By Stuart Powell
After Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah the Jews had long anticipated (Matthew 16:16), Jesus began explaining God’s plans for this long-promised deliverer:
From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him: “God forbid, Lord! This must not happen to you!” (Matthew 16:21, 22, New English Translation).
Matthew didn’t record all of Jesus’ response, but Jesus clearly told his disciples that God’s Messiah must suffer and die before his coronation. This concept drew Peter’s ire.
In the United States, we do not have a king or emperor to govern the affairs of our nation. (Instead, we elect our rulers, and Election Day is only days away.) Still, we understand one basic principle about leaders: Death is never a prelude to successful leadership. Leaders cease to lead when they die.
Peter knew—as we know—that true leaders inspire their followers best by living. They raise up supporters through their captivating words. Leaders spread their zeal by being among their followers. A great leader gathers followers who imitate their examples of excellence by watching their actions. To this point in his ministry, Jesus had done these things in Galilee and Judea. For Peter, it made sense that Jesus needed to achieve greatness before he died. Peter’s words of correction fit right in with our thinking. But Jesus called on his followers to accept that he, God’s Messiah, would inspire his followers through his death.
Jesus wanted his disciples to grasp the reality that his death and subsequent resurrection would truly begin his eternal reign as Messiah over Israel and all of creation. In yet another unexpected revelation of the Messiah’s kingdom, Jesus gave his followers a way to celebrate his reign as king.
Everyone who believes Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, the Messiah, is invited to take this meal, the loaf and the cup, that commemorates his acts of heroism that demonstrated his ultimate authority as eternal king. When we eat this bread, Jesus wants us to remember the whips that tore his back and the crown of thorns that tore into his scalp. When we drink this cup, Jesus calls us to remember he willingly poured out his blood for our atonement. Jesus is the eternal ruler of all because of his death and resurrection.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.