Summary: Jesus’ death was an example for all of His followers. Jesus teaches us that true discipleship is to confess with our actions that life, abundantly with Jesus comes by death of our desires for His desires.
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Jesus and His disciples had been through a lot together. Prior to the discussion we read about this morning Jesus had healed and preached and traveled around the area and taught everyone who would come to hear. Early on Jesus selected the 12 Disciples. He chose ordinary men with ordinary lives. They are a diverse group of men with a diverse set of backgrounds. And each of them would turn out to be important to Jesus and the future of the church. Yet, as I have said over and over again since I first started preaching to you, the disciples were not the brightest bulbs in the bunch.
Continuously, Jesus taught them through sermons and parables. In the parables were lessons about The Kingdom of God. Some of them alluded to the cost of discipleship. Jesus had told about the sign of Jonah, about being in the heart of the earth for 3 days and 3 nights. But up unto this point in their lives together Jesus had not yet come right out and explained what was going to happen to Him in Jerusalem and on the cross.
Finally Jesus predicts His death. He explains the plan that included going into Jerusalem, suffering to death and then resurrection. In fact in verse 21 Jesus explains that this MUST happen. Jesus is trying to explain to His disciples that the death is not meaningless or an accident. Jesus tries to explain that He is not some unlucky victim, but a willing participant. What Jesus is doing is explaining the Will of God. He is explaining the divine plan.
And Peter’s response is what we expect. It is the same type of response I said I would have had. Last week, I said I would have a similar response of rebuke. I would try to reason with Jesus. I would even have wanted to argue with Jesus. But that is my human nature. Because God’s plan is far too big for our small and finite minds to comprehend. So Peter’s response is entirely human. Peter wanted things done on his terms.
This reminds me of a joke I once heard. A farmer wanted to get his wife a great birthday present. As he was driving down the road he noticed a sign at the local airport that read, “Experience the Thrill of Flying.” He thought that is it, my wife would love to see our farm from way up there… how exciting.
The farmer went to the airport, found the pilot and inquired about the price of taking him and his wife on a flight over their farm. The pilot’s price was too high for the farmer so he began to barter with the pilot. Finally the pilot agreed to a lower price, on one condition: the farmer and his wife could not say a single word during the entire flight. One spoken word, however small, would increase the price to the pilot’s original fee. The farmer’s determination to give his wife the trill of flying was only surpasses by his determination to spend as little money as possible, so he agreed to the condition.
The next morning the three of them took off and soon were high in the sky. The pilot knew that if he did a couple roller-coaster dips and turns with the plane the couple in the back seat would surely speak up and he would receive the higher price. The pilot dipped and turned, climbed and dived, and even did a few loop-de-loops. But not a sound was uttered. Not a scream or a whimper. Nothing but silence.
As they were landing the pilot, amazed at the determination of his passengers, yelled back at the farmer, “I can’t believe you didn’t say something up there! Through my dips and loops, you two were quiet the whole time. I guess you win!”
The farmer shouted back, “Well, you almost won, son. You almost won. I sure felt like hollerin’ when my wife fell out.”
You see, the farmer was determined to get what he wanted on his terms. Peter had a similar sense of determination. Peter did not understand why Jesus had to suffer and die. Peter wanted to argue his point. He was determined to create another plan. In fact, in verse 22 it says, “Peter rebuked Jesus.” The disciples had determined for themselves that the messiah would come for Israel alone to overthrow its enemies. They had to put away that dream.
Jesus response seems harsh, but stern. “Get behind me, Satan,” is how Jesus responded to Peter’s egotistical determination. He calls Peter a stumbling block and says “you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.” I like the way Eugene Peterson translates this passage in his Bible translation The Message: “You have no idea how God works.” Ouch.