Let us pray Father, I ask that you would help us to understand the message You want us to hear today and may Your name be glorified. In Jesus name. Amen.
I don't know about you, but the apostle Peter is such a comfort to me! We are told of at least three incidents in scripture when he put his foot in it! One time, the disciples were in their boat being battered by the storm when Jesus came to them walking on the waves! Imagine it! How often do we have that happen? No wonder they were scared! I wonder what made Peter say;
‘If it is you Lord, command me to come to you on the water’
I wonder what his mates were thinking of their friend Peter? Anyway he did! He got out of the boat! There it was, tossed around by the storm and he walked on the water…. he actually walked on this very rough sea and the waves! until he took his eyes off Jesus… and then he began to sink! How often do we take our eyes off Jesus or even have our eyes on him? I wonder how he felt in front of his mates? How often have we said things in front of people and then been shown up, felt stupid, when we've made a mess of things? He did it again….Peter, when Jesus had been illegally arrested… he denied his Lord 3 times… that he knew Jesus when questioned;
‘You know this man, you are one of them!’ ‘I don't know him!’ he said.
How dreadful he must have felt… as he heard the cock crow and saw his beloved Master looking at him… but so encouraging for us.. when we let Jesus down… when we make mistakes. But the wonderful thing is that we only have to say sorry from our heart after admitting our sin and we are immediately forgiven. But we mustn’t keep on doing it, sinning again. God is so gracious and merciful to us.
In our gospel reading today, we hear about Peter in trouble again! Jesus had been quizzing his disciples about who they thought he was.
‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’
Jesus recognised his father God had given Peter this answer.
‘Blessed, happy and fortunate, to be envied are you Peter, for My Father who is in heaven has revealed this to you.'
Peter must have been amazed and delighted to have had this said to him by his beloved Master… and that God had spoken through him… given him a revelation! It's incredible when this happens to us.
Shortly after this Jesus begins to tell them very clearly that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the church leaders, even the high priests.. and be killed… but on the 3rd day he would be raised from death! Shocking news for his disciples to hear… it probably silenced and stunned them all… except Peter! He was alarmed and he loved His master intensely… and that He should have to end up going through such an ordeal?... no never! never! Peter put it in the very strongest language meaning
‘God forbid it! God avert this!’
He hadn't grasped the fact that Messiah had come for this very purpose, to die in our place, to take our sinfulness upon Himself and pay for our redemption, our sinfulness with His blood, His life. At that time they hadn't understood the significance of Jesus’ suffering and death. They’d hoped he was their political Messiah who would overcome the hated Roman occupation. He had come to save them, but in a very different way to their expectations and of course to save us too, if we so choose.
Peter's words were appealing to the human in Christ, just a satan did when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, but unlike us, Jesus didn't give in to temptations, even when so hungry due to his fasting in the wilderness. He never ever sinned.
This is why His Father and ours was able to use Him as the perfect sacrifice for us. Peter was appealing to the human part of Jesus, which we must put behind us when we’ve chosen to belong to and follow Jesus or else temptations will become a stumbling block to us, temptations which can come to us even through the love and care of others. Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. These are all the more dangerous to us. as they don't seem sinful, but this was what man wanted, not God. It was against the plan of God. (By the way, we must be very careful when we pray, that we don't pray against what God wants!)
If Jesus had listened to His dear disciple Peter… to the easy way out and had not chosen self denial or God's plan, we would have remained unredeemed sinners, destined for hell - a dreadful place and separated from God forever.
The Jewish understanding is that we have two choices, two inclinations, the good and the evil which go right back to our ancestors, Adam and Eve in that garden of blessings and delight. They had two inclinations, but didn't have to make choices until satan appeared on the scene in the guise of a serpent. Then they were faced with a choice, a temptation and they made the wrong one, which has affected every single person from that time on.
This is the daily battle we’re in, the choice between good and evil, what God wants for us and what our enemy satan wants, but ‘we will protect you Jesus!’ said Peter. He was thinking from a human inclination Our sinless Messiah was saying ‘I'm not letting you use your evil inclination Peter!’ and Jesus turned his back on Peter and satan, saying
‘Get behind me satan!’
