Matthew 16: 21-26 – Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost-a


The Cross of the Christian

St. Matthew 16: 21-26

Do you remember Peter’s words from last week’s Gospel? He made that glorious confession upon which the Christian Church is built, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” After he spoke this confession, Christ commended him and promised the keys to the kingdom of heaven to the Church.

Today, we hear Peter speak again. Immediately after Peter’s confession, Jesus began to explain the necessity of His suffering and death. He needed to explain to the disciples what the Messiah’s role was to be. He was to suffer many things at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem, He was to die, and to rise again. Peter responds to Jesus with a rebuke. Peter draws Him aside and says, “Never, Lord! This shall not happen to you!” Jesus does not commend Peter this time. Rather, He most sternly rebukes him and says, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. You do not have in mind the things of God but of men.”

Peter, who has a good heart and good intentions, nevertheless fails here Last week we heard Peter speak from faith, but now he speaks from reason and his feeling for Jesus.

Peter does not see the necessity of Jesus’ suffering and death. He thinks that the Messiah should be a lord of glory and honor not of suffering and shame. He cannot understand Jesus’ words regarding His death. “What kind of Christ is this?”

He who boldly confessed is now rebuked for his attempt to block Jesus’ way to the cross. Peter has not yet learned of the mystery of the cross and of the resurrection.

A minute ago he was inspired from heaven, now he contradicts the pure Word of God with his own feelings. So Jesus rightly calls him satan. To Peter the cross is offensive. To Christ though, all that opposes the cross is offensive.

So Christ speaks of the divine necessity of the cross. Christ set His face for Jerusalem. He said it was NECESSARY for Him to go to Jerusalem, the city where he would be rejected, the elders, chief priests, and scribes would have Him killed. This was necessary for Him. To Christ this was a good and holy work. To Peter, it was a shameful thing. What kind of Savior dies? There is no glory in that.

Like Peter, we often shy away from the offense of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are ashamed of suffering for His sake. Oh, we may not directly deny that the cross was necessary, but with our words and actions we oftentimes cheapen and diminish the high value of Jesus’ death.

We do this by trying to find in ourselves some good thing and try to work out our salvation.

We also do this when the life we lead at Church is isolated from the life we lead in the world. Confession and worship are to be part of all we do. Paul speaks about that in our Epistle. He speaks about lives wholly given to the service of Christ as being our spiritual sacrifice.

You are not called to deny the cross, obscuring it with our works, you are not called to conceal the cross beneath lives indistinguishable from those around you.

These attitudes are an offense to Christ that we must confess It is that old Adam with all his works, and all his ways. Only by daily repentance can we keep the old man down and live the life of the new man of faith. Only be daily giving ourselves to Christ, will the cross become less offensive to us.

There you will find help and comfort in all your need. Do not be ashamed of the symbol of our salvation it is the best of all things. I urge you to look to Christ and see what He has done for you! See His holy cross and remember the blood poured out for you there. The cross on which our dear Lord Christ died is the tree of life for you. Let it not be hidden but rather worn as a crown. For by the cross of Christ, through His sacrifice for sinners, all things are made new. Salvation unto us has come.

The cross is the sign of God’s goodness.

The cross is the sign of God’s goodness and favor toward you. It is the symbol of salvation worked out for you. It is the symbol of your freedom from all sin, hell, death, and every evil. It was to the cross that the Lamb of God was led without complaint and where He was slaughtered.

When Christians make the sign of the holy cross, it is in remembrance of its wonderful purpose and do not think of its shame. When a Christian makes the sign of the cross, he lets the waters of his Baptism quench all the anger, the bitterness, and all the other passions which plague the sinful flesh.

The sign of the cross belongs to the Christian, it is a gift given to each of us by Jesus at our Baptism. “Receive the sign of the cross to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.” The sign of the cross marks you as one who has been bought with a price. The sign of the cross marks you as one truly free from the devil. The sign of the cross reminds you of the price paid to redeem you, the very life of the true Son of God.

My dear friends in Christ, please do not hear me making a new demand that you *must* make the sign of the cross in your devotions and worship. While we certainly have the freedom of Christians to do so, it is the heart marked by the sign of Jesus cross which is more important than anything you do with your fingers. In your heart, with much faith, recall the sacrifice of Christ and cling to Him. Engrave His cross upon your mind and embrace the salvation of your soul. For the cross held up the Christ for the salvation of the world. Behold your Lord ˜ the one who drives away all error and unveils the Truth, He who has brought Heaven to earth, He who has made dead sinners into lively children. Because of Christ, the demons are no longer terrifying or frightful; rather they are objects of contempt. Death now holds no fear, it is merely a sleep. All that wars against us has been cast to the ground and trod upon.

Let us with a clear voice shout aloud to the world that the cross is our glory. It is the sum and symbol of all our blessings, our confidence, and our crown.

You are part of the body of Christ by virtue of your washing. So you must shoulder your cross. Now your cross is not the cross of Christ. Only He could bear your sins and the sins of all people. Your cross is different; it is as individual as you are.

Not only do we bear the sign of the cross to mark us as one redeemed by Christ the crucified, we also are called to be cross-bearers.

Luther said, “You must be willing to lose your life for Christ; not just to die but be willing to bear every evil, trouble, danger, and temptation where your peace and life will be disturbed.”

Remember as you bear your cross, that in Christ it is a joyful thing. He has redeemed you and calls you His own. Just as it is a privilege, may be difficult, to be called Christian.

You do not choose your cross. Your Lord will give it to you. Know that as you bear your cross, that it will at times seem very heavy.

It will be tempting to look at how other people fare and to murmur about how light and easy their cross seems to be. It is hard enough to bear one’s own burden without wondering why the other guy bears something different and seems to have it easier. No, do not fix your eyes on what others have or don’t have. Rather, fix your eyes on Jesus. He is your strength and your tower.

As you bear your cross as one of Christ’s Christians, know that He stands in our midst with His gifts of refreshment and solace. Do your sins dirty you and cause you to feel filthy? Remember the holy waters of Baptism in which you were washed clean of all filth and evil. Come and confess and receive the words that Christ has given His Church to speak.

Are you weak? Does your strength fail? Christ places food into your hand and mouth. He strengthens you with heavenly Bread and drink. He gives His true body and blood in this bread and wine to strengthen you in body and soul. In all your trials, He stands beside you with His Word ˜ that life-giving, refreshing, water of Life to comfort you, aid you, and fill you with hope for this life and the life to come.

Life follows death.

This is what Peter missed in Jesus’ words It is easy to forget in this life that Christ has redeemed you with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death so that, Why? So that you may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom!

Life follows death!

After the burden of the cross comes the resurrection of the dead.

Christ is alive, risen from the dead, never to die again. Jesus lives, the victory’s won. It is heavenly truth and earthly reality.

Peter learned that the cross of Christ was not shameful, but it was good. The cross was good because that cross brought him the forgiveness of his sins. So he could go to his death, confident that all was well and that there was nothing to fear, not even death itself.

To the end, Peter was concerned about the sheep of Christ’s flock. He exhorted them deny themselves and lift up their cross. With much boldness, he held up the cross of Christ and all the promises given from it. Listen to some of his last written words to the flock of Christ as he exhorts the Christians to take the words of our Lord Christ to heart,

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. . . . Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. (2 Pet 1:5-14)

Yes, hear again the words of our Lord and know that your burden will not be too great to bear,

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ”Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV)”

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Amen.

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