The Sacrifice of Suffering of Suffering & the Offering of Death: Why God Didn’t Just Build an Altar & Sacrifice Jesus Upon It Before Raising Him From Death to Life

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the twenty-first verse of the sixteenth chapter and continues through to the twentieth verse of the seventeenth chapter. WHEN RELIGION DEMANDS A SIGN! WHEN RELIGION DEMANDS A SIGN FROM HEAVEN! JESUS INDICTED THE PHARISEES AND THE SADDUCEES FOR BEING ABLE TO DISCERN THE FACE OF THE SKY, BUT BEING UNABLE TO DISCERN THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES! THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES OF JESUS’ MANIFESTATION! THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES OF JESUS’ COMING! THERE WERE THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES WHICH POINTED TO THE MANIFESTATION AND FIRST COMING OF JESUS THE CHRIST! THERE WERE THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES WHICH POINTED TO THE RETURN OF JESUS THE CHRIST IN THE CLOUDS! THE PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES DEMANDED A SIGN AND JESUS INDICTED THEM FOR BEING UNABLE TO DISCERN THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES! JESUS WOULD EMPHATICALLY DECLARE UNTO THE PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES THAT A WICKED AND ADULTEROUS GENERATION SEEKS AFTER A SIGN! JESUS DECLARED THAT NO SIGN WOULD BE GIVEN UNTO THAT GENERATION BUT THE SIGN OF THE PROPHET JONAH! JESUS INDICTED THEM FOR THEIR WICKEDNESS AND THE ADULTERY OF THEIR HEARTS!

IMMEDIATELY AFTER DECLARING NO SIGN WOULD BE GIVEN TO THAT GENERATION JESUS WOULD WARN HIS DISCIPLES TO BEWARE OF THE LEAVEN OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES! THE LEAVEN OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES WAS IDEED THE DOCTRINE AND TEACHING OF THE PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES! THE FIVE LOAVES OF THE FIVE THOUSAND! THE SEVEN LOAVES OF THE FOUR THOUSAND! THE FRAGMENTS OF THE MIRACLE! THE FRAGMENTS OF THE BLESSING! THERE IS A VAST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE BREAD OF LIFE AND THE LEAVEN OF RELIGION! UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DOCTRINE OF THE PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES AND THE TEACHING OF JESUS THE CHRIST!

            WHOM DO MEN SAY THAT I THE SON OF MAN AM! JOHN THE BAPTIST! ELIAS! JEREMIAS! ONE OF THE PROPHETS! BUT WHOM SAY YE THAT I AM! YOU’VE HEARD ALL THE OPINIONS! YOU’VE HEARD ALL THE DEBATES! YOU’VE HEARD ALL THE ARGUMENTS! WHOM DO YOU SAY THAT I THE SON OF MAN AM! WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE AFTER HEARING ALL THE ARGUMENTS AND OPINIONS? THOU ART THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD! FLESH AND BLOOD HATH NOT REVEALED IT UNTO THEE, BUT MY FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN! UPON THIS ROCK I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH! THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT!

            FROM THAT TIME FORTH BEGAN JESUS TO SHEW UNTO HIS DISCIPLES, HOW THAT HE MUST GO UNTO JERUSALEM, AND SUFFER MANY THINGS OF THE ELDERS AND CHIEF PRIESTS AND SCRIBES, AND BE KILLED, AND BE RAISED AGAIN THE THIRD DAY! “IF ANY MAN WILL COME AFTER ME, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS, AND FOLLOW ME! FOR WHOSOEVER WILL SAVE HIS LIFE SHALL LOSE IT: AND WHOSOEVER WILL LOSE HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE SHALL FIND IT” FOR WHAT IS A MAN PROFITED, IF HE SHALL GAIN THE WHOLE WORLD, AND LOSE HIS OWN SOUL? WHAT SHALL A MAN GIVE IN EXCHANGE FOR HIS SOUL?

            THE TRANSFIGURATION ATOP THE MOUNTAIN! THE GLIMPSE OF THE FORMER GLORY! BEHOLDING THE GLORY OF THE SON! BEHOLDING THE SON SPEAKING WITH THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS! A BRIGHT CLOUD OVERSHADOWED THEM! BEHOLD A VOICE OUT OF THE CLOUD, WHICH SAID, THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED! HEAR YE HIM! WHEN THE DISCIPLES HEARD IT, THEY FELL ON THEIR FACE, AND WERE SORE AFRAID! THE SON IS GREATER THAN THE LAW! THE SON IS GREATER THAN THE PROPHETS! HEAR AND LISTEN TO THE SON! GOD HAS IN THESE LAST DAYS SPOKEN UNTO US BY HIS SON! HEAR THE SON! LISTEN TO THE SON!

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will encounter some of the most profound events which took place within the public life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. What so amazes me about that which is found within these passages of Scripture is that they essentially begin with Jesus asking His disciples when at Caesarea Philippi who men said that He the Son of man was. It’s interesting when you think about and consider this particular reality, for there in the coasts of Caesarea Philippi the colossal Mount Hermon would sit in the background. It would be there on mount Hermon where many believe that the ancient sons of God of old held their council together against the most High God. It is actually quite remarkable and astounding to think about and consider the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for what we find within this portion in the text is Jesus initially asking His disciples who men said that He the Son of man was. Essentially that which Jesus sought after and desired from His disciples was for them to speak about what they had heard others speak and declare concerning the Son of man. This is actually worth mentioning and noting, for when Herod heard of the great works and wonders Jesus the Christ had done he thought it was John the Baptist resurrected from the dead. It is in the fourteenth chapter we find Herod hearing of the tremendous works which Jesus wrought and performed in the earth during those times, and it was hearing such wonderful and marvelous reports that would cause Herod to think and consider that this was John the Baptist risen from the dead. What makes this even more intriguing is when you think about the fact that when John the Baptist was still alive, and when John the Baptist was preaching in the wilderness and baptizing men and women for the remission of sins the scribes and the Pharisees came unto him asking him if he was the Messiah. This subject matter was one that would even be discussed concerning John the Baptist, for they were unsure as to who John truly was and whether or not he was and could possibly be the Messiah.

