In Matthew 16: 21-23, Jesus, for the first time, explains to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the leaders, priests and teachers of religious law, be killed and then be raised from the dead on the third day. Verse 21 begins with the words, “From then on…” This phrase marks a moment of truth. In Matthew 4:17 it said, “From then on, Jesus began to preach, ‘Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.’” Here, however, it emphasizes His death and resurrection. The disciples had difficulty grasping this truth regarding Jesus’ true purpose. They had their own preconceived ideas about the “Messiah,” what He would be like and how He would rule. This is the first of three times that Jesus predicted His death. The second time Jesus and His disciples had returned from Galilee and He told them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed. He will be killed, but three days later he will be raised from the dead.” This caused the disciples hearts to be filled with grief (Matt. 17:22-23). The third time, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem with His disciples and He takes them aside privately and tells them what is going to happen to Him. “When we get to Jerusalem,” He said, “the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of the law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, whipped, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead” (Matt. 20: 17-19).
Jesus’ death was also prophesized in the Old Testament book of Daniel. The Messiah, the Anointed One will be killed by His own people and His eternal kingdom will come later (Daniel 9:26). Following a period of trouble (Daniel 9:27), the King would come in glory. “As my vision continued that night, I saw someone who looked like a man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into His presence. He was given authority, honor, and royal power over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey Him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
The disciples knew that if it was purposed for Jesus to be led through deep humiliation, they too would go through suffering and affliction. We may be surprised at the slowness of the disciples in comprehending what Jesus was telling them. Yet, how long has it taken us to become convinced that the life of a disciple of Jesus is a life of suffering in the footsteps of Jesus? May we not fail to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words when, as Christians, we too suffer. The Bible says that Jesus must suffer many things and be killed. God the Father’s mercy is boundless and the love of Jesus, His Son, is beyond comprehension. Nevertheless, the depravity of our sins was such that nothing but Jesus’ suffering could atone for them. That is whey the words, “Jesus must suffer and die,” is the anchor of hope for Christians. And it is in the certainty of faith that Christians await the victory over sin and suffering knowing that the very same divine authority said, “Jesus must be raised up on the third day.” God could not suffer His Holy One to see corruption.
The urgent necessity of Jesus’ suffering and death is demonstrated by the fact that He faced and had to overcome many hindrances on His way to the cross. Three times at the very beginning of His ministry, Satan tempted Jesus to forego the way of the cross. Jesus’ enemies cried out to Him in His last hour on the cross, “Come down from the cross!” During the mystery of His struggle in the garden of Gethsemane where His sweat became drops of blood, Jesus sacrificed His own will to do the will of His Father. And again, from a most unexpected source, His friend and disciple, Peter, comes with the same temptation. After hearing Jesus’ message about his forthcoming death, Peter took Jesus aside and corrected Him. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said, “This will never happen to you!” Jesus quickly recognized it as a very real temptation and quickly replied, ‘Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s.”
In Matthew 16:16 Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” And Peter eloquently answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter proclaimed Jesus’ true identity. However, as Jesus’ friend and disciple, Peter desired to protect Jesus from the suffering that He had prophesized. But if Jesus had not suffered and died, Peter would have died in his sins. Our dearest and closest friends and family members sometimes with much kindness try to persuade us to turn away from that which we know God has purposed us to do. Great temptations can come from those who love us and desire to protect us. Christians need to be very cautious when getting advice from a friend who says, “Certainly God doesn’t want you to go through this difficulty.” Such temptations are very serious, especially if you find yourself inclined to agree with them and turn away from God’s purpose for your life.
Jesus also suffered temptation in order to teach us the necessity of resisting such temptations immediately, even if by doing so we offend those we love. Yes, Jesus endured the final struggle on the cross, yet throughout His ministry He was compelled to wage war against opposition in order that He might win His way to the cross and so die for us. So tremendous was His love for you and me.
Victorious Living Lesson: Stay the course. Once you know God’s will for your life be certain you do not allow various temptations, no matter the source, to stop you from fulfilling it.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I thank You that You persevered through all temptation on the way to the cross. Teach me to also conquer in Your name. Amen