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I Have Decided...

Matthew 16:21-27

 

 

This chapter zeroes in on 2 big things Jesus wants to teach His disciples:

 

  • Who He is = His Person
  • Why He came = His Work

 

The Lord has spent nearly 3 years with these guys and now it’s final examination time.  Peter has already passed the first part of the test.  Who am I?  “Thou art the Christ!”  Now Jesus begins to reveal why He came.

 

For the first time ever, Christ reveals that He was born to die.  But His followers don’t get it, though He spells it out for them...and they won’t really understand fully until after His resurrection.

 

Last time we saw Jesus mentioning for the first time the church, and now He brings up the topic of the cross.  The cross was God’s plus sign in a minus world...where man was at his worst and God was at His best.  Man’s sin met w/ God’s grace!

 

1.     The Cross Presented.

v. 21        notice the use of the conjunction ‘and’...

Matthew 16:21
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.

This little word ‘and’ suggests several stages we need to examine carefully and meditatively.  It’s like the cadence of a beating drum as Jesus marches toward His destined task.

 

The word ‘must’ suggests the necessity of the cross. 

a.     The necessity of the cross.

On another occasion He said to Nicodemus, “As the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, even so MUST the Son of Man be lifted up.”

 

We need to realize that the cross was part of God’s plan from before the foundation of the world.  Some people wrongly think the cross was like an ambulance rushed to the scene when man sinned...like it was a surprise to God when Adam and Eve sinned.  The cross was not a band aid slapped on a cut.  It was in the heart of God from eternity past that the Creator would redeem the creation because of His great love for it.

 

Don’t let the word ‘must’ make you think Jesus had no choice, however.  It simply shows how important it was for Him to do the will of the Father.  And all of us have choices to make with our free will as well, but we should say w/ Jesus I must do what is right, not my will, but Thine be done!

 

Oh that we had such a sense of urgency that would drive us to say I MUST find and do the will of God for my life!

 

‘And suffer many things’ speaks of...

b.     The misery of the cross.

None of us will ever fully comprehend the suffering, both physical, emotional and spiritual, of the cross. 

 

Physical-For He suffered in a body that had never sinned, and was never desensitized to the pain of sin as we do.

Emotional-For He lived under a cloud of illegitimacy thru His childhood, and was called a blasphemer when He claimed to be God, and then they stripped Him naked on that cross and called Him all these names and much more!  He was put to an open shame.

Spiritual-For His fellowship w/ His Father was broken when He was forsaken by God Who turned His back on His only Son for us!

 

‘And be killed’ speaks of...

 

c.     The brutality of the cross. 

It wasn’t murder, for they did not take His life, He willingly laid His life down...in the final moments He ‘gave up the ghost.’  But ‘killed’ means it would be a violent, brutal death.

 

Today we highlight the cross as a symbol of glory and honor.  We put it atop our churches, and on gold chains around our necks.  But in those days it was a symbol of death and gore, suffering and shame, and wasn’t even spoken of in respectable company.  The Phoenicians invented crucifixion...inspired by seeing rats nailed to a wall.  It made death slow and painful, and very public, and was reserved for the lowest of criminals.  No pictures you ever see depicting Jesus on the cross will do it justice...it was simply too gory.  Isaiah said he was so marred you couldn’t recognize Him as a man...more like hanging meat, flayed, bloody, and thoroughly brutalized.

 

‘And be raised’ is symbolic of...

 

d.     The victory of the cross.

The misery of the cross and the brutality of the cross are not God’s final word.  For this same Jesus that suffered, died, and was buried, is the One who rose again, conquering death, and is today seated at the right hand of God the Father!

 

The cross presented...

 

2.     The Cross Rejected.

v. 22-23   It was more than Peter could take, hearing about such an end for His Master.  All the disciples knew the OT prophecies about a Lamb being slain, but none could really accept that would be what would happen, rather, they were looking for Him to set up His kingdom now and rule and reign!  What they wanted to be the truth took over their minds, as can happen to any of us.

 

Ill.—In a couple years we will elect a new President…I said “new!”  He will give an inauguration speech.  Imagine if it went like this, allowing space for applause:  “I will show you my plan that will end inflation [applause].  And I will do away with unemployment. [applause]  And I will put an end to crime and terror in this world over the next 4 years. [applause]  I am going to close the border.  [applause]  Once again we will know the difference between boys and girls [applause].  And, by the way, I have cancer and will be dying in the next few weeks. [silence!]

        In a way, that’s how it was for the disciples. 

 

Also, when they heard Him say He would be killed, they missed that He would be raised, it went right over their heads because of the shock of His statement about His own death.  The same happens when I say that God hates homosexuality.  People hear that and miss my following statement, that God loves homosexuals. [both statements are true!]  He hates the sin but loves the sinner, but I receive the hate mail because of my politically incorrect statement.  Really, what Jesus said was like a politically incorrect thing to say in the ears of His disciples.

