Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Kingdom of the Cross

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.” (Matthew 16:24)
Peter had just voiced the amazing revelation — directly from the Father — that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Because of that, Jesus gave him authority to bind and loose on earth what had already been bound and loosed in heaven. But Peter still needed to understand something else, something very important, about this revelation and authority.

After this remarkable exchange, Jesus gave His disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah (Matthew 16:20). Then He began to talk with them about how He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things from the elders, scribes and chief priest, and then be killed — and raised again the third day (v. 21).

Now they were really confused. Wasn’t the identity of Jesus as the Messiah to be made known to all? Didn’t the coming of Messiah signal that God’s triumph was now at hand? Then why such suffering and death, and what did this mean for the kingdom of heaven?

It was more than Peter could take. He said, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (v. 22). Moments earlier, Peter was acknowledging Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God; now he was openly contradicting Him.

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “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” (v. 23). These were very strong words, but well-deserved. Earlier, Peter had spokes a word directly from heaven, from the mind of God. How quickly he slipped back into the way the world thinks, and suddenly he became the mouthpiece of satan.

God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways — they are higher (Isaiah 55:8-9). The Jewish expectation was that Messiah would come as a conquering king, a political ruler and military leader; Jesus spoke of across and losing one’s life.
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)
A cross is not the reception the world offers a king and his entourage. But Jesus requires that we each embrace the cross, not just His, but our own. We must disown ourselves in order to follow Him. We must set aside our priorities and interests and seek His. We must give up everything — the whole world—if we would possess His kingdom. We cannot know His life when we are still holding on to our own.
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? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:26-27)
The time would shortly come for finding life and rising again, for the glory of God to be revealed and Jesus proclaimed as Messiah. Jesus is makes reference here to a prophecy in Daniel:
I was watching in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
Jesus said, “The Son of Man will come in the glory.” A literal rendering of the Greek text is, “about to be coming” (Analytical-Literal Translation). Notice the tenses: “Coming” speaks of a continuous action. “About to be” indicates that it would soon begin. In the next verse Jesus told the disciples that some of them would even get to see it: “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:29: see The Son of Man Coming in His Kingdom).

The kingdom of Heaven on Earth requires a cross for each one of us, that we lose our life for Jesus’ sake in order that we may find it. But He also promises great reward, for His kingdom has already begun and will increase until it is here in the fullness of His glory when He returns.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.