He rejected the seemingly good that Peter was offering. A natural choice, which seemed a very good and caring one, but definitely a wrong one. How often has this happened to us? This is satan's ploy, his trap for us today. We are to stop doing things, thinking things the world's ways. Once we are born again and have made Jesus Lord of every part of us we are to think and act the way Jesus would and become holy as He is holy.
Paul describes this in our reading from his letter to the believers in Rome - we must be like Jesus, our Messiah, emulating him even to suffering and maybe martyrdom. But if we die, lose our life in serving Jesus, we will live, that is inherit life everlasting with Him, now on earth and when He comes to get His bride. It was probably, as His disciples witnessed the horrific agony, torture and death of Jesus, that they began to understand what he had been trying to tell them. True discipleship is costly - the hurt, pain, rejection, lies and the courage needed to stand apart as a true disciple for Jesus.... and do you know - it will only get harder!
We have to learn self-denial. When we enter into this mystery of being born again,we become, or should become, a new creation. This I was cancelled out at the cross. We should now come under the authority of our Lord and Master Jesus. We are no longer our own, we've been bought with a price - Jesus' life.
When hardships, persecutions etc come our way, as they did to Peter. will we be so in love with Jesus that we’ll stand for Him and not give up, not deny Him as Peter did those three times (but repented from his heart)? He didn’t go into self-pity or remorse, but heartfelt sorrow, conviction for what he’d done to his beloved Master. We need to ask Jesus to reveal any hindrances in us. If we are carrying any baggage we need to get rid of as it will be a hindrance, because we need to be as holy as possible, as clean as possible. There are hard times ahead of us, there's no point in denying it and it's good to be warned so we can be prepared.
Remember the 10 bridesmaids (Matthew 25) … only half the number were prepared and got in. We must leave, we must turn from the team leader we are under when we are born – satan, and choose to join the winning team leader, Jesus and form a relationship with Him. But if we do so, we must also submit, obey His instructions,His teachings and live a very different kind of life to the way the world lives. Dead to self and our old ways of living.
Jesus expects us to live totally surrendered to Father, Son and Holy Spirit and to receive his healing and deliverance. To become holy, as He is holy, as holy as we can be in this fallen world with our sinful nature.
There is something incredible ahead for those of us who've chosen to lay their lives down for Jesus… totally surrendered and denying self. Something far holier and awesome than we could ever imagine… the coming of the Son of Man in all His glory, our Messiah, with His angels and then being told by Him how we’ve done with the plan he has for our life. Later on... his wrath, for all those who haven't chosen Him, who haven't wanted His born again offer, which cost Him His life and all this and more not too far off!
We are witnessing the changes around us, so we must be watchful and prayerful, as there will be many leaders and teachers worldwide who will compromise God's word and many will be deceived, many others also leading us astray with their writings. Much is already widespread, already happening. It was only in the light of the resurrection that the disciples and possibly others standing by realised Jesus’s death on the cross was the greatest expression of God's wonderful love for us, each one of us, no exceptions, whether we are aware of it or not. Paul says to the Roman church in chapters 13 verse 14;
‘Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah and make no provision for indulging in the flesh. Put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature, to gratify its desires, its lusts’
It's time to surround ourselves with the values, attitudes and thoughts of the Lord Jesus Christ. Stop for a moment and think of what Jesus actually did for us at the cross and how His Father felt that the only way to rescue us, was to watch His Son endure all of this…. the angels straining at the leash to go and rescue their precious Master from this horrible event, but they couldn't.
The cross, the greatest expression of God's wonderful love for us, oh the depth of His love…. to let His one and only beloved Son die in agony, taking everybody’s sin and sicknesses in His body on that cruel cross, knowing too, that so many would turn the offer of salvation down, not knowing what they were letting themselves in for.
Father We are so grateful for what Jesus has done for us. Help us not to miss out on anything he has already paid the price for and shed his sinless blood for. in Jesus name and for his glory we ask this.