The Narrow Road

Chapter 29

Even before His birth in Bethlehem, Christ was able to clearly see the path from the manger to Calvary. He knew the suffering that He would experience; yet He said, "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart." Psalm 40:7–8

His earthly life, so full of toil and self-sacrifice, was cheered by the knowledge that in giving His life for the life of men, He would win the world back to its loyalty to God. Although the sins of the world were to weigh upon Him, yet for the joy that was set before Him, He chose to endure the cross, disregarding the shame.

The work of Christ on earth was rapidly hastening to a close. Rejected by the religious leaders and the vast majority of the people, His work, humanly speaking, appeared to have been a failure. Traveling to the area of Caesarea Philippi, north of Galilee, where they were largely beyond the influence of Judaism, Jesus now endeavored to primarily dedicate His time to instructing His disciples, rather than teaching the people. Soon they were to see Him betrayed into the hands of His enemies. As they would see Him hung upon the cross of Calvary, He knew how bitter would be their disappointment. He also knew of the hatred and unbelief that would give rise to fierce persecution, and He desired to prepare them for their trials.

Before telling His disciples of His coming suffering, He went away alone and prayed that their hearts might be prepared to receive His words. Upon rejoining them, He did not at once open o them the burden of His heart. He first gave them an opportunity to confess their faith in Him. He asked, "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man am?"

Sadly the disciples were forced to acknowledge that Israel had failed to recognize Him as the Christ. Many were ready to accept Him as a prophet, and some as a great teacher, but they did not believe Him to be the Messiah.

Jesus now put forward a second question, relating to the disciples themselves: "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Though Peter expressed the faith of the twelve, the disciples were still far from understanding Christ's mission. While the opposition and misrepresentation of the priests and rulers could not turn them away from Christ, it still caused them great perplexity. The influence of their early training, the teaching of the church leaders, and the power of tradition largely blinded them to a clear understanding of truth. They were like men groping among shadows. But on this day, before they were brought face to face with the great trial of their faith, the Holy Spirit rested upon them in power. Beneath the guise of humanity, they discerned in Jesus the glory of the Son of God.

Jesus answered Peter, saying, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Jesus continued: "I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The word Peter signifies a stone—a rolling stone. Peter was not the rock upon which the church was founded. The gates of hell did prevail against him when, a short time later, he denied his Lord with cursing and swearing. The church was built upon One against whom the gates of hell could not prevail.

Peter himself, writing by inspiration, applies this prophecy to Jesus. He says, "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:3–5

"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 3:11. "Upon this rock," said Jesus, "I will build My church." In the presence of God and all the heavenly intelligences, in the presence of the unseen army of hell, Christ founded His church upon the living Rock. That Rock is Himself—His own body, broken and bruised for us. Against the church built upon this foundation, the gates of hell can never prevail.

How feeble the church appeared when Christ spoke these words! There was only a handful of believers, against whom all the power of demons and evil men would be directed; yet the followers of Christ were not to fear. Built upon the Rock of their strength, they could not be overthrown. For six thousand years, faith has built upon Christ. For six thousand years, the floods and tempests of satanic wrath have beaten upon the Rock of our salvation; but it stands unmoved.

Peter had expressed the truth that is the foundation of the church's faith, and Jesus now honored him as the representative of the whole body of believers. He said, "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

"The keys of the kingdom of heaven" are the words of Christ. All the words of Holy Scripture are His and are here included. These words have power to open and to shut heaven. They declare the conditions upon which men are received or rejected. Thus the work of those who preach God's word is a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. Theirs is a mission weighted with eternal results.

The Saviour did not commit the work of the gospel to Peter individually. If Jesus had delegated any special authority to one of the disciples above the others, we should not find them so often debating as to who should be the greatest. They would have submitted to the wish of their Master and honored the one whom He had chosen.

Instead of appointing one to be their head, Christ said to the disciples, "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. . . . Neither be ye called masters: or one is your Master, even Christ." Matthew 23:8, 10

Until this time, Jesus had withheld from them any knowledge of His sufferings and death. Now the time had come for the veil at hides the future to be withdrawn. "From that time forth began Jesus to show 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."

Speechless with grief and amazement, the disciples listened. Christ had accepted Peter's
acknowledgment of Him as the Son of God, and now His words pointing to His suffering and death seemed incomprehensible. Peter could not keep silent. Laying hold upon his Master, as if to draw Him back from His impending doom, exclaiming, "Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee."

Peter loved his Lord, but Jesus did not commend him for thus expressing the desire to shield Him from suffering. Peter's words were not such as would be a help and comfort to Jesus in the great trial before Him. The Saviour was moved to utter one of the sternest rebukes that ever fell from His lips: "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."

Through Peter's blind love, Satan was trying to discourage Jesus and turn Him from His mission. The prince of evil was the author of the thought, and it was to him, not to Peter, that the words of Christ were spoken. "Get thee behind Me, Satan!" No longer interfere between Me and My erring servant. Let Me come face to face with Peter that I may reveal to him the mystery of My love.

Jesus now explained to His disciples that His own life of denial was an example of what theirs should be. He said, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." To the disciples, His words, though dimly comprehended, pointed to their submission to the bitterest humiliation. Words could not have pictured a more complete self-surrender. In walking this road, they would, however, be but following in their Master's footsteps. Jesus did not count heaven a place to be desired while we were lost, but left the heavenly courts for a life of reproach and insult, and a death of shame. He who was rich, became poor, that through His poverty we might be rich.

On returning to Capernaum, Jesus, with His disciples, quietly found their way to the house that was to be His temporary home. During the remainder of His stay in Galilee, it was His purpose to instruct the disciples rather than to labor for the multitudes.

From the very beginning, there had been contention among the disciples as to which of them would have the most elevated and important position in the coming kingdom. Now, gathering His disciples about Him, Jesus said to them, "If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." Mark 9:35. The strife for the highest place was the outworking of that same spirit which was the beginning of the great controversy in the worlds above, and that which had brought Christ from heaven to die. Lucifer had said, "I will be like the Most High," Isaiah 14:14; and the desire for self-exaltation had brought strife into the heavenly courts, leading to the banishment of a multitude of the heavenly hosts. Lucifer desired God's power, but not His character. He sought for himself the highest place, and every being who is actuated by his spirit will do the same. Thus alienation, discord, and strife will be inevitable. Dominion becomes the prize of the strongest. The kingdom of Satan is a kingdom of force; every individual regards every other as an obstacle in the way of his own advancement, or a stepping-stone on which he himself may climb to a higher place.

While Lucifer was willing to lie and kill in order to be equal with God, Christ, leaving His exalted position in heaven, "Made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:7–8. Now the cross was just before Him; and His own disciples were so fined with self-seeking—the very principle of Satan's kingdom—that they could not 'enter into sympathy with their Lord, or even understand Him as He spoke of His humiliation for them.

Very tenderly, yet with solemn emphasis, Jesus tried to correct their wrong ideas. He showed them that unselfishness is the principle that bears sway in the kingdom of heaven and that true greatness consists in a willingness to serve others. Those who were actuated by pride and love of distinction were thinking of themselves and of the rewards they were to have, rather than how they were to render back to God the gifts they had received. They would have no place in the kingdom of heaven, for they were identified with the ranks of Satan.

Again Jesus explained to the disciples that earthly honor and display are not considered of value in His kingdom. At the feet of Jesus, all these differences are forgotten. The rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant, meet together, with no thought of social class or worldly standards of greatness. All meet as blood-bought souls, alike dependent upon One who has redeemed them to God.

This chapter is based on Matthew 16