            What I find to be so incredibly captivating and powerful about this particular passage is that this wasn’t the scribes or the Pharisees asking who the disciples believed Jesus the Son of man was. This wasn’t the Sadducees or the chief priests asking them who men said that He the Son of man was. We don’t find publicans or sinners coming unto the disciples and asking them who others said that He the Son of man was. As you read the words which are found within this text you will find that this was Jesus Himself asking the disciples who men said that He the Son of man was. Essentially that which Jesus was initially doing with His disciples was asking them what opinions were out there concerning Him and His identity. Undoubtedly Jesus recognized and understood that there were a number of reports and rumors that were out there about Him, and He sought to ask the disciples concerning those opinions. What makes this even more interesting and astonishing is when you think about and consider the fact that there is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus wasn’t aware of the opinions that were floating around during those days concerning Him. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus wasn’t very much aware of the words which were spoken during those days, and that His disciples would have undoubtedly heard those opinions. In all reality, I can’t help but see Jesus’ question—one that essentially had two parts to it—as being one that was foundational for their faith. The more I read and consider the words which are found within this passage the more I can’t help but be brought face to face with the tremendous reality that when Jesus asked His disciples who men said that He the Son of man was, He was indeed asking them what opinions were out there concerning Him and concerning His identity. Jesus did indeed and did in fact recognize and understand the rumors and reports that were swirling around about Him during those days, and He sought to confront the disciples concerning those reports.

            REPORTS BASED ON RUMORS! REVELATION BASED ON FELLOWSHIP! I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but see the strong and powerful contrast that exists between the reports which were spoken concerning Jesus—reports which were largely based on what was being spoken concerning Him. Herod thought that Jesus was John the Baptist based on the reports which He had heard concerning the works which He had done. Even John the Baptist himself—while sitting in that dark and cold prison cell—would send two of His disciples unto Jesus asking if He was the Messiah or if they should look for another. What we need to realize and recognize concerning this narrative surrounding John the Baptist is that it was largely based—not only on his being imprisoned by Herod, but also hearing of the works of Christ there in the midst of that prison. It would be there in the midst of that prison John the Baptist would hear of the works of Christ, and sought to send His disciples unto Jesus that they might inquire concerning the identity of Jesus the Christ. WHO ARE YOU? It’s interesting and worth noting when reading the words which are found within this passage of Scripture that there were countless individuals who undoubtedly had their thoughts and their opinions concerning who Jesus the Christ was. There were countless men and women during those days who had heard of all the great wonders and works Jesus had wrought, and had even heard the words which Jesus had taught and spoken, and as a direct result of this they believed that Jesus was one of the prophets from the times of old. Undoubtedly there were many during those days—including Herod—who believed in the resurrection of the dead, for there were countless during those days who believed one thing or another concerning Jesus. There were some who thought He was John the Baptist raised from death to life, while there were others who thought that He was Jeremiah risen from death to life. There were others who thought that Jesus was Elijah risen from the dead, or even one of the ancient Hebrew prophets which were risen from the dead.

            While the opinions concerning Christ were indeed unique and interesting when you think about and consider them, I have to admit that it is quite the setup when you take the time to think about it. Herod heard of the wonderful works which Christ wrought in the earth and thought that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead. Others during those days believed that Jesus was John the Baptist, or Jeremiah, or Elijah, or one of the prophets risen from the dead. It is indeed true that Jesus was none of the prophets, nor John the Baptist risen from the dead, however, we must needs consider how many during those days believed in the resurrection from the dead. The very fact that there were those during the days of Jesus who believed Him to be one of the prophets risen from the dead does indeed and does in fact suggest their belief in the resurrection of the dead, and even Mary and Martha believed in the resurrection of the dead when Jesus asked them if they believed that their brother would live again. I can’t help but see how absolutely incredible this truly is when you take the time to think about it, for it calls and draws our attention to a wonderful and powerful setup that was being made during those days and times—namely, the fact that while it was in fact true that Jesus was not one of the prophets risen from the dead, He would nonetheless ultimately rise from the dead. In fact, it is within this very text and passage of Scripture you find Jesus beginning to teach and speak unto His disciples concerning His suffering, His being killed, His suffering many things at the hands of the chief priests and the scribes, and being risen from the grave on the third day. Oh I can’t help but come face to face with just how absolutely incredible these words truly are when you take the time to think about them, for they call and draw our attention to the awesome and wonderful truth that while there were those who did indeed and did in fact believe that Jesus was one of the prophets risen from the dead, He would indeed rise from the dead—yet not as many during those days thought and expected.

