Matthew 17:23. Death is not the ultimate loss, nor does it ever pose a threat for the Christian because Christ conquered death for us, taking what we deserved upon himself, making death his slave, so that we would not be a slave to death. Now we are free to enjoy full satisfaction for every desire we were created with in total obedience to God who created ever desire, each one to be fully satisfied in him and his own eternal glorious goodness.
It’s the day after I originally wrote on Matthew 17:22As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. and today I see that I missed something…
“And they were greatly distressed.” This reminds me of something that happened just exactly one chapter ago –> Matthew 16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrancef to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Again here in chapter 17, the disciples appear to be showing loyalty and faith by becoming greatly distressed that Jesus was going (After all, they had basically ruined any chance of returning to a normal life without Jesus – they were semi celebrities and they’re ringleader was talking about dying, which to them may have sounded like giving up.) But like Jesus said in Matthew 16:23, that kind of anxiety is coming from a dependence-on, or a looking-out-for the things of man. As if to say ‘You don’t really care about God’s plan, you care about your plan and now God is ruining it.’ But what is wrong with that? A legitimate question, I think. The thing that is wrong with that way of thinking is that is reveals of your root belief in God, that he is not good, nor sovereign.
- He couldn’t be good because if he were good he would notice the hard work and time the disciples put in to Jesus and reward them for it, not take away their pillar of life.
- He couldn’t be sovereign because if he was sovereign he would find away to make his plan and a plan that work well for them work at the same time.
If I were one of Jesus 12 disciples and I was becoming anxious about Jesus going away – these are the two problems that would cross my mind. But by God’s grace I have a perspective the disciples don’t have – I already know about Easter Sunday…
The disciples were concerned that Jesus was leaving them, and indeed he was – further still he was going to be leaving himself in a matter of speaking, when an event that marked the climax of human history yet happened – the Son on the cross was separated from the Father. God, three in one, separated himself to bear the sins of man. He went away. But that was not the end of the story. He rose again. His obedience to the Father and following the lead of the Holy Spirit led him to the grave – AND – LIFE THAT CONQUERED DEATH. So I have to repeat, this message that Jesus already gave us in verse 23 of chapter 16: Set your mind on the things of God! Not on the things of man. Man sees death as the ultimate loss. No more fun, no more achievement, all possessions lost. And that’s right!!! Death is the ultimate loss! But much worse than we could imagine, because we imagine death as the termination of our physical bodies but what about spiritual death? Total separation from God.
— I’m colourblind, and that is like a partial death in the eyes for me. I can’t see colour as vibrant as my wife can and we talk about that sometime and it makes her sad, and it makes me sad too – Some colour that she sees is dead to me – terminated. But who made the colour? God. Who made the eyes to see it? God. Spiritual death and total separation from God is not just the absence of pleasant things – it is the deprivation of purpose. A creature that was created by God was meant to exist in a world God created for them to live in. To be separated from God for ever is to exist in a state where everything you were created to enjoy will be un-satisfied and you can never have it because you rejected the means to receive it which is life. — Back to the point —
The disciples anxiety upon hearing of Jesus death reveals that they don’t believe God is good AND sovereign, which is an issue because they acknowledge Jesus as God. If they were to articulate their feeling before Jesus they would say: ‘You cant leave us God. You promised that you would be our salvation so if you leave you would break your promise and God doesn’t break promises so are you God or not?’
I do this too! For example: My wife and I try to make a habit of talking with each other at bed time about our day as worship to God, where we sinned, what repentance looks like and encourage each other with scripture and gospel. Last night I confessed that I am often tempted at work to lie to my employer (who is also my mum) about my work time, by doing my own personal work on her time. I’m doing my work, but she is paying me. That attitude is the same attitude of the disciples in Matthew 17:23: In that moment – I don’t believe that God is good and sovereign. I think to myself I need money to support my life but if I’m honest with my time as God’s plan for me says – money (life support) will be taken away from me and I will die (or at least become very uncomfortable). I don’t believe God is good because if he was good he would provide for my life, rather than me having to provide for my self, and I don’t believe God is sovereign because if he was sovereign he would be able to allow provision for me, while allowing me to get the work I need to get done – done.
So what is the truth. Is God good? Is God sovereign? If the logic of my problem is; God can’t be good because he doesn’t care about me, and he can’t be sovereign because he doesn’t provide for me. Then the problem would cease to be a problem if God did care for me (and others) and he did provide for me (and others). So the question simplifies to: Does God care for me (and others), and does he provide for me and others?
If I look at my situation without reflecting on God’s promises I would say that the answer is no. God isn’t good because he doesn’t care for me in that if I follow his rules I will die, and he isn’t sovereign because his power doesn’t lead to victory which is life and life to the full, rather it leads to defeat which is death. If I do what God wants me to do, I WILL DIE – remains the fear in me as I consider whether to do things God’s way, or my way at work regarding my pay cheque and the riteful earning of it. But! If I look at my situation AND reflect on God’s promise (being Matthew10:38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.) death is not the end. In fact God’s purpose requires me to die so that he can live! In fact he says that if I don’t die to myself then I will have no life at all. So death is not my greatest fear, because in a very real sense I am already a dead man if I am not believing the good and sovereign plan of God through the death of Jesus Christ. No wonder my predicament seems to only end in death any way I turn – I was designed to die so that Christ might live and even I might live by his life. My life leads me to death – Christ’s life which overcomes death leads me to life.
Now look back at the disciples. They are looking at Jesus future department as assurance of death for them. They are likely going to literally be killed, but even if they survive in the the physical their lives are ruined because what they thought was success was failing. They’re anxious because they see believe that death is a higher power than God, therefore, to them, death is a god over God. That is what the disciples actually believe in this moment. That is what I actually believe in the moment I sin against God and my employer/mum by lying about my earnings. Death is a greater threat to me that separation from God… I have forgotten the gospel and it’s promise of salvation through the death and ressurection of Jesus Christ as given to us by the lips of Jesus in Matthew10:38-39. But if I believe that God is God, then I believe that death is under him and obedience to him – total trust in him, total dependence in him absolutely and assuredly results in total, full, and ultimate satisfaction of life because death is not a problem because God provides the escape. And if death is not a problem blocking us from receiving total satisfaction for every desire we were created with, then NOTHING is a problem blocking us from receiving satisfaction for every desire we were created with.
Death is not the ultimate loss, nor does it ever pose a threat for the Christian because Christ conquered death for us, taking what we deserved upon himself, making death his slave, so that we would not be a slave to death. Now we are free to enjoy full satisfaction for every desire we were created with in total obedience to God who created ever desire, each one to be fully satisfied in him and his own eternal glorious goodness.
It’s so good… It’s just stupid that we (myself and everyone else) forgets this… I guess that’s why God calls us his sheep, and his children. He doesn’t require us to be smart or skilled… just believe that he is a good dad and that what he says is true – and even that he gives to us when we fail to produce it ourselves which is always.