It was certainly NOT what Peter and the disciples expected! “Jesus spoke plainly… that the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again.” (v:32, 31) Do these words shock and upset us, or are they too familiar to us? How do we react to someone near and dear to us telling us they MUST “suffer, be rejected and be killed?”
This week was the 10th anniversary of the arrest of the man who called himself BTK. For 30 years he had eluded and mocked the police, following each of the ten premeditated murders – he boasted that he (BTK) “bound, tortured and killed” his victims!
This is what Jesus was telling His beloved disciples MUST happen to Him – and not by a serial murderer – but by their religious leaders–“the elders, chief priests & teachers of the law!” Therefore, it isn’t surprising that Peter “took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him?” That’s what Peter thought friends were for, to “straighten them out” when they “start believing some radical ideas!” – And that’s exactly why JESUS straightened out His friend, Peter!
Again, Jesus “spoke plainly, ‘Get behind Me, Satan!’ (as this time Satan was speaking the temptation through Peter), you do not have in mind the things of God, (you do not expect the things of God) but the things of men.” (v.33) The “things of men” have no room for suffering, sacrifice, service and especially not death!
“Then Jesus called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after Me (be My disciple), he must (Note: D.T.K.) Deny himself, Take up his cross and Keep on following Me.” (v.34)
When the disciples had “left all and followed Jesus,” they had not “bargained” for such things as suffering, rejection, and certainly NOT “taking up a cross!” They were more interested in miracles of water into wine and storms being calmed; healings of lepers, crippled, sick and blind people; the great popularity of 5,000 men plus women and children flocking to hear Jesus! They wanted to follow a powerful Jesus who would fulfill their dream of overthrowing the political system of their day; sitting at His right and left hand, in a new earthly kingdom!
What do we expect today? There’s definitely a stark contrast:
- Our permissive, commercialized society says “indulge yourself”–Jesus plainly says, “deny yourself.”
- Our selfish nature says “avoid pain at whatever cost”–Jesus demands, “take up your cross.”
- We so easily “do our own thing” / follow the latest fad–Jesus says, “keep on following Me.”
When things go wrong in our lives, we don’t understand. Like Peter, we may “rebuke” God, asking, “What did I do to deserve this?” / “Why is God doing this to me?” God, in His Word, tells us plainly, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:3b-5) To rebel against suffering is to rebel against the possibility that it may be God’s way of bringing about something very good for us!
Thank God that Jesus did not rebel against suffering, but “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
Are these mere words, like Peter’s boast on Maundy Thursday, “Though they all fall away, I will not.” (Mark 14:29) and the subsequent denial three times in the courtyard of the High Priest? Peter was “ashamed” of being associated with Jesus! And Jesus plainly says, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My Words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (v.38)
Who among us is not guilty (at times) of “being ashamed” to be associated with Jesus and His Word? We know all too well that openly obeying and confessing Jesus and His Commandments is not welcomed in this world. Speak up in defense of a person being slandered or defamed and watch how the group shuts you out! Speak out against couples living together before marriage; against pornography and violence; against gay rights; abortion on demand; capital punishment; gambling – any of the other issues where God’s Word demands “denying self,” and don’t expect agreement, nor applause! Who among us is not guilty of “being ashamed” of “preaching and God’s Word” – a judgmental attitude toward preaching; skipping worship, communion and Bible Class; not taking time for family and private devotions at home, not inviting neighbors and friends to worship, fearing what they might think or say.
A Christian woman underwent a radical mastectomy. The doctors thought they had removed all the cancer, but it spread to other critical areas. When her friends visited her in her final stay in the hospital, they lamented that such a youthful, healthy-looking woman should suffer so much. This Christian woman witnessed: “Jesus has suffered and died for me, but He also rose again from the dead. His suffering ended in resurrection, and by God’s grace, so will mine!” This Christian woman knew what to expect – the resurrection! Oh, what a blessing to live in the TRUTH of the resurrection! Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection had transformed her suffering into victory! What did she expect? What she already had – resurrection in Jesus!
Peter and the disciples didn’t hear everything that Jesus said: “Jesus spoke plainly… that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again.” (v:32, 31) We read it also in today’s Epistle reading: Romans 5: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yes, peace and the blessed hope in the midst of suffering as “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”
Isn’t it interesting what Jesus says to Peter, and then to all of us: “GET BEHIND ME… you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (v.33) – and in speaking to all His disciples, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and (keep on FOLLOWING) Me.” For Peter, and for you and me, as Jesus’ disciples, we dare NEVER “get in front of Jesus” – trying to “lead Jesus” – although that is our natural instinct – but properly “keep on following Jesus.” And like Peter after the resurrection and empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we too are daily empowered to “deny self, take up our cross and follow Jesus” in a life of service.
See you in worship this Wednesday for mid-week Lenten worship and next weekend for more of God’s gracious blessings so freely given!