Jesus now has exactly seven months left.
As you will hear in this PODCAST, Jesus knows it. He understandably recoils from it. But He must now prepare His disciples for it.
Here in Matthew 16, and its parallel passage in Mark 8, we have reached a crucial moment in the life and ministry of Jesus.
Make no mistake about it. These words here in Matthew 16 are a game-changer…
One that reveals much to us about the character of Jesus and the strategy of Satan.
An intriguing story that raises our understanding of spiritual warfare to a whole new level.
One that will impact YOUR life just as it has my life, in a profoundly insightful way.
As always, we have much to talk about. And trust me, you will be encouraged as you and I study this watershed passage together.
Let’s begin by reading Matthew 16:21
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.
Now, Jesus has exactly seven months left between when He said these words and when He would be betrayed and crucified. And He knew it fullwell. But His disciples had no clue, and had to be prepared.
Turning back the clock about two-and-a-half years, immediately after Jesus was baptized, He went to the wilderness where He was tempted by Satan. But, as soon as those 40 days ended:
From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17)
I want you to note the first three words: “From then on…” This phrase only shows up two times throughout the entire Gospel of Matthew. First in chapter four, signifying when Jesus began His ministry. Then in chapter 16 when He began to prepare His disciples for the end. At this point, His public ministry has come to an end and HIs private ministry has begun. From this point forward, His emphasis will not be on healing and revealing the truths about the law, but on the cross.
From this point on, He would be singularly focused on heading to Jerusalem and calling out a remnant.
He had seven months unit His final Passover celebration.
In fact, His earthly ministry would be marked by four Passover celebrations in Jerusalem. At His first, He entered the temple, saw all the money changers and crooks ripping off their own people and tossed the tables throughout the temple. This very much upset the religious leaders and every other terrible, conniving, unrighteous person who had been profiting from what Jesus put an end to. The next year, Jesus returned to Jerusalem and healed a blind man. The man was able to see for the fist time in 38 years, but Jesus dared to do it on a Saturday and break the Sabbath!
So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. 17 But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” 18 So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God. (John 5:16-18)
You see, the rabbis of Jesus’ day had always taught to revere God as “our Father”, but when questioned about how He could work on the Sabbath, Jesus declared God as HIS Father! That drew a line in the sand and they “had” to kill Him!
Now, sticking with this passage, take note that it was the Jewish leaders who hated Jesus and conspired to kill Him – not the Jewish people, but their leaders.
For the third Passover during Jesus’ ministry years, He did not go to Jerusalem, but stayed up north because He knew that if He stepped foot in the nation’s capital, He would be murdered. Instead, He took advantage of the time to miraculously feed 5,000 people! In the weeks and months to follow, the leaders would attempt to kill Him in a multitude of different ways, but Jesus would safely slip away each time.
Leading us to this point in His ministry – seven months before the end.
Now, prior to this point, Jesus had hinted toward what was to come, but as Matthew writes, after this point, He began to speak to them plainly about it. John chapter 2 comes to mind in regards to His foreshadowing. After He had cleared the temple, as I just mentioned:
Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” 21 But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body.22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said. (John 2:19-22)
He hinted toward His crucifixion, burial and resurrection many other times earlier in His ministry, but He had to. Otherwise His followers wouldn’t be ready to hear such hard truth. Much like Peter when He heard it plainly for the first time and unwittingly exploded.
I say unwittingly, because of this reason:
Just moments before hearing Jesus speak plainly about what was to come, Peter offered up the greatest declaration any mortal man has ever uttered:
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
But then, just minutes after this, we read that:
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:22-23)
Did you catch that? This wasn’t Peter speaking. Oh, I know that it was his mouth moving and his vocal chords making sound, but it was Satan doing the talking here. I don’t understand the logistics of it – how a committed Christ follower could be used as an unwitting tool at the hands of the enemy to speak the very words of Satan in an attempt to derail the plan of God – but that is clearly what happened.
So, here’s the scary thought for the day: It is humanly possible to speak the very words of God and then to speak the very words of Satan in the blink of an eye! You see, Peter knew the words of Isaiah that described the coming liberator, aka Messiah, but he seemingly missed the words that spoke of Jesus being beaten, despised and killed. When Peter exclaimed “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”, he was speaking in strict opposition to God’s plan, as laid out from Genesis through Malachi.
And we also miss God’s good plan – the same plan that Satan tried to persuade Jesus not to fulfill. We’re no different than Peter.
Which should make us all wonder: What is God’s good plan for my life?
What plan has Satan tried to influence you to abort, instead of pursuing God’s vision and will?
Let each of us make sure to never every quench a dream or get in the way of a dream, a plan, or a calling that God has laid on another brother or sister’s heart.
And, while there may be times when those who are closest to us might say the most hurtful things to us, keep in mind how the devil spoke out of Peter’s mouth and tried to push Jesus’ buttons, but Jesus remained dedicated to His calling. Let us always follow the example of Jesus!