Matthew 16:21. 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.
He had previously spoken somewhat darkly concerning his death; but it was so sad and so strange a revelation to his disciples that they could not think he really meant quite what he said. But now he began definitely and plainly to tell them about the future, and even to enter into details concerning his death and resurrection. He knew all that the work of redemption would involve for him; he had counted the cost; but—
“When the Saviour knew The price of pardon was his blood,
His pity ne’er withdrew.”
It must have been very saddening, but, at the same time, very profitable to the minds of the apostles to be led by their Lord in this direction.
Matthew 16:22. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
The margin reads, “Pity thyself, Lord,” as though Peter meant to say, “God grant, of his infinite mercy, that this may not be true! How can it be that such an one as thou art should die?” He probably thought that Christ’s death would be the end of his kingdom, the ruin of all his people’s hopes, the quenching of the light of Israel; so, in his zeal for his Master’s cause, he cried, “This shall not be unto thee.”
Matthew 16:23. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savour not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
Notice the contrast between the 18th verse and the 23rd. In the 18th verse, Christ had said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church;” and here he is saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” I do not understand our Lord to have called Peter Satan, but to have looked right through Peter, and to have seen Satan standing behind him, and making use of the apostle to be his spokesman. The best of men may sometimes serve the devil’s turn better than a bad man would. He may speak, through those who love the Lord, words which are clean contrary to the mind of Christ. So Christ sees Satan lurking, as in an entrenchment, behind Peter, and he says, “Get thee behind me: thou art an offence unto me.” The idea of pitying himself—the thought of shirking the task upon which he had entered—was offensive to him. There was a savour about it of the things of men,—of self and of self-saving, instead of self-denial, and generous, disinterested, Godlike self-sacrifice. Oh, that we would always speak, as Christ did on this occasion, whenever anything is proposed to us by which we should avoid the cross that he intends us to carry! When anyone wants us to moderate our zeal, or to tone down our opinions, less we should have to suffer for our faithfulness, let us reply, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” What has a soldier of the cross to do with avoiding the battle with evil? He should be ever ready for the good fight of faith. What has an heir of heaven to do with the saving of himself? Let him say, with the apostle Paul, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Matthew 16:24-25. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, 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.
This is the law of self-sacrifice, based on the sacrifice of Christ, and leading up to the complete sacrifice of the redeemed. We are not our own; we are bought with a price. To try to keep ourselves to ourselves, would be acting contrary to the whole spirit of the redemption which Christ has wrought for us; and that is the last thing that any Christian should think of doing.
Matthew 16:26-28. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
By which, I suppose he meant that they should see him in his majesty; —that, notwithstanding the cross, they should see something of his crown of glory, as they did when they beheld him after his resurrection, and as they did, even better, when he ascended on high; and as they did, some of them, in vision, when they saw him standing at the right hand of God, even the Father.