            It’s quite remarkable and astonishing when you read the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, for the words which you find here begin with Jesus asking His disciples who men said that He the Son of man was. This question was intended to bring the disciples face to face with what they had undoubtedly heard during those days and times concerning Jesus and who He was. Undoubtedly there were a lot of rumors, opinions and reports being circulated during those days concerning Jesus the Christ, and this question Jesus asked His disciples was one that was intended on calling their attention to that which they heard concerning Him. Jesus was undoubtedly well aware of the rumors and reports which were swirling around about Him, and He desired to ask His disciples who men said that He the Son of man was. Essentially that which Jesus was asking the disciples was what they had heard men say and speak concerning Him and His identity. Jesus asked this question—not because He was not aware of the rumors and reports which were being presented and argued concerning Him, but rather to call the disciples to the place where they would acknowledge what they had heard concerning Him. What makes this even more intriguing is when you think about and consider this in light of the disciples who walked with and followed Jesus during those days you will encounter and come face to face with the fact that there was a vast difference between receiving revelation concerning Jesus the Christ from having fellowship with the Father, and believing something concerning Christ based on what was being spoken of Him concerning those days. This is something for us to truly think about, for we are faced with the tremendous truth and reality of what is being spoken concerning Jesus the Christ during these days. We would be incredibly naïve to think about and consider the fact that during these days there are a lot of rumors and reports being circulated concerning Jesus the Christ—and even Islam speaks of Jesus within the Quran.

            I find the words which are presented before us in this passage of Scripture to be absolutely incredible when you take the time to think about it, for the words which are found within this passage are not only intended on drawing and calling the attention of the disciples to that which was spoken concerning Jesus, but also whether or not their belief and their understanding of Christ would be based on and seen through the lens of the opinions of others. Perhaps this is one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves when reading these words, for we must needs ask ourselves whether or not our opinions concerning Christ can and will be based on the opinions of others and what others say and speak concerning Christ. There is a great need within our hearts and lives to determine whether or not what we think and what we believe concerning Christ is going to be based on what men say concerning Him, or whether it is going to be based on personal revelation from the Father and walking with and following Christ Himself. What’s more, is that I would dare say that we must needs make the decision within our hearts whether or not we are going to believe in and on the person of Jesus based on what ministers, and preachers, and evangelists, and many to-do “leaders” within Christendom have said and spoken concerning Christ, or whether we are going to believe in and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ based on personal revelation from the Father. Jesus’ question to the disciples was not only intended on calling and drawing their attention to that which was spoken concerning Him, but was intended on doing something so much greater and something so much stronger. We must needs recognize and pay close and careful attention to this, for the question Jesus asked His disciples was one that sought to call and draw their attention—not only to the reports which were spoken during those days by the scribes, by the Pharisees, and by those who either experienced the words and works of Christ, or had heard concerning them.

            It is absolutely necessary that we pay close and careful attention to the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for essentially that which we find presented before us within it is the contrast between who the disciples heard men say and speak concerning Jesus the Christ, and who they themselves said and believed concerning Him. There were those during these days and times who thought and believed something concerning Jesus and His identity, and Jesus was well aware of what men spoke concerning Him. What Jesus was most concerned with, however, was what His disciples believed concerning Him and who He was. What we find within this passage of Scripture is Simon also called Peter emphatically speaking up—undoubtedly according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—and declaring that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God. This declaration was truly astonishing and remarkable when you take the time to think about and consider it, however, I would like to call and draw your attention to the words which Jesus spoke in response to the words Peter spoke. When and as you read the words found within this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus declaring unto Simon that he was blessed—blessed because flesh and blood had not revealed this unto Him. When Jesus heard the declaration and proclamation which Simon had made He immediately realized and recognized that this was not a declaration based on what Simon had heard from and among men, but rather was something which He had received directly from the Father who was in heaven. Jesus understood that for Simon to make such an emphatic declaration would and could only come from personal revelation from the Father who was in heaven. Jesus spoke directly unto Simon and called him blessed because he made the declaration and had the understanding that Jesus was indeed the Christ and the Son of the living God. Jesus knew and understood that this would and could only come from personal revelation from the Father—a reality which is actually quite interesting when you take the time to think about it.

            The more I think about and consider the words which are found within this passage of Scripture the more I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fact that Jesus didn’t acknowledge this declaration which was made by Simon as being based on walking with Him, nor even based on following Him. Jesus heard the words which Simon had spoken concerning Him, and He acknowledged the fact that this was revelation which came directly from the Father which was in heaven. This actually lends to an incredibly powerful thought when you truly take the time to think about, for it calls and draws our attention that in addition to walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ, there was this additional element of revelation from the Father. The disciples had witnessed and beheld Jesus feeding five thousand men and four thousand men—not including women and children. The disciples had witnessed Jesus open the blind eyes, open the deaf ears, cause the lame to walk, raise the death to life, cleanse lepers, drive out unclean spirits, and the like. The disciples had witnessed Jesus speak to the wind and the waves in the midst of the storm to be still and they obeyed His voice and command. The disciples witnessed Jesus coming unto them in the midst of the storm walking on the water of the sea in the midst of the wind and the waves. The disciples had heard the wonderful and remarkable teachings which Jesus the Christ had given and spoken during those days, and yet there was something else that was desperately needed within their hearts and lives. It is as we read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture we are brought face to face with the fact that in addition to walking with and following Jesus the Christ during those days, there was also the additional element of revelation from the Father. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for in addition to the disciples walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ there was also this tremendous need for and presence of revelation from the Father which was in heaven.

