The Savior Came to Suffer
At this point Jesus reveals His mission to the disciples. First, his mission was going to shift from Galilee to Jerusalem. Historically it had been the capital of Israel. From the time of David it was the spiritual center of Judaism. Since the time of Solomon everything revolved around the Temple and the sacrifices performed there on a daily basis. Up to this point Jesus had primarily ministered in Galilee, i.e., in the country, on the outskirts – now he was going to the heart of Israel
Second, he was going to suffer at the hands of the spiritual leaders of Israel: the elders, chief priests, and scribes. The elders were the ones in authority. The chief priests were the ones responsible for teaching the truth. The scribes were responsible for God’s Word. All three of these groups should have recognized Jesus for who He was. Instead of being recognized and worshipped by the spiritual leaders, Jesus is going to suffer. He would be arrested, brought up on false charges, spat upon, struck, ridiculed, and beaten within an inch of his life.
Third, he was going to die and be resurrected on the third day. We have already seen that he alluded to the sign of Jonah. The popular understanding was that the Messiah was going to come and liberate Israel from the Roman Empire—not die! Jesus came to die in order to pay the penalty for our sins. He had to die, there was no other way. Otherwise we would still be dead in our sins. He rose again to prove that He alone had conquered death and set in motion the plan to reverse the curse. Had he remained in the ground he would have been venerated like every other major religious figure—but we would be living without hope; As Paul would write, As in Adam all die, so in Christ, shall all be made alive!
We Sometimes Follow Our Own Way Instead of God’s Way
Peter had just made his profound profession of faith – “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”
Here, Peter falls into the trap and when Jesus reveals the rescue plan to the disciples he steps in and says, No way, Jesus! This will never happen to you! Though Peter was sincere in his statement he had things all wrong—even though it didn’t make sense, Jesus had to die-it was part of the plan. Peter wasn’t thinking about God’s plan, he was thinking about his own plan. Jesus rebukes Peter in about the harshest way, “Get behind me Satan!” meaning in his disagreement with Jesus over the plan Peter was allowing the enemy to use him to discourage Jesus from completing the plan.
We can sometimes follow our way instead of God’s way. We can start telling God what we will and will not do. We can start making decisions based solely on how It will affect our bottom line and not how it will affect us spiritually. We can trust in our own understanding instead of trusting in the Lord will all our hearts.
If We Are Going to Follow Jesus, We Are Going to Have to Sacrifice
We must deny ourself, take up our cross, and follow Him. To deny ourself speaks to discipline – it is hard to deny ourself sometimes. It also speaks to deciding who is in control.
We must take up our cross; this is a positive action. The cross is an instrument of our death. It means we are willing to die to self in order to live for Christ. It means we are willing to risk it all-our very lives.
Only after denying ourself and taking up our cross can we begin to follow Him. If you think you can follow Christ and it not cost you everything you are sadly mistaken. We must be willing to lose our life to Christ.
Sometimes the Reward Is Not in This Life
Many times we like to see immediate rewards. In school we want a check plus or a sticker. In our jobs we want a paycheck or bonus. We want the trophy at the end of the race or season. In following Christ, the rewards may not be as apparent as in other areas of our life. We may serve the Lord and wonder if we are making a difference. We will not know the true impact of our service to God until after we’re dead and gone. Christ will reward each according to what He’s done. I often joke to some people that have to put up with a lot in life that one day they are going to have a “big, big mansion.” The biggest reward is that we will not have to suffer through death. Death is not a destination for the believer, only a door. We don’t follow for the reward, but know, believer, that your sacrifice and service may go unnoticed by the world, by not by its Maker.
Just as Christ suffered, so to suffering and sacrifice is part of being a Christian. As an American Christian this is sometimes foreign to us, but if our country continues in its current direction I believe it will not be long before we see the days when we will have to stand opposed to our own nation’s laws in order to stand for what we believe in. Are you ready to sacrifice and suffer for your Lord who sacrificed it all for you?