This week we are starting a new series titled Understanding Christ’s Passion.

The death of Christ was interpreted only as a great personal tragedy and a political catastrophe by the disciples until the light of God was shed on this event through the doorway of an empty tomb and the presence of a living Lord.

This week we are talking about,

Understanding the Cross.


Matthew 16:21 (ESV)

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

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.

Scripture Reading

Matthew 16:13-24 (ESV)
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

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.”

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Our text today reveals that the disciples’ recognition of Jesus as the Messiah marked a new departure in Jesus’ teaching.

After the disciples realise that Jesus was the Messiah, they needed know what His true mission was.

They needed to understand the cross.

They had put away their dreams of a messiah who would come for Israel alone to overthrow its enemies.

It was necessary for the disciples to see Jesus as the sin bearer for all humankind and to know that He was the Messiah who would become the Saviour of all humankind by way of the cross.

Did His own nation understand the cross?

No, the rebelled against the idea of a messiah on a cross.

Did His disciples understand the cross?


Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ announcement of His coming rejection and death plainly shows this delusion in Matthew 16:22 (ESV)

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

Those influenced by Greek philosophers were sure that people belittled God by saying that He could be affected by human actions or pain.

Do we understand the cross?

No, our understanding falls far short.

But we can understand four things.

We can understand Jesus’ acceptance of the cross.

We cannot pinpoint the time when Jesus first knew that following the Fathers will would take Him to the cross, but surely He knew at the time of His baptism.

Just as baptism pictures a death, burial, and resurrection in our spiritual experience, so Jesus’ baptism prefigured the cardinal events in His own redemptive ministry, His death, burial, and resurrection.

It’s certain that Jesus knew God’s plan for a cross when He fought that great battle with satan in the wilderness.

The devil was willing for Him to be a messiah, but not God’s Messiah following God’s plan.

At the time of this massive struggle, Jesus had already accepted the cross as God’s way.

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He knew of the cross and had accepted it.

Challenged to show a sign when He first cleansed the temple, He replied in, John 2:19 (ESV)

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

John was careful to tell us in, John 2:21(ESV)

21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

In Gethsemane when Peter tried to defend his Master with a sword, Jesus said in John 18:11 (ESV)

11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Here was both the motive and the motto of His entire life.

The cross was His choice, Mark 8:31 (ESV) says

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

And the “must” came from God.

2. We can understand history’s vindication of the cross.

The cross is not simply an event that happened two thousand years ago, its a spiritual fact now.

We are involved.

Jesus’ choice of the cross as God’s way to redeem humankind has been vindicated by human experience throughout the centuries.

Christ and His cross, exerted a magnetic influence on all the generations after Him.

He predicted this effect in John 12:32 (ESV)

32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
It is impossible to treat Calvary as just another grim episode in history.

No other death has so affected us.

There was and is a cosmic aspect to Calvary.

The cross reveals our sin.

It reveals the tendencies, the deep seated conditions within us, that cause spiritual death.

It make the Christian gospel intelligible.

A radical rebellion, seated deeply in human nature, called for the most dramatic action on God’s part to meet and overcome it.

B. Not only does the cross reveal our sin, but it also reveals God’s love.

At the cross, God meets us in love.

Jesus had said that God is love, but it was on the cross that these words took fire ands burned, John 3:16 (ESV)

For God So Loved the World

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Every generation finds the cross to be its accuser and its means of salvation.

3. We can understand God’s victory through the cross.

In earthly terms, the cross is not a sign of God’s majesty and power but an unforgettable reminder of the lengths that He will go to bring people to Him.

To God be the victory and glory through the cross.

As great and powerful as symbols can be, the cross was more than a symbol.

It was an action.

Jesus did something that He alone could do.

What did He achieve?

He bore the shame of our sin, rebellion, and failure.

In the cross, He made available forgiveness, redemption, and release.

What He did in that intimate identification with humanity in its sin and sorrow, He still does.

For this reason, we have hope, confidence, and assurance.

This divine Christ takes away the sins of the world by His union with every sinner who, by faith, will receive Him.

Humankind is not deserted.

God still ministers to our need.

The cross is a victorious eternal fact.

4. We can understand our salvation by the cross.

Through the cross, God has given us everything to save us from sin and death.

This is not just one philosophy of life among many others.

This is the gospel, the good news.

Although the cross always reminds us of Jesus’ death, the philosophy of the cross is a philosophy of life.

The cross is life through death.

It is finding a new way of life in rejecting the way of self trust, self love, and self assertion.

Our salvation, our peace, our fulfilment of God’s purpose for us begins with our acceptance of Him who died for us.

Salvation is of God alone.

As Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 5:18 (ESV)

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

Salvation is not anything we can do, it is what God has done for us through the cross.

God will give this gift of salvation to anyone who believes, to anyone who puts trust in the crucified Christ.


As we come together today, we remember Jesus’ cross, but we do more than remember.

The cross is the most relevant, most contemporary thing in life.

All people must come to terms with that which the cross stands to accuse them, to welcome their return to god.

Have you come to terms with the cross?

If not completely, will you today?

Until next time

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Gary Hoban

Refinery Life Church Australia


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