Scripture: Matthew 16:21-26From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. 22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
I want to preface this message with a couple of announcements  This is a message that no one is going to like. It will not be pleasant to the hearing or the heart.  This message contains the hard gospel: the gospel Jesus preached, Paul preached but few preach today. You will never hear a sermon like this in a seeker church. This message is not designed for consumer Christianity. The Disciple did not like this message and you are not going to like it either. God will hold you accountable if you refuse to listen simply because the subject matter is unpleasant.
I. THE REVELATION…
From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. [verse 21]
Jesus took His disciples on a retreat to Caesarea Philippi so He could be alone with them. At this time in history, Caesarea Philippi was a pagan metropolis. It was a mega-center for pagan temples and had a strong Gentile influence. The Pharisees and Scribes would not dare go to such a place. Here Jesus gave His disciples the hard cold facts and He talks to them plainly so all can understand. Jesus is going to Jerusalem, He will be arrested, tried, convicted and executed. This was not what His disciples wanted to hear. Instead of getting revived, they got depressed. Peter, the leader, took it upon himself to correct Jesus…“Heaven forbid, Lord, this will never happen to you!” So after making the GREAT CONFESSION in verse 16…“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter makes the GREAT GAFFE in verse 22…“Heaven forbid, Lord, this will never happen to you!” In a matter of seconds, Peter goes from inspiration to insubordination. Peter, being a Jew, believed strongly in the sovereignty of God and he had no conception of a God who submits to man. Peter had just confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God and Jesus had affirmed Peter to be correct. Peters view of God was that He transcends human suffering. In his mind, it was unthinkable that Jesus being God could suffer and it was certainly unacceptable to Peter and the twelve that Jesus would submit to a cross. So one minute Peter is a rock you can stand on and the next, he is a rock that you can stumble on. One minute he is blessed and praised by Jesus and the next he is sternly rebuked. One minute is a helper and then next, he is a hindrance. A day that began so brightly has suddenly come under the dark shadow of a cross. The disciples are not thrilled with Jesus declaration that a cross awaits Him in Jerusalem, they are chilled. This cannot be: it is surreal.
II. THE REPRIMAND…
But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” [verse 23]
Just a word of advice: it is not a good idea to reprimand Jesus but Peter was simply following his human nature; he was thinking like a man and unfortunately in this instance, like the devil. We all want to live pain-free lives. We all shun suffering and we certainly do whatever it takes to avoid a cross. Instinctively, we look for the easy way out and the safe way. Up to this point, the disciples are under the impression they are following Israel’s next king. In one paragraph, Jesus destroyed this myth.
We can see here in this story the infinite gap between the way men think and the way God thinks. Peter was thinking about SUCCESS but Jesus was thinking about SUFFERING. Suffering always proceeds glory in God’s order. Peter was thinking about LIVING but Jesus was thinking about DYING. Peter was thinking about a CROWN but Jesus was thinking about a CROSS.
To bring this home, think of it like this…Jesus could have said to Peter, “You are not thinking like Me” and that was true. How many times a day, would Jesus reprimand us?…Jack, you are not thinking the way I think. Wow, the very thought convicts me. Was Peter wrong to correct Jesus? Yes! Was He wrong in his thinking? Yes but so are we. Jesus corrected Peter once, how many times would He correct us?
III. THE REALITY
If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? [v.24-26]
This painful revelation that Jesus would suffer and die was a downer. Jesus could speak history into being just as He spoke creation into being and the disciples knew His predictions were sure to happen. It was indeed a chilling moment: the kind we do not like. This is the setting for Jesus presentation of the real gospel, the one we seldom hear preached because it is not popular. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.” In other words–we must say “No” to our imperious sinful ego–which not only puts itself first but makes safety the primary issue. We must be willing to suffer the same indignities and humiliation that a condemned man has to suffer and this is exactly what none of the twelve have any desire to do. Jesus presents this in the form of an invitation…If anyone wants to be My follower…there is no force applied, no coercion.
Peter had no problem with Jesus being a King and no problem with Him being God. He was more than glad to confess this truth but the cross thing threw him for a loop.  First of all, Peter was repulsed at the Idea of Jesus bearing a cross and before he could adjust his thinking to the concept of a Suffering Messiah, Jesus hit him with a second shock wave….If you follow me, you will have your cross, your own personal cross…which in time, Peter does embrace. Peter knew what a cross meant: it meant death, slow, painful, agonizing death. The cross is a death by process where as beheading or hanging is instantaneous. Death on the cross is a long and lingering process. Jesus was simply driving the first nail. It would take the disciples years to come around to Jesus way of thinking but they would get there. So…
- There is a self to deny
- There is a cross to bear
- There is a life to lose
…and all three are very difficult for humans. We are selfish, we shun pain and suffering and we cling to life. After Jesus was finished with this challenge, I imagine the disciples were thinking, “What else will He come up with?” This is the gospel that will not go well in the seeker churches; actually, it is unappreciated in all churches.
IV. THE REAL LIFE IN CHRIST
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
Paul gives us some commentary on this in Colossians…. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory. [Colossians 3:3-4] But here me, the truth is–when the old sinful self is repudiated, put down firmly, great though the agony of soul may be, man’s true self, the “Real Life” that Paul mentions in Colossians 3:3 will emerge and for such a discovery, no price is too high. Jesus said, it is a gain that is greater than the whole world. It is the priceless pearl. The real life, the true you cannot be discovered unless the old is laid down. If we cling to the old, we will surely miss the new, just as the Jews clung to Judaism and missed Christ. No one, upon discovering this life will have any desire to go back to the old. I have had the privilege of talking to several Messianic Jews and none them have ever indicated to me that they want to go back to Judaism.
- Christ was real…can we agree on this? He was true blue through and through. He could think out loud and not be embarrassed. There has never been a man more real than Jesus. He was perfectly real. No tinsel, no pretense, no guile, no deceit: Jesus was pure in mind and body.
- Do you think it is His will for you and I to be real? I can imagine that we agree on this as well: He wants us to be real and deep down we want to be real. Here is the problem, the real YOU is hidden like a treasure. The real you is hidden in Christ underneath Adam. Eventually, the real you will be revealed. Jesus came to save us from hell and our sins but He also came to help us discover and uncover the real true self, not the selfish self but the noble self.
- Do you dream of being selfish or noble? All this is good stuff and pleasant to the ear but the truth is, the real you can not arise, come out until there is a death to the old you. You cannot have a resurrection without a death. You cannot wake up until you go to sleep. This is the unpleasant part that the disciples did not want to hear.
- No one got excited; there was no revival, no shouting or jumping pews. Jesus had delivered a message that no one wanted to hear. It was depressing to say the least. No one talks about the REVIVAL at Caesarea Philippi, because there was no REVIVAL. They were on the verge of a DEVIVAL and Jesus knew it, so He gave an invitation–If any of you want to be My follower…You must turn from your selfish way, take up your cross and follow me.”
- The Spiritual Death that Jesus talked about is a process, thank God. We have a gentle and patient Savior. The first step in the process is to decide to follow. Do you want to follow Jesus knowing it means a cross? The cross is the bad news but you get to discover your real life in the process, that is the good news which makes the cross good news also.