            Jesus would hear the words which Simon called Peter would speak in the company and presence of the disciples and He would call him blessed—and blessed because flesh and blood had not revealed this truth unto Simon. Simon who was also called Peter was called blessed of the Lord Jesus Christ because flesh and blood had not revealed to his heart that Jesus was indeed the Christ and the Son of the living God, but rather His Father who was in heaven. Jesus realized and understood that this revelation came not from hearing the opinions and reports of men, but rather it came directly from the heart of the Father who was in heaven. Oh it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this awesome and powerful truth, for it calls and draws our attention to the wonderful and powerful that in addition to our walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ we must needs receive revelation from the Father who was in heaven. I can’t help but wonder if during those three and a half years the disciples walked with and followed Jesus they gave themselves to prayer before the Father who was in heaven. We know that Jesus taught them to pray, and we know that Jesus modeled prayer for them during those three and a half years, however, I can’t help but wonder if the disciples did not spend some time praying before and praying unto the Father. Of course we know that during those three and a half years they had the very image of the invisible God present before and among them, and yet there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if this revelation which Simon called Peter received came through prayer—that which was in addition to walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus acknowledged unto Peter in the company and presence of all the disciples that flesh and blood had not revealed this to him, but rather His Father who was in heaven. The question I can’t help but ask is what the other disciples believed during this time, for this question wasn’t asked to and of Simon alone. This question wasn’t asked simply and solely of Simon called Peter, but was asked of all the disciples. We know that Simon called Peter spoke up when this question was asked, however, Scripture seems to suggest that Simon was the only one to speak up.

            WHAT DID THE OTHER DISCIPLES THINK? WHAT DID THE OTHER DISCIPLES BELIEVE? We know that Simon called Peter spoke up and declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, however, the question I can’t help but ask myself is what the other disciples believed. This reality is similar to the encounter the disciples had with Jesus in the midst of the sea and in the midst of the storm, for Simon was the only one to actually ask the Lord to bid him to come unto Him walking upon the water. Simon declared unto Jesus that if it was truly Him then He would bid him to come unto Him upon the water of the sea. I have often believed concerning this particular event and occurrence that Jesus would have had all twelve of the disciples step out of the boat and on to the water in the midst of the storm and form a fellowship of the storm there in the midst of the sea. I have often believed that Jesus desired all the disciples to step out of the boat in the midst of the storm and on to the waters of the sea and make their way unto Him. What’s more, is I am absolutely convinced that Jesus would have loved to have stood there upon the waters of the sea with all twelve of His disciples as they indeed formed a fellowship of the storm with all of them standing on the water in the midst of the storm. What Scripture reveals, however, is that Simon was the only one who actually stepped out of the boat and stepped on to the water. Scripture points to and reveals the incredible truth that Simon did indeed and did in fact step on to the water and did in fact walk upon the waters of the sea as he made his way toward Jesus. What Scripture also points to and reveals is that Simon began looking at the wind and the waves which were present before and all around him, and when he saw the wind and the waves he began to be fearful. So long as his eyes were upon Jesus and his courage and faith remained strong he would be able to walk upon the water, however, when he began looking at the wind and the waves his fear and doubt would get the best of him, and he would begin to sink.

            Perhaps one of the greatest truths that is found within this passage of Scripture is how Jesus’ questions were asked of and directed to all the disciples who were before Him, and Simon called Peter was the only one who spoke up. When Simon did speak up, he was speaking from a wonderful and powerful place of revelation—revelation that came not from the opinions of men, but rather that which came from the Father who was in heaven. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and pay close attention to this, for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome and wonderful truth that if we are professing “revelation” we must needs diligently strive to ensure that our revelation is coming from the Father which is in heaven. Jesus acknowledged of Simon that this revelation came not from what was being spoken by men, but rather that which came directly from the Father. The question I can’t help but think about and consider is how and when this revelation came unto Simon called Peter. At what point during His time walking and following the Lord Jesus did Simon actually receive this revelation from the Father which is in heaven? Did Simon called Peter know and realize within his heart at one point while walking with and following Jesus that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God? We know from reading the gospel narrative written by the apostle John that when Jesus asked the disciples if they too would turn and walk away, Simon Peter would again speak up and declare that they had nowhere to go, for He alone had the words of eternal life. We must needs realize and understand just how incredibly powerful this is, for there was a point within the time Simon walked with and followed the Lord Jesus Christ that the Father in heaven spoke to and revealed to His heart that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of the living God. There was a point in time—perhaps even that moment when Jesus asked the question concerning His identity—that the Father did indeed and did in fact reveal unto Simon the identity of Jesus, and that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God. Truth be told there was a point in time when the Father in heaven revealed unto Simon called Peter that Jesus was indeed the Christ, and that Jesus was indeed the Son of the living God—a strong and stark revelation which was directly juxtaposed and altogether different from the opinions of men which were swirling before and all around the disciples concerning Jesus.