 

So, Peter begins rebuking Him.  “Not so, Lord!”  It was a rejection of the cross.  Peter was walking in the Spirit one moment and in the flesh the next.  And we also often fail right after having a great spiritual victory, because pride and self reliance sneak in on us at that moment.

 

I can just hear Peter a few verses earlier, when he proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, and Jesus said, God revealed that great truth to you, blessed art thou...I can just hear him going to the other disciples saying, did you boys hear that?  God speaks to me.  If any of you ever want to know what God has to say, look me up and I’ll clue you in.  He sets himself up for a fall, just as we do when we think we have a sin licked...when we stand tall we need to take heed, lest we fall!

 

There’s also a contradiction here, as Peter calls Jesus “Lord,” but then tells Him what to do.  You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t claim Him as your Lord, and then not believe what He says, and not obey His commands.  You can’t ask Him for good things if you don’t accept His answers, good or bad, along the way.

 

Examples:

Some ask God to bless their finances, but also say, “Me tithe?  Not so Lord!”

...bless their marriage, but add, “Give up something I like to do just to spend time w/ my wife?  Not so Lord!”

...bless their business, but cheat on income taxes and as they fill out the form they are convicted to do what’s right in reporting their income, but say, “Not so Lord!”

 

You can’t reject God’s will and then ask God’s blessings upon your own will!

 

We’ve seen the cross presented, then rejected...

 

3.     The Cross Accepted.

 

v. 24-26   Jesus says, “Embrace the Cross!”  And to illustrate, Jesus decides it’s a good time to let them know that there’s a cross for each of them, too!  He has a cross for every disciple, and that includes you and me.

 

Jesus didn’t put the demands of being a disciple in fine print at the bottom of the contract...but IN BOLD TYPE from the BEGINNING He says, be aware, this is what it’s gonna take to follow me.  It’s a daily decision to take up your cross and follow Jesus. 

 

It’s a serious decision, as serious as deciding to get saved is the decision to be sanctified, set apart, and to live for someone other than yourself.  It’s taking yourself off the throne of your life and putting Jesus on that throne, and putting yourself upon the cross, dying to your fleshly desires and sinful habits, and letting your born again, new man live a new life on the clean slate created for you!

Galatians 2:20
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

 

So where is Jesus in your life?  Still on the cross, or on the throne of your heart?  We live in a “Me” generation.  We are consumed w/ ourselves, what’s in it for me?!  We excuse an unscriptural divorce saying, “I gotta do what’s best for me.”  We skip church saying, “I need to rest.”  We don’t give because, “I gotta pay MY bills!”

 

If I asked any young family here if their kids are their priority they would say yes, but we’ll know it’s true when they bring them to Sunday School and Wed. Nite Clubs, and when they bring them to our Sun. PM family service to learn to sit in big church. [it’s that way by design!]

 

True disciples accept all of the Christian life, the good news and the bad news, and they live the life when it’s convenient and when it’s not, when times are tough in the valley as well as the high times on the mountaintop.  They don’t approach the Christian life cafeteria style...they live an ‘all or nothing’, ‘hot or cold’ lifestyle.  They make an advanced decision, and then they keep their commitment no matter what. 

 

Ill.--At no time in my upbringing did my parents decide whether we were going to go to church or not, because they had already settled that decision before I was born.  It didn’t depend on the weather or how they felt at the moment, or who was speaking that night. 

 

Some will come on a weeknight for a special occasion, but not if it’s just for God alone...and that’s a slap in the face of the Almighty, Who left His seat on the throne to get on that cross...now He asks us to just carry a cross.  He Who was our dying sacrifice asks us to make some living sacrifices...will you do it? 

 

What is He asking you to give up?  What is He asking you to TAKE up?  What decisions need to be made today that will affect the rest of your life?

 

v. 25        Jesus here promises that some hearing this message will choose themselves over Him, and they’ll smart for it.  Make sure you make the right decision and choose to put Him first in every area of your life.

 

It’s a serious thing to take yourself off the throne and put Jesus there, and to crucify your own desires...it’s true discipleship!

 

And it’s not only a serious decision, it’s a sensible decision.  Because Christ has a legitimate claim upon your life and mine.

 

Ill—little boy / carved boat, w/ initials / put in river / got away / later it was found, sold to pawn shop / boy got older, went in pawn shop, saw it / told owner, that’s mine / no, it’s mine, I bought it / so, boy bought it back and said, little boat, you’re mine…mine because I made you / and mine because I bought you!

 

Christian, you belong to God twice...by virtue creation [He made you] and by virtue of redemption [He bought you!]  True disciples leave all and follow Him.  Will you decide now to follow Jesus?

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