Sermon: The Paradox of the Messiah Matthew 16:21-23

Truth Taught- Jesus’ mission as Messiah is the great paradox: the only path to glory is through suffering and death.

Now that His followers were convinced beyond any doubt that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God Jesus begins His shift to teach them what being the Messiah means and what the Messiah’s mission must involve. 
Jesus spoke vaguely before but know after their belief is shown to be genuine our Lord moves forward to explain to them what being the Messiah means for Him and for them as well.
Matthew records for us three separate occasions when Jesus told His disciples what His mission finally entails…Here’s what being the Messiah means…   

Matthew 16:21 (ESV) 

21 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 on the third day be raised. 

Matthew 17:22–23 (ESV) 

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. 

Matthew 20:17–19 (ESV) 

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” 

Matthew sets us up to realize in this section that there is a paradox that plays out.  Now, a paradox is two seemingly contradictory statements that sound absurd.  What he does is places the rejection, suffering, and death of the Messiah against the backdrop of resurrection, life, and exaltation.  We must also keep in mind that what is going to take place for Jesus will also happen to His followers.  We too will be placed within the same paradox.  We too are called to endure suffering and even death for the sake of Christ and these are also against a backdrop of resurrection, glorification, and eternal life.  

I pray we too see the paradox of Christ and for us.  Just as Jesus lived in the shadow of the cross we too must take up our cross and follow Him.  We too if we are to gain our life must loose it.  We are called to live in this paradox of rejection, suffering, and if need be, even death.  Like Jesus we also are called to live in this way against the backdrop of resurrection, glorification, and eternal life.

This week, Lord willing we’ll look together at the Messianic Paradox and next time we’ll look at the Disciple’s Paradox.  We, as disciples, are included in the section for next time.

Peter and the others realize by God’s illumination that Jesus is the Messiah but they are not ready for all that it means nor all that it entails.  This section is so powerful for us where we are today.  Are we ready?  Do we know what it means to follow Jesus the Messiah?

Here in our text for today we see again Peter as the spokesman for the rest clearly cannot grasp what Jesus’ mission is all about.  We see very plainly here the difference between God’s thoughts and our thoughts, His ways and our ways.  If the truth were told our thinking many times is more in line with Satan than God.

Let’s look together at God’s Word…  

Matthew 16:21–23 (ESV) 

21 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 on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 

1.  The Messiah Must Suffer, Die, and Be Raised From the Dead

21 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 on the third day be raised.

From that time-shows a transition from Jesus’ general teaching and healing ministry to His focus on teaching His disciples about the cross and Himself heading to Jerusalem to be crucified.  He still teaches and heals some but the focus is shifting to the fulfillment of His Messianic Mission.
The suffering of the Messiah is God’s plan, it must happen if God’s people are to be saved from their sins.  This shift and the declaration of the Messiah’s suffering and death are necessary.  We will begin to see the emerging focus on this suffering and death being the means whereby our sins are forgiven.  We will see it more completely as we work through Matthew’s Gospel.
Matthew 20:28 (ESV) 

28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

Matthew 26:28 (ESV) 

28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 

The Messiah’s suffering, death, and resurrection have been the theme of many OT passages.  Here is one of the most clear.

Isaiah 53:3–11 (ESV) 

He was despised and rejected by men, 

a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; 

and as one from whom men hide their faces 

he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 

Surely he has borne our griefs 

and carried our sorrows; 

yet we esteemed him stricken, 

smitten by God, and afflicted. 

But he was pierced for our transgressions; 

he was crushed for our iniquities; 

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, 

and with his wounds we are healed. 

All we like sheep have gone astray; 

we have turned—every one—to his own way; 

and the Lord has laid on him 

the iniquity of us all. 

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, 

yet he opened not his mouth; 

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, 

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, 

so he opened not his mouth. 

By oppression and judgment he was taken away; 

and as for his generation, who considered 

that he was cut off out of the land of the living, 

stricken for the transgression of my people? 

And they made his grave with the wicked 

and with a rich man in his death, 

although he had done no violence, 

and there was no deceit in his mouth. 