            THE REVELATION OF IDENTITY AND THE DECLARATION OF SUFFERING! THE REVELATION OF THE FATHER AND THE REVELATION OF CHRIST! THE REVELATION OF THE FATHER, THE DECLARATION OF THE SON, AND THE INVITATION OF THE CROSS! I find the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of this gospel narrative so incredibly strong and powerful, for within the final portion of the sixteenth chapter—not only do we have the revelation of the Father which is in heaven concerning Jesus being the Christ and the Son of the living God, but we also have the declaration and teaching of the Son concerning His need to go unto Jerusalem, his need to suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes. Moreover, Jesus would go on to describe how as a direct result of His suffering many things at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes he would be killed. With this being said, however, we must also realize and recognize that although Jesus would suffer many things and be killed, He would nonetheless rise from death to life on the third day. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading these words, for what we find in this passage of Scripture is Simon called Peter receiving the revelation of the Father concerning the identity of Jesus as the Christ and the Son of the living God. What makes this all the more astonishing and intriguing is that immediately after hearing Simon declare Jesus as the Christ and the Son of the living God, and even after Jesus declared unto Simon that flesh and blood had not revealed this unto Him, but rather His Father in heaven—Jesus would begin teaching and showing them that He must needs go to Jerusalem, must needs suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, and ultimately die.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that immediately after Simon made the wonderful and powerful declaration concerning Jesus being the Christ and the Son of the living God Jesus would begin teaching them how He must needs journey unto Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel, and ultimately be killed. At this point Jesus didn’t yet reveal the means and method He would be killed, however, He would indeed reveal that as a direct result of His suffering He would ultimately be killed. We must not miss and lose sight of this, for it is quite astonishing to think about and consider the fact that immediately after this revelation from the Father and declaration of Christ would come the teaching that Jesus must needs suffer many things and be killed. It is truly something worth pointing out and examining when reading these passages of Scripture, for after the revelation concerning the identity of Jesus would come the teaching concerning His suffering and death. Earlier on we find Jesus preparing His disciples to be hated of all men for His name’s sake, as well as declaring unto them that they would be brought before governors and kings as a testimony unto the Gentiles. Jesus had already declared unto them that they would be scourged in the synagogues and that they would indeed experience suffering, tribulation and persecution. Moreover, Jesus would also first speak of the cross in direct connection with discipleship, for He would not send them forth into the midst of the harvest without the understanding that directly linked and connected to whatever ministry they engaged themselves in the cross would be at the very center of it all. Jesus declared that anyone who did not deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him would not be worthy of Him. Jesus would also declare that those who loved father or mother, brother and sister, or anything or anyone more than Him was not worthy of Him. We must needs realize and recognize this particular truth, for whereas Jesus would speak of discipleship as having at the very heart and center of it self-denial and taking up the cross, He would now begin to speak of His own suffering.

            I happen to find it incredibly interesting to think about and consider the tremendous fact that immediately after this revelation from the Father concerning Jesus being the Christ and the Son of the living God there would come the declaration that Jesus would not only suffer many things, but would also be killed. It’s almost as if—in light of Jesus being the Christ and the Son of the living God, and because Jesus was the Christ and the Son of the living God He would suffer many things and would ultimately die and be killed. In the wilderness the devil came unto Jesus and tempted Him around His identity as the Son of God, for he would tempt Him to turn stones into bread if He was truly the Son of God. Moreover, the devil would also tempt Him to cast Himself down if He was the Son of God—and not only because He was the Son of God, but also because of what the psalmist spoke concerning angels being given charge over the people of God lest they dash their foot upon a rock. What we find here is a truly powerful truth and reality, for you get the strong and powerful sense that because Jesus was the Christ, and because Jesus was the Son of God He must needs suffer and be killed. The question might need to be asked why Jesus needed to suffer and why Jesus needed to be killed, and the answer is actually more complex than you might think. Jesus must needs suffer and be killed because it was according to the divine will, plan and purpose of the Father. Jesus must needs suffer and be killed because it would be through His suffering and being killed that atonement and redemption might be manifested in the midst of the earth. What’s more, is that we must recognize and understand that Jesus must needs suffer and be killed because the Father knew that He could handle it. The Father—without a doubt—knew that Jesus could bear up under the weight and pressure of what He would suffer, as well as ultimately being killed.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that Jesus would indeed and would in fact suffer many things, and would indeed be killed, and one of the single greatest reasons He would face and experience all of that was not only because He would be raised from death to life on the third day, and not only because He would ultimately ascend unto the right hand of the Father, but because the Father knew that He was the only one who could handle such treatment and such an assignment. The Father in heaven knew that Jesus would be able to handle suffering many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and elders of Israel, and ultimately be killed. We oftentimes ask ourselves why we experience the suffering we do, and why we experience the affliction and tribulation we do within this life. The truth and underlying reality surrounding these questions is that the Father never gives us what He knows is beyond our ability to handle. The Father can never and will never give us more than what He knows we can handle, and when we think about the suffering we face and experience within this life we must needs realize and understand that the Father knows precisely what we are able to handle, and precisely what might possibly push us over the edge and beyond the breaking point. The Father allowed and permitted Jesus to suffer many things and to be killed because He knew that Jesus could face, handle and bear up under and in the midst of it. The question might be asked why the Father didn’t simply offer Jesus as a sacrifice upon the cross, or why the Father didn’t allow and permit Jesus to come in the flesh—perhaps even as a grown man thirty years of age—and then put Him to death that He might raise Him from death to life again. Have you ever wondered why the Father didn’t simply allow Jesus to come in the flesh, place Him upon the cross, or even upon an altar as Isaac was placed on the altar and then killed Him before raising Him back to life? Have you ever thought about or wondered why the eternal Father not only allowed Jesus to be killed and crucified, but also to suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel?

            This reality and concept of Jesus needing to suffer many things at the behest of the religious elite and community during those days is actually truly astonishing when you take the time to think about and consider it, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that there was something about His suffering that was necessary. There was something about Jesus doing more than simply being killed and being raised from death to life—but actually suffering many things—that we must needs take a good, long and hard look at. We must carefully examine and consider this truly wonderful reality, for there was more to Jesus being killed and crucified, and more than simply His being raised from death to life that is presented in Scripture. The Father could have very easily sent His Son in the form of human flesh, placed Him on an altar which He Himself had built, and sacrificed Him upon the altar before raising Him from death to life, however, this isn’t what happened. Directly linked and directly connected to Jesus being killed and Jesus being crucified was the suffering which preceded the cross. More often than not we focus on the cross and the crucifixion itself, and we pay little attention to the suffering that preceded the death upon the cross. In all reality, I would dare say that it was by and through the suffering that Jesus was positioned and prepared to be killed and be crucified. I would contend that it was through the suffering He faced and the suffering He experienced that Jesus was actually qualified to endure and experience death upon the cross. I would argue and present to you the awesome and powerful truth that there was something that was absolutely critical, and something that was absolutely vital about the suffering which Jesus faced and experienced which we must needs recognize and pay close attention to.

