Summary: Is it "Come and Dine" or "Come and Die" as Bonhoeffer stated about the Cost of Discilpeship?
The Call to True Discipleship: An Exposition of Matthew 16:21-28
Poor Peter! He had just had a most dramatic revelation and confession of who Jesus is. Because of this, Jesus had called him blessed. He had given Simon a new name Peter which means “stone.” Not only this, Jesus had personally given Peter two keys, and the authority to bind and loose. The same authority to bind and loose would later be given to the other Apostles as well, but not here.
We must remember the proverb: “Pride cometh before a fall, and a haughty heart before destruction.” (Proverbs 16:18) Peter would have been wise to have heard Jesus tell him that Peter did not figure this out with his own intelligence. Rather, it was the revelation of the Holy Spirit, for the purpose that God had ordained. All too often we get prideful and boast about our own spiritual gifts. Even when we give lip service to God’s gift, most people see us as bragging about ourselves. Thankfully, God does not usually meet our haughty hearts with destruction, but the rebuke can sting deeply. Peter who had just swelled with pride was about to be humiliated.
After Peter’s confession and being given the keys, Jesus shocked all of the disciples by saying that they were going to go to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going to be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes. Then he was going to be killed. But He would also rise the third day. This was contrary to Peter’s expectation. Jesus had already been decisively rejected by the most of the Pharisees, but this would have been seen as a setback. Surely, a trip to Jerusalem would set things on the right track. Peter, and the other disciples as well, wanted to hear: “We are headed now to Jerusalem and cleanse the city. We will chastise the priests and overthrow the Romans. We will then set up an earthly kingdom with a capital in Jerusalem. Then, we as your loyal followers will be rewarded with high positions in the government.”
But this was never Jesus’ intention. He knew of a far greater kingdom. He had not come to be an earthly king, but rather to die at Jerusalem. He had told the disciples as much before. When He sent the 12 out on a preaching tour, he gave a long commissioning sermon. He talked about rejection. He talked about family divisions. He talked about being put on trial in Gentile courts. He said that anyone who was not willing to deny himself and take up his cross and follow Him was not worthy to be called a follower of Jesus. The disciples knew or should have understood what Jess was telling them in Matthew 10. Revolts against Rome were dealt with harshly. Crucifixion was the punishment for treason, for a failed uprising. The followers were crucified first in front of the leader and the leader last. In their thinking, they might have understood this as meaning that Jesus was going to lead a rebellion in Jerusalem which would fail. Who would want to be a follower in a failed coup.
How relieved the disciples felt when their first tour went smoothly. To them it seemed a spectacular success. But further mission tours would become increasingly difficult. Jesus was actually preparing them for this. He knew the first tour would go well. But during the tour, John the Baptist was executed for his witness. It was a sign of what to expect. So Jesus had what we say in English, a bug in the ear. They would quickly forget Jesus’ commissioning sermon just like we are quick to forget the Sunday sermon. But Jesus would keep saying what His mission and the cost of discipleship again and again. And this is one of the places.
Jesus was addressing them from Caesarea Philippi which was well outside the confines of Israel. A Temple to the Greek God, Pan, was carved into the rockface (Petra). Underneath it, one of them sources of the Jordan River flowed from a cave called the “Gates of Hades” (Hell). A temple to the gods Baal and Asherah preceded this Greek temple. When we put these things together, we realize that this was the rockface upon which the church was to be build and not Peter (Peter is Petros, not Petra). The church was to be built, not on Mt. Sinai in a isolated desert, but in the Gentile world. (If you want to know more of this, you can see the videos done by Dr. Ray Vanderlaan. You can also read my sermon “Upon this Rock” which is in this sermon archive.)
I think it is important to note here that the church was not built upon Peter. Neither was it built upon Peter’s confession. The church is rather built on Jesus Christ. He is the capstone, the head and chief cornerstone of the church. It is about Him and not Peter. It is not about us either. We should dismiss the thought that Carly Simon sings about: “You probably think the song is about you, don’t you?” God has graciously included us in His story even as He did Peter and the Apostles. But it is not about us at all. If we recognize this, we can avoid the rebuke “Get thee behind me, Satan.”