September 10, 2023


Passage: Matthew 16:20

Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
— Matthew 16:20, ESV

The retreat in Caesarea Philippi was the most strategic meeting Jesus held with His disciples, until months later when they found themselves in an Upper Room in Jerusalem.  At this juncture, Jesus had accomplished almost all He wanted to do in His public ministry.  The most critical thing left on His agenda was a long walk to the Cross.

Jesus began this inning with the Apostles with a fastball.  He wound up with the question, “Who do people say that I am,” then let it rip by asking, “Who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter, Rock Johnson, hit it out of the park with his courageous confession of faith.

Next, Jesus threw them a curve.  At first it looked like the Lord was exhaling Peter above his peers, but that was not the case.  Christ was not exalting a person, but rather His people, “My church,” making the church the most important entity on earth, holding the keys to the kingdom of Heaven.

The third pitch thrown was a complete change-up.  Rather than the Lord Jesus Christ sending the disciples leaping out of the dugout and onto the field to make Him known, “Then He strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ.”

In the moment this seems so anti-climactic.  In our moment it would seem almost seems anti-Christian.  Aren’t Christians supposed to tell everyone that Jesus is the Christ?!  So why the warning from Jesus to keep quiet?

Jesus wanted the full gospel to go out.

The first follows of Jesus were Jews, of course, who tended to have a myopic view of the coming of the Messiah and the end of the age.  We can see clearly now that at least two thousand years pass between the first and second coming of Jesus.  They could not.

From the Old Testament prophets they knew the Messiah would arrive via the miracle of a virgin birth in Bethlehem.  He would be fully man and fully God, “God with us.”  He would atone for sin as the Suffering Servant, then crush the enemies of God’s people as the Conquering King.  They imagined this would all happen, however, in one fell swoop, one lifetime, one coming of the Messiah.

As attested by Simon Peter’s recent profession of faith, the first followers of Jesus believed in Him as the Messiah.  But they glossed over the struggle with sin, the bloody atonement, and skipped ahead to the ending when they would rule and reign with Christ.  In other words, they were missing the Cross.  This is not the full gospel, only half.

Like those first Christians at this particular point in their relationship with Christ, many modern believers balk at the struggle with sin and race forward for the rewards promised to those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  And while Jesus must be Lord in order to be your Savior, He has to be save you from your sin in order to become your Lord.

We must see Jesus as the Suffering Savior before we can exalt Him as Conquering King.  And, we must honestly assess our own sin, our own culpability that put Him on the Cross, and repent of it before we can bask in the extravagant grace of faith in Christ.

Simon Peter and the rest were not ready to take the whole gospel to the whole world, so Jesus bid them be silent.  You and I should be ready by now.  Are we?

Jesus wanted no false promises to be given out.

A half-baked gospel delivered by half-cocked Christians can do a full load of harm.  Jesus did not want Simon Peter and the rest to start running around Israel giving out false promises.  Can you imagine what those fellows might have preached if Jesus had let them loose prematurely?

Come to Jesus, they might have said, He’s going to overthrow the Romans and make Israel great again!  Come to Jesus, free fish and loaves for life!  Come to Jesus, good health for every body and great wealth in every billfold!  Knowing the danger of false promises, Jesus bid the disciples be silent for a season.  Certain preachers in our day should be permanently silenced.

False promises abound from slick-haired false prophets like Joel O’Steen and Kenneth Copeland and mouthy women in high heels like Paula White and Joyce Meyer, and all those like them who preach you can name it and claim it from God, who make man’s will superior to God’s will in the name of some prosperity gospel, who make false promises every time they open their mouths.  They should be silent.

False promises abound from the cults like the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses who cut up and add to Holy Scripture to make it suit their superstitions and sense of superiority, who claim they alone have the truth, who preach salvation by works rather than faith that works, who make false promises.  They should be silent.

False promises are the boast from big-mouthed preachers who pour it on at the end of a service, admonishing the congregation to sing just one more verse of “Just As I Am,” promising attendees that if they’ll take the first step God will take the rest, who put prayers in people’s mouths to repeat-after-me, then pronounce them saved without a doubt.  This is a false promise.  Such preachers should be silent.

Jesus did not come to give you your best life now.  If He did, then He’d have to apologize to Job, Elijah, Uriah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, the Apostles, and the millions of martyrs throughout church history.  Jesus did not come as a separate being created by God, but as “God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father” (Nicene Creed, which cults like the Mormons and Jehovahs Witnesses cannot recite).  Jesus did not come to give you fire insurance from Hell for the price of a cheap altar call repeat-after-me prayer.

The problem with Christianity in our contemporary culture is that 80% of us claim to be Christians but only 10% show any real evidence, which means most of the rest have bought into false promises of Heaven from a false gospel from Hell.

So how do you know you’ve learned and accepted the full gospel and are ready to share it with the world?

Jesus wanted disciples who are sold out. 

Jesus did not want a half gospel to go out.  He did not want false promises to be given out.  Jesus knew that only the sold out should be sent out as witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To be sold out, you have to walk with Jesus to the Cross, and take up your own.  You have to come to grips and confess your own sin, and nail it to Jesus’ Cross, and take up your own.  You have to fully believe Jesus died on His Cross, then rose again, and take up your own.

The purpose of the retreat in Caesarea Philippi was for Jesus to talk to the twelve about the Cross.  Just read the next couple of paragraphs in Matthew 16.  Obviously, Simon Peter and the others were not quite sold out on the idea.  But, though Peter would stumble and Thomas would doubt, they would all buy in, except for Judas Iscariot.

Today we can put ourselves into this story, knowing things they did not know at the time.  We have the whole Bible and the whole gospel.  There is no excuse for us to be half-baked.  There is no excuse for making false promises in the name of Christ.  There is no reason not to be sold out to the cause of Christ in this life, for the sake of the life to come.

So, what is Jesus saying to you?  Does He bid you to be silent, because you are not ready, perhaps not really Christian?  Or, can you skip ahead to the ending of Matthew’s Gospel and make the Great Commission your own?

If you know in your heart of hearts you have never repented of sin and trusted in Christ alone for salvation, then you know you cannot speak for someone you do not know.  False gospels have produced a lot of false Christians in the church.  If you are one, it is time to quit faking it, and fully come to the full gospel of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps you have some assurance you are a Christian, but you are also quite sure that there is something in your life that is not right, some sin that would make you a stumbling block rather than a successful witness.  What is it?  Is it worth the silencing of the gospel?  Is it more important to you than some soul in the balance who needs to come to Christ?  Get rid of it and get right with God.

What about you today who are sold out for Christ?  You are saved, you’ve been baptized, your are an active member in the church where God has called you.  You come to worship, you study the word of God, you live an obedient, holy, joyful life as a Christian.  Jesus would not bid you to be silent.  He would send you out.  So find someone as soon as you can, and share with them  the full, honest, costly gospel of Jesus Christ!

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