            I would dare say—and I am absolutely convinced—that the Father allowed Jesus to endure the tremendous suffering He did because He knew that He would be able to endure every part of it. I am absolutely and completely convinced that the Father allowed and permitted Jesus to experience and walk through every part of that suffering that Jesus might be a faithful and merciful high priest unto us—one who could indeed and could in fact be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Moreover, I would dare say that the suffering which Jesus faced and experienced in this life properly positioned and qualified Him to experience death upon the cross, and suffering was actually the gateway and the door into and unto death. Just as death was the gateway and door to resurrection, so also was suffering the gateway and door to death itself. Jesus suffered, and Jesus was permitted to suffer that He might undertake and uphold all those who would come thereafter who would face and experience similar suffering, similar tribulation, similar opposition, similar affliction, and similar troubles. It is absolutely remarkable and astonishing that not only was Jesus pronounced by Pontius Pilate as being innocent, but even in spite of His being innocent Pilate would still have Jesus scourged by the Roman centurions. Oh how absolutely intriguing it is to think about and consider the fact that Jesus could have very easily died and been killed—and even killed by the Father Himself—and He could have done so without and apart from any type of suffering, and yet the truth of the matter is that the Father chose to incorporate suffering with His death and His being killed. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome and wonderful truth that it was necessary for Jesus to suffer. You will notice when reading the words which are found within this passage of Scripture that from that time on—from the time Jesus was declared to be the Christ and the Son of the living God—He began teaching and showing the disciples how He must needs go unto Jerusalem. Just as Abraham needed to go unto Moriah to sacrifice his only begotten son Isaac whom he loved, and just as David needed to go unto Moriah that he might build an altar and sacrifice an offering before the Lord to stay the plague, so also must needs Jesus go unto Moriah that He might suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders.

            Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that Jesus could have just as easily been killed and offered as a sacrifice by the Father, and could have just as easily been raised from death to life absent any type of suffering? Have you ever stopped to think about and consider the fact that Jesus could have experienced death upon an altar—perhaps not even the cross, but an actual altar which He Himself had built for and unto the Father—and the Father could have killed Him? Either the Father could have built the altar, or Jesus Himself could have built the altar, and Jesus could have laid Himself down upon that altar before the Father that He might ultimately kill Him to make atonement for our sins. The truth of the matter is that while the death and crucifixion were themselves necessary—there was something about the suffering that was also necessary. There was something about the suffering which was an integral piece of the mystery, and a critical part of the divine will and plan of the eternal Father. The Father would indeed send His only begotten Son into the world to be killed and crucified, however, the Father would also send His Son into the world to suffer. Within and during most of His public ministry Jesus would experience opposition and persecution, and when the time came for Him to be killed and crucified He would also face and experience suffering. Oh dear reader—there was something intrinsic and something absolutely critical to the suffering which Jesus faced and experienced within this life and within the form of human flesh. There was something so absolutely necessary about and surrounding that suffering that the Father would choose to incorporate and make it a part of HIs sacrifice.

            THE SACRIFICE OF SUFFERING! THE SACRIFICE OF DEATH! I am absolutely and completely convinced that just as surely as the cross and Jesus’ death was indeed a sacrifice—it was only a part of the sacrifice. If we view Jesus’ sacrifice solely through the lens of the cross and the crucifixion we have sorely and severely missed the point. If we see and if we view the sacrifice of Christ solely in terms of His being crucified and put to death upon the cross we have missed the underlying truth surrounding what His sacrifice was all about. I would argue and contend that suffering was just as much a part of the sacrifice of Christ as was the actual death upon the cross. We dare not and must not think that the actual death and crucifixion was the sole part of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and that suffering was itself not an integral part of that sacrifice. We must needs recognize and pay close and careful attention to the awesome and powerful truth that there is a wonderful and powerful element of sacrifice that revolves around suffering and that suffering is indeed sacrifice in and of itself. It was the apostle Paul who both wrote and spoke about “the fellowship of suffering” when speaking of Christ, and we must needs realize and understand this absolutely awesome and powerful truth. We must needs realize that there is a tremendous element of sacrifice that is found within and revolves around suffering, and that the sacrifice of Christ began before He ever hung on that cross. Before Jesus was ever crucified to the cross and before He ever hung there between two thieves—one to His right and one to His left—Jesus did indeed and did in fact face and experience the sacrifice of suffering. We tend to think that sacrifice is only manifested and presented in terms of death and crucifixion, and yet we fail to realize that the suffering Christ endured was as much a part of the sacrifice as was the actual death. In fact, I would even dare say that while no one wants to die—it is the suffering, and the thought of suffering that is actually harder to think about and harder to bear. I won’t necessarily say that it was easy for Christ to simply die as a an offering for an atonement for our sins, however, I will say that might have been easier to simply die and then be raised from death to life immediately after. The Father could have just as easily sacrificed Christ upon the altar as He put Him to death for our sins, and yet the Father deliberately and intentionally chose to include suffering as a part of this sacrifice and offering.

