple of Christ has a fourfold motivation for wholehearted, unswerving, unwavering devotion to him:

(1) He is coming again. Jesus promised: "So you also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." Mt24v44.

(2) He is coming in his Father's glory.

(3) He is will not come unaccompanied but return with an escort of angels and an adoring throng of resurrected believers. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 1Thes4v16.

(4) He will come to reward believers for all they did for him in their lifetimes. See 1Cor3v10to15 and 1Cor4v1to5.


Jesus concludes by saying: "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." Jesus came into his kingdom at Pentecost - the day the church was born. It continues to this day. Two thousand years later Christ's subjects, both living and dead, are beyond number - an enduring testimony to the power of the blood. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Heb9v22.