Jesus Must Suffer Many Things (Matthew 16)
- Order of Service: Divine Service 3
- Hymns: LSB #531, 861, 753, 685, 621, 718
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 16:21)
Jesus wants His disciples to know suffering. He must suffer many things because He is the Son of God. This is why our reading this morning begins with the phrase “from that time.” From what time? The time of St. Peter's confession of Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Immediately following that statement, Jesus begins to teach them what it means to be “the Son of the living God.”
Jesus “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.” Jesus came into the flesh to die for the sins of the world.
But it couldn't happen just anywhere. Nothing in Jesus' life was able to just happen. A scarlet thread runs through the whole Bible. He had to be born in Bethlehem. He had to grow up in Nazareth. He had to speak to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He had to die in Jerusalem. “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” The holy Son of God could only offer the one and only holy and perfect sacrifice where God had caused His name to dwell. His sacrificial death is the only eternal profit you can find.
Jesus must “suffer many things” in His ministry to His sinful people. Suffering comes from both God's “chosen people” and God's enemies. Jesus suffers at the hands of the Jews because He brings the Truth of God's Word with Him. Truth that the world (and even God's own people) cannot understand, will not accept and will persecute until it is destroyed.
Jesus suffers at the hands of the Jewish elders because He condemns them for their reliance on human traditions instead of God's holy Word. The chief priests come into the picture because Jesus proclaims Himself through His ministry as the Great High Priest whose perfect sacrifice will bring the forgiveness of sins. The scribes knew the Scriptures backwards and forwards. They were the men with all the answers. But they didn't want to see the Word in the flesh when Jesus walked among them. The scribes would work with the elders and chief priests to make sure that everything done to Him would be in accordance with their understanding of the Scriptures and Roman law.
The Augsburg Confession is another example of this battle happening in history. Philipp Melanchthon wrote articles 22-28 about the abuses that had crept into the Church through the acceptance of human traditions instead of God's Word. They began to cloud God's Word in the minds of the common layperson. These human traditions plagued the Church until the Reformation. But these traditions still hold sway in Rome thanks to the Council of Trent and both Vatican Councils promoting their authority over the Church.
The Romans weren't worried about a renegade Jewish itinerate preacher. If they wanted Jesus dead, they could have put Him to death at any time. But they had no desire to have Him killed. Pilate washed his hands of the whole situation. But he resigned himself to have Jesus killed. Ending His suffering, but showing you your suffering.
Not only must Jesus suffer many things. You must suffer many things. This message is not one we want to hear. We are uncomfortable with Jesus' revelation. The Son of God shouldn't suffer, but He does. St. Peter rebukes Jesus for the revelation. He wants nothing to do with a suffering Messiah. But that is exactly what Jesus is.
In this suffering Jesus commands you to deny yourself. When you deny yourself, you “commit your way to the LORD.” This is the integrity you can walk in before the LORD. Your suffering begins with bearing reproach for Christ's sake. You suffer for His Word of truth. You leave everything to God's direction. And He leads you through the valley of the shadow of death.
This leading often brings about the question, “Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?” The suffering seems to last forever. God tests and proves His children to strengthen them for the battles ahead. Teaching us to deny ourselves so we may “suffer here with Jesus and with patience bear our cross.”
Jesus calls everyone who believes in Him as the Son of God, who takes away the sin of the world to take up their own cross. A cross specially designed for each person. No one's cross is exactly the same as another. It is specifically designed to help you follow Jesus' example. St. Paul illustrates Jesus' example with words like “Live in harmony with one another. … live peaceably with all.” Taking up the cross, you forsake everything in the world for the joys that He promises. You remove every obstacle by subduing your flesh, as Christ's flesh was subdued.
Subduing your flesh helps you “delight in the LORD.” Helps you “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Even when “the road ahead be thorny, though dark clouds all light obscure, though [your] cross-shaped path grows steeper, with the Lord, [you are] secure.” You are secure because Jesus rose from the dead to give you a blessing. The Easter blessing is the other half of the coin from Good Friday. Good Friday means nothing for you without Easter. Easter means nothing for you without Good Friday. Easter is the reversal of Good Friday, as seen in this morning's Introit: “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” On Good Friday, everything went dark at noonday. God's righteousness and justice seemed hidden as Jesus hung on the cross in the darkness. Easter brings everlasting life so that we may stand in Jesus' presence before His throne forever. This is the greatest blessing.
But this blessing is only fully realized when Jesus comes back on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. Where He will separate those who are with Him from those who are against Him. In our suffering, we say with David, “Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men.” Christians look forward to Judgment Day because they know which side they'll be on. God will vindicate them through His proclamation.
Jesus gives blessings that will abound for all eternity. Not just everlasting life. He promises His disciples, “There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Some of the disciples would see Jesus come in His kingdom. Eleven to be exact. They would see Jesus' kingdom come as He died and rose again. Like Jeremiah, the Apostles were made a fortified wall of bronze. They would be opposed at every turn, but they followed their Lord's example by suffering for His death and resurrection.
The greatest blessing Jesus gives in this life is His Word. Written by the Apostles and Prophets. Given to you so that you might have His example. So that you might do the good works He has prepared for you. Jesus “will repay each person according to what He has done.” The greatest thing you can do in this life is to eat His Word. To have it as part of your very being. This is easily done by being in worship and Bible study regularly. As the old prayer goes, “Blessed Lord, since You have caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them that by patience and comfort of Your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.” Through God's Word you find the way to “embrace and ever hold fast” what Jesus wants from you in your suffering. Hope as His blessings abound in your life.
Jesus must suffer many things. He makes that clear to the Apostles. He must suffer these things, but you must suffer as well. Anyone who claims the name of Jesus will suffer in this life. But Jesus gives you the strength to fulfill the purposes and plans He has for you. Although suffering's pain might seem unceasing, He will cause it to cease when He comes to take us home on the Last Day. Amen.