. Photo by is licensed under CC By 2.0

“From that time Jesus began to show 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 up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’  But Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and He will then repay every man according to his deeds’” – Matthew 16:21-27


Look at how quickly Peter went from being a building block of the church to being a stumbling block (Matthew 16:18, 23). How did it happen? According to Jesus Christ, Peter placed the interests of men before the interests of God. But how did this manifest itself?

Well, the disciples – especially Peter – did not fully understand the most urgent of humanity’s problems. God had to administer justice upon humanity for all the sin God had left unpunished (Romans 3:25-26). None of the disciples seemed to understand that Jesus had to first atone for sin before resolving any other of humanity’s problems.

You see, humanity’s unjudged sin had created a crisis. God, the righteous Judge could not go on forgiving sin without a just and legal basis. God’s holy and righteous character required that all sins be punished. Yes, God yearned to show mercy, but His just and holy nature demanded justice be done. God had to deal with humanity’s sin – either by pouring out His judgments and wrath on the guilty party – humanity, or, by providing His own holy and righteous substitute to take humanity’s place.

Of course, there was only One who could possibly serve as a substitute. God Himself would have to do this. For since God was the offended party, His judgments and wrath are infinite. And only the infinite God can handle God’s infinite judgments and wrath. Only the divine Lamb of God could fully absorb and quench the fire of God’s wrath and satisfy God’s justice (Romans 3:24-26; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). Thus Jesus came to earth to be tempted in every way as we are, yet live a sinless life and thus qualify to be a spotless and undefiled sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Now the other urgent component of mankind’s redemption had to do with our sinful nature. Humanity is hopelessly enslaved to evil. Sin’s power over the sinner must be broken and a new inner person must be created in his place.

This is why it was not enough for Jesus to forcibly install His kingdom on earth – as the disciples believed He would do. They didn’t understand that God’s reign would first need to begin in the hearts of people through an internal transformation. To bring about this transformation of the heart Jesus would need to first die and be resurrected. Then all who believed in Him would share in His death and resurrection – so that they might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-11; 7:4-6).

But when Jesus tried to brace His disciples for the trauma and humiliation His substitutionary death would bring, Peter tried to oppose Him. Peter tried to stand in the way of humanity’s redemption. Why? He didn’t understand the plan and purpose of God. He was clueless that Jesus had to die and rise again to accomplish our salvation.

But is suffering and death, the righteous for the unrighteous, to be experienced by Christ alone? In one way, yes, most certainly. For only Jesus could ever suffer the unquenchable fire of God’s wrath and extinguish it. Only Jesus’ death could make atonement for sin. Our death would accomplish nothing in putting away sin. But because of Jesus, no Christian believer will ever have to face the judgments and wrath of the Almighty. In this way, we will never have to “be baptized with His baptism or drink from His bitter cup.”

Yet, in another way – as Jesus openly told the sons of Zebedee, “you shall drink My cup and be baptized with My baptism” (Mark 10:38-39). In other words, they would have to “follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:20-22). They would have to partake of His sufferings (Philippians 1:29). And, as Jesus tells all the disciples, they must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus. And the cross only meant one thing – certain death. No one ever came down from the cross without first dying. Jesus had earlier told the disciples, “from John until now, the Kingdom of heaven is suffering violence and violent men are laying hold of it” (Matthew 11:12). He said this in context of John’s own imprisonment and imminent death. And here in Matthew 16, Jesus states in no uncertain terms, that the servants will endure what their Master must endure – even if only “tasting” a bit of His pain.

Jesus would go on to say in John 12:24, that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  This applies primarily to Jesus Christ. Yet, in a secondary way it applies to the Christian believer as well. They, too, by dying for the Lord’s sake, will be His witnesses and bear much fruit. As Tertullian wrote, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

This might seem like a suicidal strategy – that only plays into the hand of the enemy, but Jesus assures us that we will only win by losing and find life by dying. “For Thy sake we are being put to death all the day long. We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered” (Romans 8:35-37). That’s the norm for the New Testament Christian believer.

Peter found this incomprehensible. At Jesus’s arrest, his first impulse was to pick up a sword and fight. But Jesus rebuked him, told him to put away his sword, and asked, “The cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it? How else will the Scripture be fulfilled?” (Matthew 26:51-54; John 18:10-11).

Were Peter’s actions a display of courage? Yes, if only physical courage. But following Jesus requires is both physical courage and moral courage. Christian believers who march to their death for Jesus’ sake certainly display physical courage. But they also display moral courage. For they have the courage to stand alone against insults, mockery, and humiliation for Jesus’ sake – as well as to die for Him.

When Peter faced the non-lethal threat of simply being ostracized for Jesus’ sake, he cowered and denied the Lord (Matthew 26:69-75). He was willing to take up a sword for Jesus, but this proved wholly inadequate to bring about God’s purpose and kingdom. And it was also wholly inadequate for being a witness for Jesus. For Paul tells us not to be overcome by evil (by repaying evil for evil), but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:14-21).

Besides, Jesus explained to Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world, therefore His followers would not fight to prevent His arrest (John 19:36). And Paul explained that our conflict is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of wickedness (Ephesians 6:12).

Do you wish to spread God’s kingdom, then do not allow yourself to be overcome with evil. Do not be draw into a fight that is not yours. Do you wish to glorify Christ? Then love – for by this will all people know that you are Christ’s disciple, by your love for others (John 13:35).


PRAYER:  Dear Father in heaven, please help me to see your way through the conflict of this present time. Help me to pursue the things of God rather than the things of men and to be a faithful witness for Jesus Christ. In His most holy name, Amen.

Let's Talk

100% Confidential | Warrior-to-warrior

We respond within 24 hours and can provide community support, resources, and referrals.