Harmony of the Gospels

 Harmony of the Gospels

-AD 29-
Caesarea Philippi
(47) Jesus Foretells His Death
Matthew 16:21-26, Mark 8:31-37, Luke 9:22-25

FROM THIS POINT ON, JESUS HAS SET HIS FACE TO GO TO JERUSALEM, WHERE THE CROSS IS WAITING.  IN THESE VERSES HE SPEAKS OF HIS DEATH AND THE COMMITMENT THAT HIS DISCIPLES MUST MAKE TO FOLLOW HIM.  “Following Jesus” is the definition of “commitment.”  Commitment demands a choice.  Jesus wasted no time getting to the heart of commitment: either the disciples would be committed to Him and deny their own desires, or they would be determined to go their own ways and deny Him (Matt. 10:32–37).  The choice to commit is the same for all believers—either we deny ourselves or deny Him; either we go His way, or we pursue our way.

Talk about Christ would be meaningless without the walk with Him.  The disciples were to take up their crosses.  Carrying the cross beam was a public declaration of Rome’s authority.  Jesus challenged them to put themselves voluntarily under God’s authority, doing His will His way.  Commitment demands action; it cannot be divorced from responsibility.  It extends beyond our relationship to the heavenly Father to other areas of life.  Ruth’s words of commitment to Naomi did not speak as loudly as did her actions.  She left her family and homeland to return with Naomi to Bethlehem (Ruth 1:16, 17).

Commitment definitely limits choices because it is exclusive.  For example, in a commitment to marriage, God’s plan is for one woman and one man to commit to each other exclusively and permanently (Matt. 19:5, 6).

Jesus demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Father’s will always takes precedence over His.  The next day, He picked up His Cross, demonstrating that He would do the Father’s will the Father’s way.

Commitment builds up your faith and develops your character.   It is a spiritual discipline (Prov. 16:3).  It is a lifetime venture, requiring time, work, and determination (Matt. 16:24).


-Matthew-

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.  (Matthew 16:21)

Jesus was aware that He would be rejected and put to death at Jerusalem.  All this was necessary to bring the church into existence as the spiritual form of the kingdom on earth.  He could now talk about these things openly, since the disciple’s faith was now strong enough to bear it.  So from this point on the Lord’s ministry takes on a somewhat different complexion as He seeks to prepare His followers for the suffering that awaited him and the disappointment which they must suffer.  The Elders whom He refers to are the religious leaders; probably members of the Sanhedrin.  The words, “killed and raised again the third day,” clearly indicate that He is aware of His earthly ministry and destiny.  Predicting His death and rejection was human, but only the God-man could predict a supernatural resurrection.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22)

I believe that Peter may have been a little puffed-up by the great things that Jesus had recently said to him, so he became bold enough to speak to Jesus in a harsh manner.  It certainly was not becoming of him to take upon himself to advise his Master.  God knows what He has to do, without our teaching.  Romans 11:34 expresses this idea, “For who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has become His counselor?”

Peter’s words are very passionate as he speaks against suffering and the offense of the cross.  He said, “God forbid that you should suffer.  We cannot bear the thought of it.”  But he is mistaken, because we cannot measure Christ’s love and patience by our own.   
 
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)

Christ’s displeasure with Peter is evident.  He turned upon Peter, I suppose with a frown, and said, “Get behind me, Satan.”  He addressed Satan in the same manner when He was tempted by him. 

Why did Christ resent so much Peter’s proposition, which seems not only harmless, but kind?  There are two reasons given:
1. You are an offense to Me,-He is saying, “Peter you are a hindrance; you are in my way.”  Christ was so intent upon the work of our salvation, which must be accomplished at Calvary, that He was very sensitive to anything that would divert Him from it.  Our Lord Jesus preferred our salvation before His own comfort and safety, for we are told in Romans 15:3, “For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on Me.”  He didn’t come into the world to spare Himself, as Peter suggested, but to spend Himself.

So, why did He call Peter Satan?  It was because when he made his suggestion to Jesus, he was standing in the way of our salvation, so Jesus looked upon him as coming from the devil.  He is a sworn enemy to our salvation.  The same Satan who entered into Judas was prompting Peter.

Those who are engaged in any good work must expect to meet hindrances from friends and foes, from within and without.  Those who obstruct our progress must be thought of as an offence to us.  When we are called by God, those who hinder us from doing our work are Satan’s servants. 

2“For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”-The things that are of God, that is, His will and glory, often clash and interfere with the things that are of men, that is, with our own wealth, pleasure and reputation. 

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  (Matthew 16:24-25)

Jesus has told his disciples that He must suffer, but now He shows them that they must suffer also, and they must be ready and willing.  When Jesus first called His disciples the word was follow Me; now He is saying that to be a disciple of Christ you must follow Him.  A disciple of Christ comes after Him, as a sheep after the shepherd, the servant after his master, the soldiers after their captain; he is one who pursues the same objectives that Christ did-the glory of God, and the glory of heaven: and one who walks in the same path that He did, is led by His Spirit, treads in His steps, submits to His conduct and follows the lamb, withersoever he goes. (Rev. 14:4)

Those who follow Christ must make a deliberate choice to do so, for He wants His people to be volunteers.  And when they make the choice they must set down and consider the cost.

Jesus gives one of the conditions of following Him as denying himself.  Peter had advised Christ to spare himself, but Christ tells them all that they must deny themselves.  It was a hard lesson that Christ taught, for all of His acts of His birth, and life, and death, was all acts of self-denial.  They were done so that we could observe them, and they were for both our redemption and instruction.  All of the followers and Disciples of Christ must deny themselves.  This is fundamental to our faith and one of the first lessons that we learn.  We deny ourselves for Christ’s sake and for the brethren.

