Matthew 16:20-23 New International Version (NIV)
20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Jesus Predicts His Death
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
So, this week and last week are linked as Peter’s statement is in connection with his confession last week. So, a quick recap: we saw that Peter confessed Jesus to be the Messiah the Son of God. Jesus commended his confession and declared that upon this confession He will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Jesus made that declaration because of the context that they found themselves in; that being Caesarea Philippi. Now, this context become relevant to us again tonight so lets take some time to look at:
1. The Context
As we mentioned last week; this area was a hub of pagan worship; especially with regard to the god Pan. Now, what I had mentioned last week, but want to go into more detail tonight is that there was another pagan worship set up right next to the cave of Pan, this was the Emperor worship. Rome was always a republic, in other words a government where the citizen is recognised as equal to the ruling class; in fact Roman rulers were called, princeps, which literally meant the first citizen, however, starting with Julius and being cemented in Augustus was the idea that the Emperor was more than a citizen, in fact Augustus had started to declare that He was the son of god. He was a divine being.
This became the mark of every emperor since Augustus with ever increasing abuse of power and cruelty until the collapse of the Roman Empire in 476AD. Why does this matter? Well, Herod the Great had built a large temple to Augustus right next to this cave where Jesus and his disciples were. This was in Honour of Augustus and in response to the growing Emperor Cult, were the Emperors were worshiped and seen as gods.
Now, about 16 years before Jesus comes into this city, Augustus dies. So, we have the context of a dead god, being worshiped next to the cave of a dead god, as Pan had also died. In fact he was one of the few Greek gods that died.
Why does this matter; well it brings to light what Jesus says, and why Peter reacts so violently.
Which leads us to the second point tonight;
2. Peter’s Contradiction
To us it seems weird that Peter would make a declaration that Jesus is the Messiah and then respond as he does when Jesus says that the Messiah must suffer and die. What is going on here? Well Peter had no knowledge of the cross.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Peter, after declaring Jesus as Messiah, rebuked him. Peter in today’s terms is like, Jesus you are God, but you have it wrong here. Now, before we judge Peter too harshly, do we not do the same thing?
We will say that Jesus is God that He is Lord, but very quickly dismiss the hard passages of Scripture, almost saying God, I think you have it wrong here. The contradiction is blatant, yet we do it all the time. Why do we do this? Why did Peter do this? Well, because we don’t like the idea of a God who does what He likes, who we were made for and who is not made for us.
We are saying; how dare he demand of us, it’s not like everything in the world was made by Him and for Him. It’s not like in Him we move and have our being, so that now whether we do or say anything it should really be done for His glory. How ridiculous!
We hate the idea of being second in our own life. Peter didn’t want a Messiah on God’s terms. He wanted a Messiah on his terms, a Messiah that would fight for his people and achieve his political and ideological dreams. But God had bigger plans. Because although the occupation of Jerusalem was Peter’s biggest problem; Jesus knew of a greater, more hidden problem that had cursed the whole world.
And this is why Jesus commands them to not tell anyone. They did not yet know him as he was. Therefor they had nothing true to tell the world after his resurrection then Jesus commands his disciples to go and teach.
All this leads us to;
3. The Messianic Contradiction
Peter missed Jesus because he misunderstood what was truly wrong with the world. And I will make the assertion that we do the same thing with Christ today. To Peter the crisis of his day was profound and real to him, an invading army the Romans had come into his land and had killed his people and burdened them with their culture and their tax system.
To Peter the great injustice of his age was how could God let these pagans subdue and abuse his people. So, when Jesus (Peter’s Messiah) started talking about dying rather than overthrowing these pagan Romans Peter’s hopes and expectations were dashed. Remember this is with two dead gods in the background. Peter’s Messianic hope was that here is God’s chosen representative standing high as two dead gods languish behind him. And then Jesus says he too will die! This is not just unacceptable, it is unbelievable.
But the Messiah had to die, because the worlds problems were bigger that invading forces and Roman occupation. In fact, one might ask what is behind man’s cruelty to his fellow man, what drives the empires of our world to become instruments of horror? What is behind the pain and suffering and evil in this world?
We love to think it is the other, don’t we? Peter loved to think that all of the world’s problems were because of the Romans. We, today, love to think that all of the world’s problems are because of greedy politicians or corporations. We are forever trying to pin all the worlds problems on someone, in the early 2000’s it was terrorism, from 2008 on it was corporate greed, from late 2012 it was religious bigotry, today it seems to be whoever doesn’t align with my group.
