Matthew 16:21-28

21-28 From then on Jesus 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.

But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”
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.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 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. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 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. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.

Jesus was now saying very clearly that He “must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” When what He was saying actually sunk in, Peter pulls Him aside and very heroically says, “That is not going to happen to You!” Jesus spins around and says for all ears, “Get behind Me, Satan!

Wow! We have just heard Jesus say to Peter that his faith in Him as the Messiah was the Rock on which the Church would be built upon. And now He’s turning His back on Peter and saying “Get behind Me, Satan!” What’s happening?

This is a very stark illustration of how far and how quickly we, very human Christians, can swerve out of control and sometimes crash head-on into the immovable God and not even see it coming! Quickly taking up a cause, any cause, is very dangerous, especially if it is based in an emotional issue. If not dangerous to our eternal destiny, definitely dangerous to our pride. Just think of how this whip-lash turn effected the emotionally driven and deeply vulnerable Peter.

Our goal is not to be the world’s materialistic, physiological “life” but the Brand Name LIFE! The point to aim at is not to make sure that everything runs as it “should”. Our aim is Jesus’ coming, “when I will give out the awards and there are those standing here who will get a glimpse of Me in My Kingdom. If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross. That’s how following Me is done.” (my paraphrase) The goal I am to reach for is to see His welcoming smile and to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The question is, Am I doing what He says is needed to make sure that happens?

This discourse holds a powerful encouragement to those who find it difficult at times to distinguish any hard, clear border between right and wrong; what is from God and what is not. It is obvious in this scene that Jesus sees the line very clearly and is determined that we should see it too. For Peter, He was right there in the flesh. For us, Jesus has come to dwell in our hearts and He is constantly available for us to lean on and learn from. That is what “deny himself” means: A consistent deferment to Jesus’ view and purpose.

That’s not just a “church” meeting kind of thing. That is Church, as in “your body – the Temple of the Holy Spirit” kind of thing. Those inspirational moments in church meetings are supposed to be bringing us to an awareness of the Holy Spirit’s function day after day in every situation and process of our daily relationships. “Lo, I am with you always,” Jesus says. And, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.” When we gather, we do so to reveal and remind each other that Jesus is there and challenge each other to let Him rule. When the Church gathers (2 or 2 million) it is to be an environment in which we can “practice” surrendering new areas of our lives to His rulership without the fear of exploitation or manipulation by opportunistic wolves.

The line between truth and deception gets clearer once we get the message Jesus gave Peter, “You are not concerned with the things of God, but the things of men!” That should be the most embarrassing discovery for a Christian and probably is the most common. Anytime we are calculating solely on the data we have between our ears, we can’t see the line any more because we are striving so hard to make things work the way we think they should.

That’s how striving comes into the picture. There is a very deep, powerful longing inside of us that wants to be complete and sufficient without getting help from anyone else (lust for sovereignty). That appetite surfaces and begins to defend it’s perceived territory very early in our lives (around our second birthday), long before we have any power to reject it. Parents are solely responsible for instilling any controls on that craving. We are all familiar with the destruction that happens if they fail.

Pride would rather see you dead than have you ask for help or divulge that you need anything, and then it will justify stealing anything you want. Pride reduces us to distempered animals. That’s exactly why Jesus had to live a pure life in spite of every corrupting force and surrender His Life on the Cross, so we could see that lie-breathing dragon defeated.

Do you think it’s too late and too much work to see that transformation take place? Some person may come to mind for whom this seems impossible. Maybe it’s you. BUT – It wasn’t too late for Abram or Noah or Job or Jacob or Joseph or Moses or Samuel or David or Isaiah or Jeremiah or Gideon or Samson or Nehemiah or Ester or Matthew, John, James, Peter, not even for the thief on the cross next to Jesus! The only cases who are truly hopeless are the ones who refuse to deny themselves the right to call their own plays.

Here’s a couple of examples of that obstinacy: the other thief and Judas. And how about almost the whole population of the world before the flood and Pilate or Lucifer himself. Death is a bitter pill for those who spend their last breath singing “I DID IT MY WAY”. An admirable attitude if your idea of success is to dominate a pack of rats taking whatever and whoever can be taken. A heroic song unless, of course, there actually is a God in heaven. And of course….THERE IS A GOD IN HEAVEN!