10  Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; 

he has put him to grief; 

when his soul makes an offering for guilt, 

he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; 

the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 

11  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; 

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, 

make many to be accounted righteous, 

and he shall bear their iniquities. 

Even the reaction of the disciples is in fulfillment of OT Scripture…
Matthew 26:31 (ESV) 

31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 

Matthew 26:54 (ESV) 

54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 

So, Jesus begins to teach His followers that being the Messiah means all the OT teaches that it means which includes the paradox.  His ministry on earth will be a ministry of pain, rejection, suffering and death.  How does a dead Savior work?  Do you see the rub?  Peter and the others were having difficulty processing this information.

2.  Peter Rebukes Jesus

22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Peter is the spokesman for the disciples and whether we like to admit it or not he is our spokesman as well.  In other words, Peter’s response is what our’s would have been if we would have been there.  His is the human response.  How does a dead Messiah begin an earthly kingdom?  Peter’s response shows his and the other’s lack of insight into what this paradox could possibly be.  Peter’s Messiah has to be a public success.  He has to be the One who has authority, public power, and a visible kingdom.  He has to set things right concerning Israel’s status.  He has to set things right and remove Rome and install His throne in Jerusalem and rule like King David did.  Israel has to regain her superpower status…period.  A dead Messiah cannot do anything.
Peter’s response to Jesus is very striking.  His rebuke is very stern.  Literally, in the original Greek it would go something like this.  Peter pulls Jesus away by the arm and in anger begins to say this will not ever in any way never happen, no way will this be.  

Peter sees Jesus’ plan as a great disaster to be avoided not a goal to be achieved.  A dead Messiah will not achieve Peter’s plans for the future.  Peter, where do you see yourself in 5 years?  I’ll tell where I won’t be, I won’t be at Jesus’ tomb mourning His death…I won’t be there!

3.  Jesus Rebukes Peter

23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 

Now, Jesus turns to Peter and rebukes him very severely.  Peter goes from declaring Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God and from Jesus’ great praise saying this his answer was so right that God revealed it to him to this in five verses.
Jesus turns and looks Peter straight in the face, eye to eye and tells Peter to get behind Him.  Literally, get behind Me enemy! 
Jesus uses the title Satan which means the chief enemy of God to describe Peter’s plan.  Like Satan, Peter is trying to divert Jesus from His calling and mission.
Matthew 4:8–11 (ESV) 

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, 

“ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God 

and him only shall you serve.’ ” 

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. 

Satan’s goal was to divert Jesus from His course.  He wanted Jesus to take the easy way out; to avoid the cross.  Jesus, why do it God’s way when I have a better, easier way?

Be gone Satan…Get behind me Satan

Peter’s vision of Jesus’ Messiahship represents the easier way to power.  No paradox, no trials, suffering, death.  No cross, no death but that way also means no resurrection and no salvation, no forgiveness of sin, no glory, no eternal life, no coming boldly to the throne of grace,  no grace, no faith and no heaven with Jesus as our King forever.

As long as Peter holds this view, the rock is nothing but a stumbling block.  He is just in the way of Jesus fulfilling God’s purposes. 
Isaiah 55:8–9 (ESV) 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, 

so are my ways higher than your ways 

and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

The reality is that there is no paradox at all except the one Peter and the others have fabricated through their lack of godly perception.  

The same is true for us.  We too are confronted with God’s ways in the Scriptures and with our human ways. 
When God’s Word seems paradoxical, save yourself trouble by agreeing with God even when it seems wrong.  Because the one who is wrong as Peter will discover is us.
Jesus had to die on the cross exactly as He did.  No other way was possible nor would any other way fulfill God’s plan for His Son and for us.

21 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 on the third day be raised.
Is there an area in your life that you are still holding out for your ways over and above God’s ways?  Is there a part of your heart that you’ve been trying to keep for yourself?  Is there a place in the Bible where you simply refuse to surrender to Christ and obey?
This week we saw what Jesus’ Messiahship meant for Him, namely, rejection, suffering, death but also resurrection and glory.

Next time, Lord willing we’ll see together what Jesus’ Messiahship means for us.    

*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

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