Matthew 16:21-28
Suffering And Salvation

Authored By Rev. Chen Tientsu, Taiwan Presbyterian Church Missionary To Japan

1.  Today is the Lord's Day that the church through out the whole world remembers when Jesus entered Passion week.  We remember the sufferings Jesus took for our sins, we exercise restraint in our lavished ways of living in regard to parties, pleasures, trips and while we read passages from the scripture related to his Passion we should be meditating on all the agony he took for us and the message of his redemptive work which the Lord accomplished for us.

2.  Churches also celebrates the gift of the wonderful salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ by having the Lord's Supper services, fasting and prayer meetings and training times.  At the establishment of the Lord's Supper these words were spoken, "This is my body for you.  Please practice this like this as a remembrance of me," and "This cup is the new covenant established by my blood.  When you drink, practice it like this as a remembrance of me."  Let's also remember the seven sayings that the Lord spoke on the cross.  "Father, please forgive them.  They don't know what they're doing," (Luke 23:24).  "I clearly say to you, you will be in paradise with me today," (Luke 23:43).  "Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands," (Luke 23:46).  "Woman, look [at John].  He is your son.  See [Mary].  She is your mother," (John 19:26).  "I thirst," (verse twenty-eight).  "It is accomplished," (verse thirty).

3.  The cruel punishment of the cross the Romans used would let persons guilty of a crime die by hanging them on a cross, banging nails into them, leaving them to bleed, letting them blow in the wind and cook in the sun, piercing them with spears, and leaving them for birds to peck on.  Our guiltless, sinless Lord hung and suffered on a human made torture of a cross for our sins.  As he faced the suffering of the cross, the Lord prayed to his father God, "Father, unless I drink this cup, it will not go away, so let your will be done," (Matthew 26:42).  The Lord knew that this cup was a hard road and it was difficult, but he obeyed in accordance with the will of God his father.  We human beings face various hardships, but do we earnestly pray to God the Father like Jesus did?

4.  Just after the disciple Peter expressed his faith with "You are the messiah, the son of the living God," the Lord started to reveal that he would "most definitely go to Jerusalem, experience a great deal of pain and be killed at the hands of the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and rise from the dead on the third day."  Jesus clearly stated that the messiah was not like the resplendent king David or an earthly messiah ruling the world in dignity and power like the people of the world had expected, but that in chapter nineteen & verses twenty-two onward and in chapter twenty & verses seventeen onward, he repeated to his disciples three times, because he wanted them to understand, that he himself would experience suffering for sinners and die to atone for sin.

5.  No one at all wants a loved one to ever suffer and be killed.  Of course, even Peter who loved Jesus couldn't just let Jesus suffer and so he chides with Jesus, "Lord, that's nonsense.  That must not be."  However, Jesus turned directly to Peter and said, "Satan, leave.  You are an intrusion to me.  You're not thinking of God's business, but human things."  After this, Jesus said to the disciples, "Anyone who wants to come after me, give up yourself, carry your cross, and follow me.  Whoever wants to save his own life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will acquire it."  When we read this passage, we may feel angry over the self-centeredness of Peter and his cowardice towards death and pain, but if you and I were in his place, we would probably have the same reaction.

6.  When the hour drew near for Jesus to suffer, he said, "the time has come for the son of man to receive glory," (John 12:23).  Then he told of his dying on the cross in the parable of "the wheat falling to the earth" (beginning in verse twenty-four of the same book).  The wheat is covered in the ground, it grows, and yields forth fruit.  For life to be meaningful, he must first be crushed down.  Like wheat buried in the ground Jesus died by means of the cross.

7.  In order to save us the Lord went through suffering.  The Lord said, "This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is shed for many, so that sin is forgiven."  In Isaiah fifty-three five, scripture says, "He was pierced because of our rebellion, he was crushed down because of our faults.  From the punishment he took, peace is granted to us, from the wounds he received, we are healed."

8.  Thanks to Jesus' suffering our lives are changed from lives of sin to lives made righteous.  [Our lives] are changed from lives filled with fear of suffering and death to lives that joyfully suffer for the Lord, that live for him.  Thus then, as many christians have joyfully served the Lord, the church has gotten to this day.  If we will give up and bury our own ambitions and ideals, God will use us.  Depending on our faith, we should be able to understand more on the sufferings Christ underwent.  We, who have become christians saved by Jesus' suffering, are becoming a people who joyfully serve for the sake of other peoples' pain as we respond to the pain the Lord took and not just [serving] our own pleasures and happiness any more.

9.  In Romans chapter five verses three through five, Paul says, "But not only that, I proudly rejoice in my hardships.  We know that, hardships produce patience, patience experience, experience hope.  Hope will never deceive us; because the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us."  I think we should learn like Paul who had remembered deep down in his heart the meaning of Christ's suffering.  Also in Second Corinthians chapter one, verses four through seven, it informs us that "As God comforts us in all kinds of sufferings, we are able to comfort those in all their different sufferings by the comfort which we receive from God; for, just as the sufferings of Christ overflow and extend to us, so also the comfort we receive is overflowing through Christ.  When we are hurting, it becomes your comfort and salvation.  And also, when we are comforted, it becomes a comfort for you and you are able to endure the same pain as ours.  The hope we hold for you is unwavering; because we know that as you suffer together, you will also rejoice together."

10.  Finally, what Jesus emphasized meant that "Whoever loves his own life will in effect lose it, but whoever does not love his own love will preserve his life for ever."  At this season when we remember the Lord's suffering, let us walk with thankful hearts on the path of suffering upon which the Lord had walked.

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