            THE OFFERING OF SUFFERING! THE SACRIFICE OF SUFFERING! Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus did more than simply offer His body as an offering for Sin, but He also offered His bodyt as a sacrifice unto suffering. Jesus deliberately and intentionally yielded His body as an instrument of suffering, and endured every part of that suffering. I am absolutely and completely convinced that Jesus offered His body unto suffering just as much as He offered His body unto the cross knowing that His suffering was just as powerful as was His death upon the cross. What’s more, is I would dare say that there would not and could not be the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross without and apart from His suffering upon the cross. I would dare say that Jesus the Christ knew and realized that suffering was an integral and absolutely necessary part of His sacrifice, and that the sacrifice would not and could not be complete without and apart from that suffering. Jesus realized and understood that suffering was part of the divine will and plan of the Father just as much as death and crucifixion was. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand this, for more often than not we view sacrifice solely in terms of death rather than the suffering we might endure. In fact, it was the apostle Paul who—when writing unto the saints which were at Rome—besought them by the mercies of God that they present their bodies as living sacrifices holy and acceptable in the sight of the living God. Oh please don’t miss this, for the apostle Paul realized and recognized that suffering was all part of the sacrifice we have been called to offer unto and before the Lord.

            Building upon this tremendous reality of suffering being both an offering and sacrifice I would like to call and draw your attention to the words which the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning Jesus. I have contended and believed that Isaiah might very well be known as “the prophet of Christ”—at least in terms of the tremendous amount of revelation he received concerning Christ. While it can be said of Jeremiah that he was that prophet which most easily and most readily identified with the sufferings of Christ, it can also be said of Isaiah that he was that prophet which received the greatest revelation concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. We must needs realize and understand this absolutely awesome and powerful truth when thinking about and considering the words which are found in the prophetic book of Isaiah, for the words which are presented here not only paint a powerful picture of the death and crucifixion of Jesus, but also of the tremendous suffering which HE would face and endure as a direct result. WE dare not and must not miss the tremendous truth that suffering is in and of itself a form of sacrifice, and that is just as much of a sacrifice as death itself. WE don’t merely lay down our lives for Christ if and/or when we die, but we lay down our lives each and every day through our sacrifice in suffering, through our sacrifice in tribulation, through our sacrifice in affliction, and through our sacrifice in trial and trouble. WE must needs realize and understand this, for just as much as the cross was at the heart and center of the divine will and plan of God in the midst of the earth—it was not the only piece to that playing out in the midst of the earth. Jesus would indeed face and experience the cross, and He knew that it was coming, however, before He would experience the cross He needed to suffer. The same language is presented in the words of the apostle Paul when he emphatically declared that we must through many trials and tribulations inherit and enter into the kingdom of God. We must needs realize and understand that the cross and everything that it represents—both what it represented for Christ then, and what it represents for us now—is a by product of the suffering we face and experience within this life. It’s actually quite remarkable that Jesus would lay hold of the cross AFTER being betrayed, AFTER being arrested, AFTER being falsely accused, and AFTER suffering. What’s more, is that not only would Jesus be nailed to the cross, but He would also be forced to carry that cross—both of which would come after He had already endured the suffering He did here upon the earth. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the words which the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah prophesied in the book which bears his name:

            “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: HE is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:1-11).

            It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to the words which are found here within this passage of Scripture, for with these words the prophet Isaiah paints a powerful picture of the sacrifice Christ offered—not merely in death, but also in His suffering as well. We dare not think and consider that Christ’s sacrifice was simply and solely upon the cross and that it didn’t involve the scourging leading up to the cross, nor even the carrying of the cross. We ought not think that sacrifice more often than not requires suffering—perhaps even in greater measure than suffering. We would like to think that death is indeed the only means of presenting our bodies as living sacrifices holy and acceptable before and unto the LORD, and yet the truth of the matter is that presenting our bodies as living sacrifices is a continual process. When Jesus instructed His disciples and followers to deny themselves and take up their cross as they followed Him—He wasn’t simply instructing them to take up their cross that they might die and pass from this life to the next. That which Jesus the Christ was instructing His disciples and followers to do by and through taking up their cross was to yield their bodies and their lives as a sacrifice and offering before and unto the living God. Would it shock and surprise you to think and consider that the more you carry your cross for Christ in this life the more you open yourself up to suffering? Would it shock and surprise you to consider the tremendous fact that taking up your cross is going to require something of you—perhaps even more than what you want to give and offer within your heart? It is absolutely necessary that we call and draw our attention to this truly wonderful and powerful truth, for it calls our attention to the reality that suffering is indeed in and of itself a sacrifice in this life, and is one of the greatest ways we offer our bodies as living sacrifices before and unto the LORD. Jesus could have simply come in the flesh, been killed on an altar by the Father, raised from death to life again, and immediately ascended unto the glory which He had with the Father. Have you ever stopped to think about why the Father didn’t simply kill Jesus upon an altar—regardless of whether it was a cross, or a physical altar itself? Have you ever stopped to think about why Christ had to suffer to begin with? Have you ever truly taken the time to consider the awesome and powerful truth that Christ needed to do more than simply die on the cross and be crucified, but He actually needed to suffering.

