“Before The Cross”

Matthew 16:13-21 –“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They re-plied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
    I personally like to think of the period of time that we call Lent as a “journey to the Cross.” It begins on Ash Wednesday and takes us through Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and of course, to the destination of our journey, Easter. It’s kind of like taking a road trip; As we drive along toward our destination, we focus on many different things and several landmarks along the way. That’s what Lent is like. It’s a time of turning our focus to the many things that took place along the way to the Cross.
    It is also a time of considering “self-sacrifice” during a time when we remember the greatest sacrifice ever given, when Jesus laid down his life as a final sacrifice – once and for all. This journey has been taken by count-less thousands of people and preachers – in countless thousands of ways – yet it never loses its power to transform lives.
    Preceding these verses, Jesus had been teaching and preaching and healing and performing miracles…But, here in the 21st. verse – which is where I really want us to focus our attention – Jesus turns his attention on his disciples and it says; “From that time on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples what must take place in the coming days”…He begins to explain what his ministry is all about…He begins to explain the “Who”, What, Where, Why, and How” of what was going to happen. In other words, he tells them a few of the landmarks they should watch for on this journey to Jerusalem.
    If you read ahead to chapter 17, it says that 6 days later Jesus took them “up a high mountain” and, we have the story of the transfiguration. Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him up a little higher, and it tells us that they witnessed Jesus in his “pre-earthly” glory. Jesus has a little rap session with Moses and Elijah; who, by the way, have been dead for a few hundred years… And then, a cloud comes down upon them, and a voice comes from out of the cloud saying; “This is my Son whom I love, with Him I am well pleased, Listen to Him!” …What would you do or say at a time like this? It says that the disciples “fell face down to the ground, TERRIFIED!” …No kidding! I would have been like the cowardly lion or the tin man in the Wizard of Oz…You would have heard my bones rattling from fear! But it says that Jesus came and touched them… Now, I don’t know about you, but if someone would have touched me at such a moment, I would take off like a rocket!
    The Disciples – Peter in particular – made a confession back in verse 16 of our text, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” and, now they witness what they had confessed with their mouths. But there was a problem. In chapter 17 verse 22 it says; “When they came together in Galilee, he said to them again; “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life” …They didn’t get it. In Chapter 20 verse 17 it says; “He took the 12 disciples aside and said to them; “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day, he will be raised to life” …They still didn’t get it. You see, what they had confessed with their mouths, and heard with their ears, had not yet reached their hearts! The heart is the true “seat of understanding.” They didn’t understand, because when the time came, and these things began to happen…they all ran! And, Peter even denied knowing him at all!
    Something happened that turned their fear into boldness; Something happened that turned their grief into joy; something happened that finally sunk in and went directly to their heart! That something was the resurrection of Jesus!

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