Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It was a bold, unqualified statement, and he meant it. Only a fool would say something so outrageous if he didn’t really believe it was true. It was not only a declaration of facts, it was a declaration of allegiance. Peter had daily reminders that by choosing the Lord he was accepting the hostility and rejection of the most powerful leaders of the land…men that had power to put them all to death. But Peter really believed that Jesus was the Anointed One of God and that trumped every other reality.
Peter wasn’t just speaking for himself. He was acting as the voice of the rest of the disciples. And with this declaration, these men showed that their faith was ready to begin to hear the rest of God’s unfolding plan.
Jesus began to explain to His disciples that a time was coming when He would go to Jerusalem, and that He was going there to suffer. He said, “‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised again.’”
It was as clear as that. The worst fears of the disciples were going to come true. But how could this be? The disciples had grown up learning that the Messiah was going to bring a vast, powerful, military victory to the nation of Israel. Now Jesus said it was going to be quite the opposite. The Messiah was going to be killed like a lamb to the slaughter, and it was going to be at the hands of the Jewish people! They were going to kill their own Messiah! This certainly was not the vision the disciples had been hoping for.
Simon Peter couldn’t stand to hear His Lord say these things. He pulled Jesus aside, looking back at the other disciples, and rebuked Him, “‘Never Lord!’ he said. “ ‘This shall never happen to You!’”
“‘Get behind me Satan!’” Jesus replied. “‘You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’”
Wow. The very man that Jesus was going to use to build the Church of the Living God on earth was showing his great blindness to the eternal will of God the Father. It was the plan of Almighty God for His Son to suffer and die. He would bear the sins of humanity and destroy the power of death. It was so epic…so far beyond the hopes the disciples were still carrying for this life…that they couldn’t see it. It was so bound up in the magnificent beyond of eternity that His disciples could not wrap their minds around how the death of Jesus could end in good. The disciples would have settled for a military leader that accomplished something for a generation; Jesus came to save the world.
And so it often is for us. We measure our world and our choices….and even the will of God…according to earthly calculations and temporary good. We miss the wonder of the true hope we are meant to live for…the wild freedom that comes when we fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2). It is possible to trust Him with a faith that allows us to walk in ever deepening trust and vision, to receive His eternal solutions that might contradict everything we think we know or that makes sense. He will give us purpose, courage, and restful peace in the midst of whatever storm our faithful obedience brings. But we have to let go of our ideas about what matters, what we need, and what we have to have so that we can grasp onto the things of God. And we have to listen to His will.
As Jesus stood there on the dusty roads of Israel, the purposes of His Father stood ever before Him. Jesus had some choices. He could have quailed in fear. He could have doubted. He could have questioned whether God could speak…and whether He could hear. He could have resented the task ahead. He could have listened to Satan. But he didn’t. He anchored Himself on faith instead. And in spite of the excruciating path He would have to take in obedience, He did not flinch.
Yet here was His friend, the one who ought to have been a source of strength, directing Him away from the will of His Father. It was the same thing Satan tried to do when he tempted the Lord in the wilderness. Jesus made perfectly clear the seriousness of Peter’s mistake. Peter needed to bow his knees once again before the Lord.
Jesus turned to the disciples and said:
“‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his own soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what He has done.”
Wow. Read that again. Consider it deeply. Jesus had just explained that He would die and rise again.
Jesus was also declaring that there would be a Second Coming…the true hope of faith…the thing worth giving up this world for (Col. 3:1-4). Jesus would surrender His life to the will of God…and would require that His disciples do the same. But He would also return in glory. Then Jesus said:
“‘Truly I tell, you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’”
Wow. Somehow, some of His disciples would get a view of the Kingdom…sometime in their own lifetime. How could this be?
In some ways, the disciples were still like the crowds. They were still looking for the Messiah to give them blessings for this earthly life. Jesus was pressing them to look up and put their hope in eternal things. Their reward was going to be very great, far more than they could ask or imagine, and it would last forever and ever. It was an everlasting hope that would never spoil or fade. But they would have to give their lives on earth to Jesus as an offering first, and be willing to go all the way to the cross with Him.
The disciples had probably already decided that they would be willing to risk their lives in battle for Jesus. They were prepared to be His warriors, valiant and brave like King David. But this was a different kind of death. Were they willing to suffer humiliation and shame? Were they willing to die like criminals with no earthly fame or glory? Were they willing to suffer the long, agonizing death of crucifixion for Him?
In order to follow the radical demands of Jesus, His disciples would have to truly believe in the eternal truth of what He said, for that was the reward He offered them. Would they still follow Him? And what did it mean when Jesus said that they would see the kingdom come in power? Some of them were about to find out!