Humanity always seems to make these sweeping statements of the other without taking to account the fact that my group has inherent contradictions and crises. It is always those people that are evil. But church the bible Old and New Testament give a far bleaker view of humanity. There are problems in the world because “no one does good, not one. All like sheep have gone astray.” (Ps 53:3). The Bible gives the root of problems of the world as every human.
Dostoyevsky the famous Russian author in his book Notes from the Underground, states that mans problems are note external but internal when he says;
“Shower him [man] with all earthly blessings, drown him in happiness completely, over his head, so that only bubbles pop up on the surface of happiness, as on water; give him such economic satisfaction that he no longer has anything left to do at all except sleep, eat gingerbread, and worry about the noncessation of world history — and it is here, just here, that he, this man, out of sheer ingratitude, out of sheer lampoonery, will do something nasty.
He will even risk his gingerbread, and wish on purpose for the most pernicious nonsense, the most non-economical meaninglessness, solely in order to mix into all this positive good sense his own pernicious fantastical element.”
In other words, give man everything he wants and needs for happiness and he will add chaos because he can’t help himself he will be nasty just for the sake of being nasty. Dostoyevsky like the Bible gives the true crisis of humanity and real problem with our life is not external it is internal.
That is why Jesus didn’t come to overthrow the status quo, or change the social order, Jesus came to fix what is wrong at the heart of every man. The true problem of humanity is that we are by nature sinners, we have abandoned our God and have gone our own way, and there is no way back without intervention of the Messiah!
Which leads us to the four point tonight;
4. Our Commendation
The Messiah had to suffer and die, Jesus explains this to His disciples. So let’s ask the question tonight; why did Jesus actually have to die? I mean he is God surely he is making the rules, couldn’t he find another way?
Well we need to look at what is wrong. Sin is not simply a deviation, a failing to meet expectations. Like I asked to meet up with you at 2pm and you come at 2:15. It is not a disposition to overcome as some argue, I am born this way. Sin at its core is a denial of and a rebellion against your designer; against your God.
You see every single one of us here has been made Him and for Him. You are not the by-product of something, you are intended. This means that every sins is against Him. Not only this, but every sin is actively chosen. This is the funny thing about being human, no-one forces us to do that which we know is wrong, we actively chose to do it. To use a trivial example, no one is holding a gun to your head and telling you to overindulge on junk food. We choose to.
Now, because we have all chosen to live outside of our design and against the one who designed us; we are destined for one result. A life outside of Him and that is the crisis. He is life, and light and goodness and wellbeing, what lies outside of Him is death and chaos and darkness and self-being.
Effectively to live against Him who is life is death. So, why doesn’t he simply forgive us and welcome us back in? Because He is perfectly consistent and perfect just. It would be dishonest and contradicting of God to demand of us that we treat each other with justice and honesty and then he simply sweeps under the carpet our sins.
No, our sins needed to be dealt with. Forgiveness always, and I mean always costs someone. In this case, God sent His own Son to be our Messiah, His chosen One who would take upon Himself the sins of us all. And because of that He would have to endure the consequences of our sins; which is as we have established, death, darkness and alienation from God. This is what the love of Christ endured for you; unimaginable darkness, and suffering – He bore what we rightfully deserve.
And we know this; we spend our entire lives trying to prove to ourselves and others that we are more than we know ourselves to be. What is the cause of all our moral superiority, and striving in work and all our lying. All these are done to try and prove to other and to ourselves that we are okay!
Humanity has always been desperate to deal with the inherent guilt that we all feel. In fact this is why sacrifice is such a common form of worship it is an appeasement of guilt. In the modern society we still do it, simply in different way; we sacrifice for our career hoping that if we make it we can use our success to prove ourselves worthy. Or we do this in our virtue signalling. Or in our self-denial.
No matter how hard we try we will always be left with a gaping reality that it is not enough. So what we were unable to do (because the flesh is weak) God accomplished through Christ. So that now, those who are in Him, who receive by faith the forgiveness of God in Christ, are made as if they never sinned.
Christ had to die because we were made to live guiltless, so he took upon himself our punishment our guild so that all who believe him could receive His innocence. And in Christ there is innocence, as Romans 8:1 declares; there is therefore no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus.
If we confess our sins to him, and believe we will be forgiven! Live in the reality church, believe and walk in that truth. This is call this is the good news, this is our life!