Jesus said, “Let him take up his cross.”  The cross here refers to all our sufferings; persecutions for righteousness’ sake, and every trouble that happens to us.  The troubles of Christians are called crosses in reference to Christ’s death on the cross.  Every disciple of Christ has his cross, which is his special trouble to be endured.  Crosses are the common lot of God’s children and every one of us must take up that cross which a wise God has given to us.  But we must manage our troubles and afflictions so that they don’t become a stumbling block or a hindrance to our service to God.  However, we are not to just take up our cross, but we must use it to an advantage in our work for Christ.  When we rejoice in our afflictions, and glory in them, then we are taking up our cross. 

We are to follow Jesus in this matter of taking up the cross.  When we suffer we are to look to Jesus and take direction and encouragement from Him.  We must follow Him in general, but also in obedience and holiness.  Disciples of Christ are to study Him and imitate him.  Self denial and patient suffering are hard lessons which can only be learned by consulting Christ.  Let’s see what advice He gives.
1. He said, “Whosoever will save his life in this world, by living in sin, he shall lose it in another.  Those who forsake Christ to enjoy the things of the world will fall short of obtaining eternal life. 
2. There is an advantage to those who lose their life for Christ’s sake by doing His work and suffering for it.  They will have all their losses made up in the world to come, for they will gain eternal life. 


For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)

In other words, whatever a man gets, if he loses his life, it will do him no good for he can’t enjoy it.  But here is something greater; if a man loses his immortal soul, it cannot be compensated for even if he gains the whole world.  Every man has his own soul.  It is the spiritual and immortal part of man, but it is possible for the soul to be lost and there is a great danger of that happening.  A soul is lost when it is separated from the favor of God and ruined by His wrath and curse.  And if a soul is lost it is because a sinner neglects to do that which will save it.  But listen; one soul is worth more than the entire world and our own souls are of greater value to us than all the wealth, honor, and pleasures in existence.  Who could judge the value of souls and the world better than Christ for he knew the price of souls because He redeemed them and he knew the value of the world because He made it; so He is a fit judge of both.  It is the winning of the world that costs men their souls, because the love of the world brings destruction.  The loss of a soul is such a great loss that even if a man owned the whole world there would come a time when he would realize that he made a very poor bargain for himself and he would set down a loser. 

What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  If a soul is lost it is lost forever.  There is nothing that can redeem a soul which has been lost because a sinner has neglected to accept the gift of God.  What a great price Christ paid when He laid down his life to redeem our souls; He gave all He had.  There isn’t any sacrifice for sins remaining; nothing left to pay.  The soul that rejects Christ is lost forever and without hope. 


-Mark-

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.  (Mark 8:31)

Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son of Man” more than 80 times. The title describes His mission which is serving others and giving His life as a ransom.  We read in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”   The prophet Ezekiel was also addressed by this title. 

Look at what great things He is teaching them; it is the gospel.  He said that He must suffer and that he will be rejected; He will be killed and in three days He will rise again.

He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.  (Mark 8:32)

Although Jesus had been referring to His coming suffering and death, the disciples seem to be missing the point.  However, Jesus will make sure that they understand what He had been saying.

But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33)

Jesus’ mission did not fit Peter’s agenda for the Messiah.  Peter was doing the same thing Satan had tried to do with Jesus in the wilderness temptation.  Nevertheless, Jesus once again refused to act on His own, apart from the Father.  Peter was given a stinging rebuke because He was in opposition to the Father’s will.  Nothing could dissuade Jesus from His mission.
 
When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  (Mark 8:34-35)

Those who come to Christ for spiritual cures must live a life of self denial.  They must not depend upon their own righteousness and strength.  But instead, they should follow the pattern that Jesus set and submit themselves to the will of God.  Christ has invited us to follow Him, but before we do, let’s set down and figure the cost.  Can we bear to lose the things of this world for Christ’s sake?  When the devil draws people to him, he tells them only of the pleasures, never of the perils.  But notice that Christ tells of the perils of service to Him, before hand.  He says that we shall suffer, and that we may even die.  He can do this because the advantages of serving Him are much, much greater than any discouragements that come in this life. 

We must not dread the loss of our life if it comes, because we are following Christ.  But whosoever will save his life, by refusing to come to Christ will lose all hope of eternal life, and that is a poor bargain.  But whosoever shall lose his life, because he will not deny Christ, shall have unspeakable gain, for the loss of life in this world shall be made up to him in the next. 

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?   Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:36-37)

What gain is there to the person who should gain all the wealth, honor and pleasure that this world holds by denying Christ, because he will then lose his soul?  The happiness of Heaven with Christ is enough to triumph over the loss of life itself for Christ, so if a person should acquire the whole world in sin he doesn’t have enough to overcome the ruin of his soul by sin.


-Luke-

Saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Luke 9:22)

It is about six months prior to the crucifixion and here Christ first mentions that He is going to be killed.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  (Luke 9:23-24)

Jesus’ challenge to His disciples was faithfulness, denial of self and daily sacrifice.  If one lives only for this life, the life that follows will be lost.  But if one cares nothing for this life and serves Christ, he will then have secured eternal life.

For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? (Luke 9:25)

This is true!  No amount of earthly gain can ever make up for the indescribable loss of one’s soul.

 

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