The Goal Has Always Been the Cross
Matthew Chapter 16: 21-23 (continued)
“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
Last week we showed that Jesus is the only Rock of the church. There are some religions that teach that the apostle Peter is the ‘rock’ of the church. This is pure heresy, and it diminishes the power and role of Jesus. It makes a mockery of what Jesus came to do. It makes light of all that Jesus sacrificed and gave up for us. Once again I must state that Jesus is the firm foundation of the NT church. He is our Rock upon which we stand. If you are standing on anyone or anything other than Jesus, you are standing on ‘quicksand,’ and you are in a very bad situation.
Today we will move on and look at the cost to us in the Christian life. There is a cost, and without a cost you need to ask yourself if you are truly maturing as a Christian. Jesus left Heaven heading for the cross, and if we are to go to Heaven, there is need for us to bear our crosses as well. Each one of us will have different crosses to bear, but the Christian life must and will cost you something, someone or maybe somewhere. Be wary of a life for Christ that is without sacrifice. All of the apostles had to leave something to turn to Jesus. Every Christian must do the same. See Peter’s confession here in Mark 10:28:
“Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.”
Christianity without cost is not true Christianity. Be wary of cheap salvation and a cheap Christian life. Our salvation was not cheap; it is offered freely to us, but it was and is not cheap.
Calvary’s Cross, verse 21
The book of the Revelation tells us that Jesus was a ‘Lamb slain before the foundations of the earth’ (Revelation 13:8). The same information is repeated for us in 1 Peter 1:20. This is hard for us to get sometimes, and when we read the Genesis account of the Fall of Man we get the idea that our salvation was a contingency plan. No! No! No! Our salvation was The Plan from before creation. This very, VERY important for us to understand. Jesus is the Creator of the Universe. In John 1: 1-4 we read the following:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”
So, let us take this journey through the verses we have explored. Here we see that Jesus, in John 1:3, created all things, and that without Him nothing was made. So let that sink in. Now, let us remember that Jesus is God. He knew that Adam would sin, He knew that salvation would cost Him His life, and He knew that He would have to die, and yet still He spoke the worlds into existence. Now, let that sink in. In the book of the Psalms it would be ‘Selah.’
Now, not only did Jesus know that He would have to die, He could have scheduled His death at any time in history, yet He chose to come when the Roman government was ruling. It was they who perfected the death on the cross, and it was they who literally took execution to the ‘next level.’ They invented the long, drawn-out death that Jesus would go through.
Jesus, knowing what man’s sin would cost and that the cost would be excruciating, still did two things: One, He agreed to be our sacrifice before we ever sinned. And two, He went ahead and spoke the worlds into existence. He still put Adam in the Garden, and He still made the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and He still gave Adam and Eve free will (Genesis 1–3).
Jesus literally planned His execution for our sins. He breathed into man the breath of life, knowing that man would take His breath. Jesus’ death on the cross was not a contingency plan; it was the plan before He ever had one star on the horizon or one planet in orbit.
In verse 21, we are considering that Jesus said that ‘He must go to Jerusalem.’ And further that ‘He must suffer many things of the elders, chief priests and scribes.’ He set this plan in place about 4,000 years before, when He breathed into man the ‘breath of life.’ All of the events from then have been heading to the cross at Calvary.
This was an event planned by God. He brought all of human history to bear for this purpose. Every war, every plague, and every idea He allowed to prosper — the flood, the birth of Israel, the judgments on Israel — everything was done to funnel events so that Jesus would die on the cross at Calvary on that particular day, by the hands of Roman government and with these particular men and women watching. Jesus set this up. Jesus managed it and Jesus fulfilled it to the exact design that He put in place.
Why, you ask, would Jesus do this? Because, unlike the gods of the world, whether it be the carved stone, wood or precious metals of the pagans, or whether it be Lucifer who is the megalomaniac behind all false religion, or whether it be the ‘Mother Earth’ that is being pushed on us by the governments of the world – what separates the True and Living God from these imposters is that He loves us. All other gods are impersonal; even Lucifer only lives to take. We are told that he is a liar and the father of liars, and we are told he is a lion seeking to destroy (1 Peter 5:8). But God’s love for us compelled Him to want to be loved by a people who chose Him.
