Necessity of the Cross
Matthew 16:20-28
Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.…

Peter's words pierced like a sharp thorn into the very heart of Christ, and roused as keen an indignation as his previous words had awakened gratitude. For the horror which our Lord saw in Peter's face as he announced the near approach of death reflected the horror he himself had passed through during those past days in which he had been making up his mind to die; the incapacity of Peter to understand that death should be the necessary step to glory tended to upset the balance of his own mind as well as to disclose to him the extreme difficulty there would be in persuading the world at large that a crucified King could be a King at all. Peter seemed for the moment to be the very embodiment of temptation, to be inspired by that very spirit of evil which had assailed him in the wilderness. Instead of a rock on which to found the Church, he had become a rock of offence. The words of reprimand were severe, but in the circumstances intelligible. Seeing, then, the unwillingness of the disciples to think of a Messiah who should not come with armed followers and all the pomp and circumstance of war, our Lord from this time forward spends much time in an endeavour to demonstrate the necessity of his death, and to fix in their minds that in following him to Jerusalem they were going to see him die. Again and again we find him solemnly assuring them that he must be taken and put to death, and that he would rise again. And yet when he was crucified they were entirely disheartened, and had no expectation of his rising again. Our wonder at the small impression made by our Lord's words is lessened when we consider the originality of his conception of the Messiah's glory. Only by Divine illumination, he said, could Peter have known him to be the Christ, but even a higher Divine illumination was needed to teach him the doctrine of the cross. So clean counter to natural human belief is this law that the truest glory is in humiliation for others, that even now each one has to discover this law for himself, and, when he discovers it, thinks he alone has had it revealed to him. So difficult is it for us to comprehend that, what the world needs for its regeneration more than the strong hand of a wise Ruler is the entrance into it, and the diffusion throughout it, of a meek and lowly spirit, of a righteous and God-fearing life. But our Lord assures us that not only for the Leader, but for the follower, this law holds good; these who would be with him in his glory must take his own path to it. The man who means to keep near Christ must not only deny himself one or two enjoyments or sinful indulgences, but must absolutely deny himself, must renounce self as an object in life, must give himself up as the enthusiastic physician gives himself up, regardless of all consequences to self, to the relief of his patients or to the advancement of science. You may say that the physician who does so does not deny himself, but gives expression to his highest and best self, and that is what our Lord means when he adds as his first proof of the truth of his law, "For whosoever wilt save his life shall lose it: and whosoever wilt lose his life for my sake shall find it." So long as you make self your object, your end, and your centre, you are losing your life and your self; but when you are enabled to abandon self and to live for righteousness, for God, for Christ, for the community, you emerge into life eternal, you find your truest self. "And what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" This is one of those truths that need no demonstration, and yet are very difficult to act upon. To gain even a very small part of the world is so appreciable a gain, whereas the loss of the soul is so inappreciable often in the process, and it seems so easy to regain it, that we are tempted to act as if it were a very small matter. A third ground on which our Lord rests his injunction to follow him is laid down in the twenty-seventh verse. All permanent happiness is so bound up with character that he can only make men happy in proportion to their growth. The reward chiefly desired by every one who loves him is an increase of that love and a truer likeness to himself, and in eternity, as on earth, Christ and all who are like him, will find their glory in works of self-sacrificing compassion and helpful mercy. Vers. 27, 28: As far as can be gathered from the abbreviated form we have in the text, our Lord meant to say that the man who spent his life on self, and so lost his truest life, would find his mistake in the day when at Christ's second coming things are forever arranged according to the principles he himself laid down and lived on in his first coming, and then, as if to answer the doubt whether such a day of true judgment should ever come, he goes on to say that the kingdom of heaven would, even in the lifetime of some standing there, be sufficiently manifested to make his Divine power clear to them. - D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

WEB: Then he commanded the disciples that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.

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