            SUFFERING PREPARES FOR DEATH! SUFFERING PREPARED CHRIST FOR THE CROSS! SUFFERING QUALIFIED JESUS TO CARRY THE CROSS! SUFFERING POSITIONED JESUS TO BE CRUCIFIED UPON THE CROSS! Oh we must needs think about and consider the awesome and powerful truth that the Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth—not simply to die upon the cross and to offer His life as a ransom and atonement for the sins of the world. When Jesus came to the earth in the form of human flesh He also came to suffer—and not simply suffer, but to suffer in a gruesome manner. There have been countless millions who have watched the Passion of the Christ and have seen the depiction of Christ’s suffering and His death upon the cross, however—even with everything that was painted in that film it pales in comparison to what Jesus actually experienced. That movie presented us with a powerful depiction of the suffering of Jesus the Christ—and ultimately His death upon the cross—however, we must needs realize and understand that what He actually experienced was far greater and far more gruesome than what we actually witnessed within that film. It is something truly worth considering and thinking about when you think of how Christ didn’t come to the earth simply and solely to die upon the cross alone, but rather to suffer. What’s more, is that the New Testament authors—when speaking of those sufferings—invited us to partake of those same sufferings with Christ. Not only this, but we find and read the awesome and tremendous words which the apostle Paul concerning the fellowship of the sufferings as we are made conformable to His death. Oh that we would truly recognize and understand these words and would recognize what it actually means to suffer with Christ in this life, for we have not only been called to suffer with Christ, but we have also been called to suffer for Christ. We have been called to be crucified with Christ, and with being crucified with Christ we have been called to yield our bodies continually as a sacrifice and offering before and unto the living God during the days we have been given in this life.

            What makes this particular passage so incredibly intriguing is when you think about and consider the fact that immediately after Jesus began teaching His disciples how He must needs journey unto Jerusalem to suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, scribes, and elders of Israel, as well as be killed, He would go on to declare unto them that if any man would come after Him they must deny themselves, they must take up their cross, and follow Him. Moreover, Jesus would go on to emphatically declare that anyone who would save their life shall lose it, and those who would lose their life for His sake would find it. Jesus would further present the question concerning what benefit and profit it would be for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his own soul. Not only this, but Jesus would also go on to ask what a man would give in exchange for his soul. I have to admit that I have read these words before, and yet as I read them today I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fact there are men and women who are not only seeking to save their life in this world, but also who are giving everything they have to gain the world—even at the expense of their soul. What’s more, is I find myself asking the same question Jesus asked concerning what men would be willing to give in exchange for their soul—particularly and especially when you think about and consider the tremendous fact that there are men and women who have given a great deal and a great amount at the expense of their souls. There have been countless men and women who have sold their souls in exchange for that which is found within this life—and not only have sold their souls, but have also done so that they might somehow gain their life in this world. The truth and underlying reality we must needs realize and recognize is that this wasn’t the first time Jesus spoke of the cross in direct relation and connection to discipleship. It would be when sending out His twelve disciples Jesus would not only prepare them to be hated, and would not only prepare them to be persecuted, but would also declare unto them that whoever did not deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him was not worthy of Him.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering how incredibly awesome and powerful this truly is, for there is not a doubt in my mind that the cross was indeed an instrument which was used to crucify and kill Jesus, however, before it was ever an instrument of death within the life of Christ, and before it was ever used by Jesus to describe the means in which He would die, it was used as an instrument and symbol of discipleship. For Jesus the cross was indeed something He would die upon, yet we have to ask ourselves why He used the word and analogy of the “cross”—not once, but twice—before ever even speaking of it in terms of His own sacrifice and offering. It is quite remarkable to think about and consider just how incredible this truly is, for it draws our attention to the fact that Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we wouldn’t have to, nor did Jesus suffer so we wouldn’t have to. There are far too many men and women who think and believe that Jesus died on the cross so we wouldn’t have to, and there are far too many who think and believe that Jesus suffered so we wouldn’t have to. The truth of the matter is that Jesus never died on the cross so we wouldn’t have to, and if you read the writings of the New Testament authors—specifically the apostle Paul—you will find Him repeatedly writing and speaking of our need to be crucified with Christ. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul wrote and spoke of “the fellowship of sufferings” while the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote concerning Jesus being our high priest who can indeed and can in fact be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary for us to realize that Jesus could have very easily brought us to heaven after we chose to believe on Him and after we made the decision to walk with and follow Him. Moreover, Jesus could have chosen to keep us from experiencing any form and type of suffering within this life, however, what we find instead is Jesus preparing those who walked with and followed Him to face and experience suffering, persecution, trials, trouble, affliction and the like. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it draws and calls our attention to the absolute awesome and incredible truth that we have not been given a “get out of suffering” free pass by the Lord Jesus Christ. Nowhere in Scripture have we been given an exemption from suffering, from affliction, from persecution, and from trails and troubles. In fact, we have been guaranteed that in this life we can and will face much trouble, much afflictions, much opposition, and much suffering. Perhaps the question we must ask is whether or not the Jesus who profess to believe in is too safe. Is the Jesus too safe and too polished—even though He suffered the way He did and died on the cross on Calvary? Please note that what I mean by Jesus being too polished is directly linked and connected to a Jesus who somehow cannot and will not allow you to suffer. What I am finding myself praying and believing for during this day and time in which we are living is for the courage, the boldness, the confidence, the trust and the faith to stand up as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego who refused to bow down and worship the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar had set up in the plain of Dura. I am finding myself praying for the courage to be like Daniel who—even after a decree was passed banning prayer to anyone but the king himself—opened up his window toward Jerusalem and prayed unto the LORD his God. These men were willing to brave the fiery furnace and the lion’s den rather bow down to the false gods and images which were present during those days. These men were willing to refuse ceasing to pray before and unto the Lord their God—even if it meant being cast into the lion’s den. The question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we as the people of God have the courage, the boldness, the strength, and the faith to stand and withstand in the coming days. Are we truly willing to allow our lives to be a sacrifice unto suffering and a sacrifice of suffering? Are we truly willing to allow our lives to be a sacrifice unto and a sacrifice of death unto and before Jesus the Christ? Oh that we would be men and women who would indeed stand fast in our conviction and our confidence, and that we would not waver, shut up, back down and give up in the midst of the culture and society in which we are living.

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