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An Unwelcome Prediction

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.” According to legend, prior to his arctic expedition Ernest Shackleton posted this ad. If Jesus had published an ad inviting men and women to become His disciples, what would He have written? He would probably have emphasized the rigors that came with the calling.

As Jesus and the disciples continued their temporary retreat from ministry in Galilee, they moved in a territory with a strong pagan influence. Caesarea Philippi had been given to Herod the Great in 20 B.C. and was being governed by his son Philip the Tetrarch. While there, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (v. 13). Popular opinion saw something unique in Jesus but fell short of the truth. Some believed Him to be John the Baptist risen from the dead. Others thought that He was Elijah, the one who Malachi had promised (Mal. 4:5). Still others thought that He was Jeremiah or one of the prophets that would appear in the last days.

Jesus was not trying to gauge His popularity. Rather, He used the opportunity to pose the same question to His disciples. Peter’s straightforward answer was a matter of divine revelation. Peter proved that God was the source of his insight after Jesus told the disciples what lay ahead: suffering, death, and resurrection. Perhaps emboldened by Jesus’ earlier praise, Peter pulled Jesus aside and rebuked Him for talking this way (v. 23). Peter meant well, but by trying to dissuade Jesus from going to the cross, he had become an unwitting tool of Satan.

>> Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (v. 24). This was literally true for most of the apostles, and it is metaphorically true for us. Only Jesus can die for our sins, but we must all die to ourselves (Rom. 8:13).

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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