“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, 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” (Matt. 16:21–23).

Peter came through with flying colors on this examination as to the person of Jesus. But he failed miserably in his understanding of our Lord’s atoning mission. For him there was no place for death in his Christology. To Peter death could mean only defeat for all that was involved in Jesus’ ministry.

That the apostle was not alone in this regard may be seen in an examination of the attitudes held by others with respect to the death of Jesus. To the elders, chief priests, and scribes it was merely the removal of another threat to their privileged position (John 11:48). To the Romans it was only the execution of another criminal (Matthew 27:15–17). To the Greeks it simply involved another foolish sentiment of an unlearned people (1 Cor. 1:23). To the multitude of Jews it was a stumbling block to their faith (1 Cor. 1:23). To Jesus’ most devoted followers his death was a tragic defeat for all their hopes and dreams (Luke 24:21). To all the crucifixion of Jesus was an act of martyrdom to his ideals. In varying degrees all these attitudes have persisted through the centuries even unto this hour.

But to Jesus his own death was the center of history about which all his words and deeds would revolve. To be sure, for many the meaning ...

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