He knew we would sin and become helpless sinners, but in His love for us He decided to come and die for us. He set up the rules of redemption. In Hebrews 9:22 we read: “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.”
Knowing that He would have to submit to His own rule to redeem us, He still did it. Romans 5:8 tells us this: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
There is a heresy out there called Calvinism that would have us believe that Jesus selects certain people to go to Heaven and others to go to Hell. This is basically to put a stop to evangelism. All the way through the Bible we have the idea of choice. Adam had to choose to eat the fruit; even Satan could not make him eat. Genesis 3:6 says:
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”
In Joshua 24:15 we are encouraged to ‘choose.’ In Deuteronomy 30:19 we find this challenge/warning from God: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you, life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”
God chose the method of redemption—belief in Jesus’ death, burial and His resurrection for our sins. BUT, you must choose to believe and accept the payment. It cost Jesus everything, and it is offered to ALL mankind, everywhere freely.
Be wary of ‘crossless Christianity,’ verse 22-23
The cross of Jesus Christ is offensive. It was designed to be offensive.
These apostle ‘nobodies’ could finally see the fruit of their sacrifice. They had a leader that could raise the dead and make food for thousands out of a few pieces of fish and bread. He could heal the sick, fix broken limbs, walk on water, and the multitudes loved Him. These ‘no name men’ could finally see the end, the restoration of Israel, with Jesus as her king, and they as her lords. They could taste victory. The journey from fishermen to princes had been long, but the journey had taken the turn; and they were headed to Jerusalem to throw out the Gentile pigs that dared to set foot on their holy soil…
BUT Jesus kept talking about being crucified and executed. He just would not shut up about being beaten, bruised, shamed and buried, and this was not what they all wanted to hear. Finally Peter could not take it anymore, so he took Jesus aside to ‘rebuke Him.’ Imagine this if you will… no, take a minute and think about this. Peter takes God aside to set Him straight. Let that sink in. And before we get all ‘holier than thou,’ let us ask ourselves how often do we do the exact same thing. Our prayers are not humble supplications, asking God for His All-Knowing wisdom to override our limited sight; BUT, we actually tell God what to do and how to do it.
We are all Peters to some degree. We have a vision of how we want our Christian life to go, and we have no shame in telling God that He messed up and that we are going down the wrong path. ‘Hey God, this is not what we had planned when we signed on to the ‘follow me’ thing.’
But Jesus quickly reminds Peter of who is God and who is not. He rebukes him and reminds him that without the cross there is no victory, no kingdom and no salvation. You see, Peter was thinking like a mortal man, just seeing the now and not looking toward the future. All he could see was the physical world in front of him, and he lost sight of eternity.
You see, Jesus knows where you are going and what He planned for you before He made you. He knew where I would be today even before He spoke the worlds into existence 6,000 years ago. Jesus knew you would follow Him, He knew I would follow Him, and that is what He expects – FOLLOW, do not begin to lead; that is His job.
Folks, Jesus had to go to the cross of Calvary, and in the same way you have to go through the journey He has chosen for you. There is a path that you are on that shapes the image of Jesus in you. Jesus knows this and He must take you on this path. Trust Him.
But to bring us back to the point, be wary of those that want to talk about Jesus but make no mention of the cross at Calvary. That would be like talking about the ocean but never mentioning that it is wet and/or salty. You see, they want to stop talking about the cross since it is symbiotically tied to sin. And man, do we hate to talk about sin with people. But it is our sin that was the foundation of the need for the cross, and without our sin the cross was not necessary. So to refuse to speak of sin is to make Jesus a fool.
You see, without my sin, your sin, our sin, then Jesus died for nothing. But the journey to the cross did not begin at the manger; it began when the Holy Trinity began to create mankind and saw our fall and our helplessness. And Jesus came to our rescue.
Behold the man hanging on the cross—on Him was laid the sins of us all. In Him they can be forgiven. We can be redeemed from the depths of Hell, and our future secured in the hands of the Living God.
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Sean Gooding Pastor Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church