[Aug 22]--Oops, Should’ve Quit While I Was Ahead

Matt. 16:21-28

Aren’t there times in which you made the above statement? I know I have. You know that little switch, that little guardian which is supposed to stand between your brain and your mouth and tell that thought “Stop, go no further!”? It sometimes doesn’t work for me.

And it certainly didn’t work for Peter. The disciples still had no clue why Jesus really came. They understood that he was healing and teaching, and certainly wasn’t raising an army to overthrow the Roman government. But this prediction was a bit much. And even when they did a double take, they still didn’t listen to all he said. They heard “must be killed” and their brains froze on that statement, completely ignoring the part about the Resurrection. And Peter once again spoke as the spokesman for the group, but this time it didn’t work out so well.

I heard from someone a long time ago that two words just don’t go together: “No” and “Lord.” A minute ago Peter was making the Great Confession, specifically claiming that he was the Messiah, the Son of the living God. But apparently the Son of the living God doesn’t know what he’s doing. His plan needs some adjustment. He needs some earnest counsel about how to proceed, since this idea about getting killed needs to be nipped in the bud.

And if Peter’s response here is different from what he said a few moments ago, Jesus’ response is even more startling! He was just pronouncing a blessing on Peter as having special revelation from the Father himself, and now he’s calling him Satan. Or is he? I personally believe that what Jesus was addressing was the Enemy who was, at that very moment, using one of Jesus' closest followers to attempt to divert him from the Father’s plan. This should be warning to all of us: Satan can’t possess us as believers, but he can influence and use us and even speak through us at times.

And just to make it clear, to make sure there were no misunderstandings, Jesus wanted to make sure that all of them knew what was coming. He was going to have it rough (to put it mildly), but none of them were going to get off scot-free. When Jesus used the image of the cross, he wasn't referring to a pretty piece of jewelry, nor to a a piece of wood or metal on a wall. They all knew what the cross meant. If anyone picked up his cross, he was a dead man walking. This is what each of them had to look forward to, and each of them had to count himself dead before proceeding any further.

But the good news is that this wasn’t the end of the story. Jesus’ cross led to an empty tomb and a crown of glory, and as his followers we share in that. First the cross, then the crown. You can’t have one without the other.

Lord Jesus, I hear what you’re saying, and I know what my sinful nature wants. Help me to deny myself, take up my cross and follow you. It’s very simple, but very hard to do. In fact, it’s impossible to do without your power and strength. I need this, very badly.

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