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§ 181. The Disciples prohibited to reveal Christ’s Messianic Dignity.—The Weakness of Peter rebuked. (Matt., xvi., 20-28; Mark, viii., 30.)

Thus Christ confirmed the Apostles in their confession of his Messianic dignity. But he knew, at the same time, that their minds were still tinctured with the ordinary ideas and expectations of a visible kingdom to be founded by Messiah; and he, therefore, gradually taught them that it was by his own sufferings that the kingdom of God was to be established. [Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. From that time he began to show to his disciples how that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, &c.]

The prohibition was doubtless given with a view to prevent them from diffusing the expectations of Messiah which they then entertained, and thus leading the people to political undertakings, and the like, in opposition to the objects of Christ. The words that immediately follow the prohibition confirm this view of it. But Christ’s declarations that sufferings lay before him was too far opposed to the disciples’ opinions and wishes to find easy entrance to their minds. “Be it far from thee, Lord,” said Peter; an exclamation inspired, indeed, by love, but a love attaching itself rather to the earthly manifestation of Christ’s person, than to its higher one; a love in which natural and human feelings were not as yet made sufficiently subordinate to God and his kingdom. And as the Saviour had just before exalted Peter so highly, when he testified to that which had not been revealed to him by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven; so now he reproved him as severely for an utterance inspired by a love too much debased by flesh and blood. Human considerations were more to him than the cause of God; he sought, by presenting them, as far as in him lay, to prevent 273Christ from offering the sacrifice which his Divine calling demanded;493493   The alternations in Peter’s feelings, and his consequent desert of praise or blame from she Master, within so short a time, are so easily explained from the stand-point which he then occupied, that I cannot find any thing strange in Christ’s expressing himself thus oppositely to him, as Schleiermacher does (Werke, ii., 107). And, therefore, I see no internal ground for believing that the passage is not properly connected with the narrative here. and his disposition was rebuked with holy indignation.494494   This helps to fix the right point of view for understanding Christ’s previous declaration and promise to Peter; and the two addresses to him, taken together, attest the fidelity of the narrative as uncorrupted by a later ecclesiastical interest.

Christ then turned to his disciples, and gave them a lesson directly opposed to Peter’s weak unwillingness to sacrifice every thing to the one holy interest. He impressed upon them a truth pre-eminently necessary to the fulfilment of their calling, viz., that none but those who were prepared for every species of self-denial495495   It was naturally necessary for Christ to impress this truth frequently upon the disciples; Matt., xvi., 24; Mark, viii., 34, 35; Luke ix., 23, 24; and, therefore, the occurrence of similar passages, e.g., Matt., x., 38; John, xii., 25, 26, proves nothing against the originality of the discourses there recorded; although it is possible that his sayings to this effect on one occasion may have been combined with those uttered on another to the same tenor. could become his disciples, and enter into the kingdom of God, whose foundations he was about to lay. Finally, he announced to them that many among them would live to see the kingdom of God come forth in glorious victory over all its foes. It is true, they were not at that time able fully to comprehend this; only at a later period, by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, and by the course of events, the best commentary on prophecy, were they to be brought completely to understand it.

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