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THE WAY OF CHRIST

Matthew 16:21-16:23
Key Verse: 16:21

In the previous passage we thought about the significance of Jesus’ question, “Who do you think I am?” and Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” the blessedness of those who make such a confession. Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” was the revelation by the Father in haven and has inspired the hearts and minds of the people down through the generations. The revelation, however, was not the end. Something more had to be revealed concerning Christ. Today’s passage is about that.

Until now Jesus’ life was so beautiful. His Sermon on the Mount forever enlightens human souls. His healing work was heart-felt and mighty, healing all kinds of human diseases. Evil spirits and nature were under his control. Most importantly the person Jesus was pure, humble, compassionate, clear, confident, straightforward, wise, unyielding and triumphant. How beautiful Jesus is! He is the very one whom God sent according to his promise, the one all mankind had been waiting for. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Who can imagine God living on the earth? In the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar had a troublesome dream. He called all the wise men of Babylon and asked them to tell his dream and interpret it. The group of the wise was surprised at this request and they urged the king to tell the dream to them first so they would interpret it. But the king firmly decided not to tell the dream for he worried that they would trick him. Then they answered, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing…What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men” (Da 2:10,11). It is unthinkable to mankind that even a god, not to mention God, is living among men. Then how sensational and remarkable Peter’s confession was, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” To Peter the Son of the living God lived with him eating, sleeping, walking, having conversation together and doing matchless work. Apostle John described Jesus the Son of God living with them this way: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim…” (1 Jn 1:1). It was indeed the miracle of all miracles, the mystery of all mysteries that Jesus who is the Christ, the Son of the living God dwelt among men on the earth.

Then what did Jesus have to say after Peter’s confession? Look at verse 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, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” Here “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples…”, this expression shows that Jesus eagerly waited until that time to teach and explain to them what was truly important. Look at verse 21 again. “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, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” When Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” the image of Christ portrayed in his mind must have been victorious and triumphant. Jewish people expected that Christ would rise to power to put their nation over Rome and all other nations of the world. To human understanding, Christ must be the one who destroys all evil forces with his matchless power. The way God works, however, is quite different from the way people expect. The way of Christ is not the way of directly rising up to the power of this world but the way of suffering and death and then resurrection.

Jesus knew with certainty that he must suffer many things and must be killed and be raised to life. Who in the world could have such sure knowledge of the destiny of his life and predict his death in the prime of the life and his resurrection with 100% assurance? No one would be found among men. But Jesus who is the Christ, the Son of the living God, could do so. This prediction of his “must” destiny was his obedience to God the Father and his will. God’s will for Christ was his death and resurrection.

Then why would the living God let his Son be killed? It is to solve man’s sin problem. Christ came into this world so that he might take away our sins (1 John 3:5). And the way to take away man’s sin would be through his death. This is truly the uniqueness of the Messiah. The messiah-ship lies foremost in his sacrificial atoning death. When Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, an angel of the Lord said to Joseph, “…you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). The way he saves his people from their sins was through his death as Christ. So he would be Jesus Christ. “He must die.” There was no other way of saving work. The implication and clear teaching concerning Christ’s death is written in the Old Testament. Before Jesus’ death numerous animals were killed for man’s sins. The killing of all the animals that were used in offering to God time points to the death of Christ. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says, “If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.” Then later on Apostle Paul said in Galatians, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” (3:13). Jesus became a curse for us by hanging on a tree as the Scriptures indicated. While the Israelites were traveling in the desert toward the promised land, the people grew impatient; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned…Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. However, God did not take the snakes away from them. Rather God provided a way for the people to be saved from the poisonous snakes. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived (Num 21:4-9). Later on Jesus render this event to himself, saying, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14,15). Being lifted up meant his death on the cross. A Psalmist cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” (Ps 22:1) Then Jesus cried out the same words, when he died on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And after crying out again, he died (Mt 27:46,50). It shows that in this way the Psalmist forecasted Christ Jesus’ cry on the cross. An old prophet Isaiah foresaw Christ’s death on the cross and said, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isa 53:5). This vivid pictorial prophecy was referred to Christ’ being killed on the cross, his death by crucifixion. “He must be killed” is God’s will and plan.

It is also God’s heart and his deep love for mankind to be freed from their sins. How can the love of God be expressed? God’s creation is obviously his love. Jesus beautiful messianic ministry is also none other than God’s love for mankind. But the climax of God’s love is letting his Son be killed for sinners. Children are very precious to their parents. M. David and Esther celebrated their third child Grace Juha’s 1st birth day on June 23. All the family members were happy and joyful in that celebration. Christopher is very dear to M. Peter and Mary. But we are very sorry whenever we hear about parents who abuse their children. And some think God is like that, letting people suffer many things in this world. But God wants us to know that he let his Son suffer many things and be killed for our sake. God says in Isaiah 49:15,16, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” God wants us to believe in his love which is true. Romans 5:8 says, “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ’s death on the cross is the demonstration of God’s love for us sinners. A Pastor lost his beloved promising two sons by a communist who shot them to death because of their confession of faith. At the funeral ceremony the pastor thanked God that not his one son but two sons were martyred. He also thanked God that God gave him the heart of God to adopt the very one who had killed his sons as his son. The pastor must have known the love of God deeply. Last Wednesday Paulina had a surgery on her leg. On that day she groaned in nausea and pain. I thank God for her restoration. I heard that in Egypt any foreign young woman should not travel alone. She can be kidnapped anytime. I only thank God for his protection for Sara, who was in Egypt for the last one week. May God help us to realize the love of God more and more in both good times and bad times that he let his Son be killed for us and to be rooted in his love.

