Quest for Hope
The Kingdom and the Cross 3-12-16
Yesterday, the gospel of Matthew guided us to reflect on what actually makes us clean on the inside before God by identifying the human problem. The real problem is we are dirty at the core of our being and outward religious observances cannot make us holy. Only the work of Christ can wash our internal being and make us pleasing to God. Today, on our quest for hope Jesus explains what is involved in following him to that cleansing: a cross for our will as we surrender to the eternal work of the Kingdom.
Matthew 16:21-27 NLT The Cost of the Kingdom
21 From then on Jesus[a] began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.
22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him[b] for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?[c] Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.
Just moments earlier on this journey through Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks his disciples who they believe him to be and Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah, Son of the Living God (John 16:15-16). Jesus, the Master Teacher and Savior, turns to praise Peter for allowing the Spirit to reveal truth to him; it is a revelation of great blessing (John 16:17). But, in a matter of seconds the voice Peter hears internally and the words he speaks changes from representing the will of God to representing the will Satan. This is a tough reality to accept, isn’t it? Never forget, Peter loves Jesus yet has his own thoughts about God’s plans for the Kingdom. The cross is not on the radar for Peter.
If we are determined to rule our own lives and fulfill all of our human wants, we are only seeing things from a “human point of view, not from God’s.” Peter is not speaking for God when he corrects Jesus; he is completely out-of-order correcting his Rabbi. Peter is walking behind Jesus, but he still has his human thoughts exalted and his well-being predominantly on his mind and so he chooses to disrespect the Messiah. He is acting as an agent of Satan to trap and detour the true work of Christ and his path to the cross. Peter knows if Jesus goes to the cross that as Christ’s follower he will face the cross, as well. Considering the cross for his human will is not a euphoric moment for Peter.
It is Satan who puts thoughts into the human mind that promises a way to enter the kingdom without a cross. We see the love of our Messiah and Teacher, however, when he turns to face Peter, who is walking behind him, and speaks truth to get him back thinking with a Kingdom mindset. When we make Jesus the Lord of our lives, we have essentially accepted Christ’s right to rule our lives; we allow him to turn and correct us as we walk behind him. When we follow his instructions, we become followers.
There is a cost to enter the Kingdom and it is called a cross. The cross is where our love for God intersects with our love for people and overpowers our own self-interests. We may not be called by God to lay our lives down in martyrdom; but we will be called to place our will on the cross for the work of advancing the Kingdom. The Spirit will call us to crucify our will in order to fulfill the purposes of the Father. God desires to make us in his image and we cannot fight the work of the Spirit to refashion us and still call Jesus, Lord.
Prayer: So many times in my life, Lord, I have tried to persuade you to see things from my perspective; thank you for turning around to teach me the proper posture as your follower. The cross is where I find freedom from wrong thinking, so help me to not reject the cross you present. As I recognize your work in my life and as I submit to the purpose of the Father for the Kingdom, I am blessed. May my life reflect that blessing, today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.