March 12, 2017
The Great Reversal
Get Behind Me Satan Matthew 16:21-28
Matt. 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, a the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John,a because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’),a and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hellb will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”
Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. 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. 26 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.”
Without a struggle there is no victory, without a cross there is no crown of Glory. Many of us are aware that to follow Jesus challenges our comfort and ease. It means a kind of self-denial.
For Jesus and His disciples it would mean even forfeiting their lives.
One of the main things that Jesus struggled with, and I believe probably frustrated him, was the level of unbelief that refused to recognize Him as the Messiah, the Saviour of the world.
The people of Jesus’ day believed that God would raise up an anointed king who would free Israel from oppression and bring justice and peace. No one knew when this anointed king, the Messiah, would be born, but many believed He would be a descendant of King David.
What they did not know is how radically different this Messiah would be and how He would reverse all their concepts of discipleship and faith. Let’s pray and then continue our study of the Great Reversal, in Matthew chapter 16.
Matt. 16:21 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.
Verse 21: “From then on….” Marks a new phase of Matthew’s Gospel story. From now on, until the end of the book there will be a new emphasis on the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus must go to Jerusalem because it is God’s will which was prophesied in the Old Testament
Scriptures. Jesus’ purpose was to suffer on a cross.
As I Mentioned earlier, there is a spiritual battle going on and dear Peter is, unfortunately, a casualty…. for now, anyway.
Earlier, in verse 16, you remember that Peter, taking on the role of spokesman for all the disciples makes the declaration that Jesus is indeed the long awaited Messiah, ‘the Son of the Living God’. And Jesus rewards Peter:
“You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.
18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”
This is an amazing revelation.
But it is short lived: Peter takes on the role of spokesman again when he declares that he doesn’t think it’s right to go to Jerusalem and have those terrible things happen to Jesus the Messiah.
“Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”
Peter, an instrument of revelation one minute becomes the mouthpiece for the Satan in just six verses. I don’t think Peter knew what he was suggesting really. Obviously he didn’t want his friend to die. (Apparently this incident is depicted above the entrance to St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I admire the Catholic church’s decision to include this episode in the architecture of their buildings at the Vatican. It shows a vulnerability and human frailty.)
You and I are not above getting it wrong, like Peter. There is no plateau of spirituality or effectiveness for any of us, not even the saints. We are in a lifelong spiritual battle and so sometimes we have to look carefully at what God is doing and how He is doing it and what part we must play.
Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit to help us. In the passage, Jesus is trying to get His disciples to look carefully at what God is doing. He’s trying to help them to see in a reverse manner. Like looking in a mirror, everything is in reverse. The prospect of Jesus’s suffering was hard for the disciples to imagine. To them the Messiah was meant to usher in God’s victory over their enemies, the fulfillment of their history.
“Oh, to be rid of the Roman scourge!” Peter was thinking along the lines of taking over the Temple and installing Jesus as King. That’s how the Messiah will be exalted in His Kingdom!
I am sure Peter must have recoiled in horror and confusion when Jesus explains that the Messiah is destined to suffer humiliation, rejection and death at the hand of those enemies.
Peter’s perspective and understanding is wrong.
For one, Peter understood God’s salvation was only for Israel. And two, Peter is tricked by one of the devil’s schemes… to bring confusion.
Would you agree that the enemy is alive today? We live in a world where confusion reigns. People are confused about the nature of God. And people are confused about their identity in God. Genesis chapter 3 records the beginning of the confusion: The Old testament spoke of Messiahship involving suffering. Isaiah portrays him as the suffering Servant; taking on all the assaults of evil, allowing Himself to be crushed by our sin. The enemy will appear to win the battle, but then, Jesus, the Messiah, will be raised from death to a new life, a life that will never end because it shares the nature of God Himself.
This is the path that Jesus sees before Him. But neither Peter nor the other disciples understand
what Jesus is talking about. It all sounds like foolishness to them. As soon as Peter declares Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God, Jesus makes it clear to him what sort of Messiah he is declaring. Peter is aghast. This certainly did not fit in with his idea of Messiahship at all. So he pulls Jesus aside to express his indignation and resentment in words that literally mean “God be kind to you, Master; this shall never happen to you”.
Peter meant well….. but his outburst showed that he really didn’t understand what Jesus’ mission was.
Think of it like this:
If Jesus had listened to Peter He would have done exactly what Satan had tempted Him to do in the wilderness in Matthew chapter 4. So Jesus rebukes Peter in the same way He did the tempter in the wilderness, ‘Get behind me Satan’. You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Peter, the ‘rock’ that Jesus said He would build his church on……. Has momentarily become a stumbling block.
The painful lesson that Peter and the other disciples had to learn was that God thinks so differently than how we mere human beings think. God sees in reverse.
“Shoulder your cross and follow me’.
Jesus explains a very difficult lesson: If we seek to have life on our own terms we will lose it.
However, If we are prepared to sacrifice our own way, even our life, we will find true life.
Jesus amazed His disciples by reversing the definition of Messiahship and now again by reversing His definition of discipleship and success in life. Peter was addressed as satan because he opposed Jesus’ obedience to the will of God. Not only is Peter wrong about what lies ahead for Jesus but he is also wrong about what lies ahead for the disciples, including his own future.
The paradox here is that he must lose his life in order to gain it. Jesus must lose his life in order to gain Eternal Life for all those who trust in Him. Jesus concludes with verse 27 and 28:
27 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. 28 And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they seethe Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”
We will be accountable for the lives we have led. These 2 verses about ‘the Son of Man coming with his angels to judge’ are slightly complex.
I believe Jesus is pointing to two things at once.
When Jesus says in verse 28, “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.” I think he means It is about His vindication after His suffering. It is about the great reversal which is to take place that first Easter morning.
Jesus sees it coming; He knows it; And He is trying to tell His followers. But it is also about his return: Or what we would say, his second coming. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
For us today, we know Jesus; we know He is already risen and the exalted Lord of the world.
We don’t have to wait for His vindication, however one day, when Jesus returns, we will have our lives judged (according to our deeds) but not condemned.
In the meantime we have to learn to think in reverse. Jesus didn’t come with a message of an easy life if we follow Him, with everything happening the way we want.
Just the reverse.
Cling to your life and you will lose it.
Give everything you have to following Jesus, and you will have life everlasting.
Let me finish with a quote from N.T.Wright:
“In every generation there are it seems a few people who are prepared to take Jesus very seriously, at his Word. What would it be like if you were one of them?”