Look at verse 21 again. “…and on the third day be raised to life.” What a prediction! No one had ever predicted his resurrection. But Jesus did. “He must be raised to life on the third day” Jesus did not say that he must be raised to life in the near future.” He said, “…on the third day” , not on the first or second day nor fourth day, but exactly on the third day. Jesus was sure of his resurrection with such accuracy. All men died and then were no more. In history nobody was raised to life after death. But Jesus would be raised to life on the third day. Jesus’ resurrection would not be a random or sudden event. It was also implied in the Old Testament. Isaiah 25:6,7 says, “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever…” And Isaiah 26:19 says, “But your dead will live; their bodies will rise…the earth will give birth to her dead.” David wrote in Psalm 16, “because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay…” (Ps 16:10). The patriarch David was not only a valiant solder and a king but also a prophet. So seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay (Acts 2:25-31). In Hosea God said, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” (Hosea 13:14). In the book of Jonah the prophet was swallowed up by a huge fish and was inside the fish three days and three nights. And then the fish vomited Jonah onto dry land (Jonah 1:17; 2:10). In Matthew’s gospel Jesus referred what had happened to Jonah to his resurrection. He said of it repeatedly in 12:39 and 16:4: “…A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (12:39) and “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given except the sign of Jonah” (16:4). And Jesus said here in Matthew 16:21, “…he must…on the third day be raised to life.”

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the greatest sign of all miraculous signs. Resurrection from the dead is the true victory and true power. His love through his death would prove that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Finally his power through his resurrection from the dead would prove that he is indeed Christ, the Son of the living God. Romans 1:3,4 says, “regarding his Son, who as to human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” Praise God for Jesus’ resurrection which was prophesied by many prophets and Jesus himself and was fulfilled.

Then how did his disciples respond to Jesus’ astounding prediction of himself? Look at verse 22. “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’” What a contrast with the words, “Yes, Lord”! (Mt 9:28; 15:27; Jn 21:15,16; Ac 9:10) This is the only time the words, “Never, Lord!” spoken in the Bible. “Never, Lord!” does not make sense. The word “never” can be spoken to those who are not the Lord. But Peter spoke the word, “never” repeatedly with two times of exclamation mark. He said consecutively, “This shall never happen to you!” Anyway, this time Peter strongly rejected Jesus’ teaching of his death and resurrection. To him, Christ’s dying was unthinkable and incomprehensive, and anyone being raised to life was totally strange to him. Peter’s loyalty to Jesus blocked the way of Christ. Humanly it was understandable. But how did Jesus respond to Peter’s reaction? Look verse 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 things of God, but the things of men.” These words would be the strongest rebuking words Jesus ever spoke to his disciples. Jesus rebuked Peter so severely with triple stresses. Jesus called him “You, Satan.” At this time Peter played the role of Satan, becoming a stumbling block to Jesus, who was obeying the will of God the Father. Lastly Jesus said, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Here we see that human thoughts and ideas can be a Satanic opposition to God’s will and plan.

Gospel means in Greek, “good news.” The gospel is the gospel of God and the gospel of Jesus. The gospel is from God (Ro 1:1; 2 Pe 1:21). The gospel is regarding God’s Son, Jesus (Ro 1:3). But more concisely, the contents of the gospel are Jesus’ death and resurrection. Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:3,4, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” This is exactly what we thought of. The truth of the gospel is Christ’s death and resurrection. That’s why Jesus said right after Peter’s confession of Christ that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

In our times the beautiful life of Jesus seems to be welcome with his compassion and mercy, but not with his death on the cross. For the cross and death of Jesus deals with man’s sins. There are many beautiful human teachings in the world. Last week I read a book, “the Analects [Discourses] of Confucius.” I newly realize that he was a great man. He said of himself, “I resolved to study at the age of fifteen. I stood up at thirty. I had no doubt and temptation at forty. I knew my mission from heaven at fifty. I had my ears open to others at sixty. I reached to the point at seventy that even though I did whatever I desired, it was not against the law.” He was one of those who tried to live a good life and correct the wrongs of the nation, raising disciples. His life in a sense give light to many people in history. But the Bible clearly declares that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Ro 3:23). There is no one righteous, not even one (Ro 3:10). Human good deeds and a good life cannot reach God’s standard. Man’s sin problem had to be solved. Sin demanded the life of an innocent one. This is the reason Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection is the way of salvation and true victory over all for mankind. This is the gospel, the good news to all mankind. This is the love of God in Christ for us. May we uphold the gospel of God’s love and salvation and victory in Christ and live by it and live for it in this generation.

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