36 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” 37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.
Christ’s Work on the Cross at Calvary
John the Baptist said it par excellence when he declared of Christ, “Behold, the Lamb of God”. The Apostle Paul likewise said, God put forward Christ on the cross at Calvary “As propitiation by his blood to be received by faith”. Paul also writes of Christ as the once and for all, fully sufficient sin offering in saying, “Jesus… suffered outside the camp, bearing His reproach” and “We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh…”
The Lord Jesus Christ became sin, who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God. That is, Christ ‘bore our sins in his body on the tree’ and redeemed his elect by his blood. Christ became the sin offering to fulfill all the ‘types’ of sin offerings. Indeed, the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin–they merely pointed to Christ and the true, real work of redemption by Christ alone.
Thus, the Lord Jesus fulfilled and kept the law perfectly in his life (perfect righteousness) and made full atonement for the sin of man on the cross (bearing God’s curse against sin).
Man, in inherited sin from Adam at birth and his own sin in life, is estranged from God. Indeed, it is written, “There is none righteous, no, not one” and “All have sinned” and again “He who says he has no sin is a liar”.
Is any man, then, able to bear the weight and punishment of sin? Is Peter? Are any of the other apostles? Is any man or woman today? Surely not! The Word of God says, “The soul that sins shall surely die”. Rightly does Paul say in Ephesians that those outside Christ are dead. Likewise, are not all who do not believe condemned already?
The prophets and apostles indeed tell us that all of mankind are transgressors and evil and the psalmist writes that the Most High over all the earth is ‘Angry with the wicked everyday’.
What can mere man do about his plight?––A transgressor, a law-breaker, a miserable poor creature in bondage to sin, at enmity with God. It can easily be observed in only the third chapter of the first book of Holy Writ, that sinful man cannot have any peaceful relationship to God in his fallen state.
The Sword––God’s Wrath Against Sin
In Genesis 3, after we learn of Adam and Eve’s transgression against God’s covenant, we read the result and punishment of their rebellion:
“So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).
This Cherubim with his flaming sword guards the entrance back into the presence of God, into fellowship with the Holy God. Man, even the first man and woman, can no longer approach God because of their sin.
This Cherubim and his flaming sword moving every way is undoubtedly true history, but their is a mighty lesson we are to learn in addition to simply acknowledging a historical, pyhsical fact.
What me must learn and understand is that the Cherubim and flaming sword represent the absolute inability of sinful man to approach the Holy God. This was the physical and spiritual case for Adam and Eve, but it remains as the spiritual reality to this very day.
Not only does this Cherubim bear the flaming sword, he bears it perfectly and without mistake––it turns every way. One cannot slip past it back into Eden, that is, into the presence of God. One way may be tried, then suddenly the other, and another, but alas, it is no use for Adam or Eve, or any man since, to labor to get safely past God’s wrath against sin––the sword turns every way.
Nor is this merely a blunt or dull sword, one that would only give an injury, only make one lame. Nothing could be less true. Paul writes that those who are under the wrath of God will find ‘eternal destruction’.
Christ and the Sword
Although we, mere man, cannot escape this sword by anything within ourselves––not by good deeds, by intellect or cleverness, family or ethnic ties, or anything else––there is hope outside ourselves, in him called Jesus.
The prophet Zechariah teaches us something truly remarkable about this sword. He declares the ‘Sword will awake against [the Lord’s] shepherd and against the man, my associate… Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered’ (Zechariah 13:7-8). Surely, as the scriptures say in Zechariah, the sword, the striking, the smiting, is to be born by the Most High God’s associate, his fellow, that is, his Messiah, him Christ Jesus.
This sword, this wrath against all sin, that turns every way, awakes against the Lord’s associate, him Christ Jesus. Indeed, Isaiah writes, it ‘pleased the Lord to crush [Messiah].’
Truly, we cannot go where Jesus the Messiah is to go, we, nor Peter, can follow. There is a Cherubim, there is a flaming sword. God will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, every soul that sins will surely die and enter into eternal destruction unless something has been done on his behalf, if the sword has been taken for him, on his behalf.
Blessed, then, is the reader of the words, Christ ‘became a curse for us’, ‘he became sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God’. Christ, the Messiah became the sin-offering, the Passover lamb––he was struck by this wrathful sword on behalf of the children of God. Though having no sin whatsoever in himself––being in all ways perfect––he has borne our sin that we may be forgiven. In this way God is both just––he punishes sin as his justice demands––and the justifier–he redeems sinful men from the curse of the law by imputing his own perfect righteousness to those who repent and believe, who embrace Christ by faith alone for salvation.
In other words, the swords does not cease to strike (justice) but the one struck (Messiah) bears the punishment, thus making atonement for the sin of his elect (grace). This was all accomplished in Jesus Christ as he has lived a perfect life without sin and bore God’s punishment against sin as our substitute on the cross.
Man and the Sword
This sword, this wrath against sin, however, is not broken. Indeed, it still remains for anyone outside of Christ. As the Apostle John writes, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him”.
My friends, the sword of God’s wrath still turns and smarts fiercely and mortally in every direction but one––the way of Christ’s sacrificial work. There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must (the sword flames! the sword turns and smites in every other way!) be saved. This name is the name above all names––Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
Truly, for those who are hid with Christ in God, who rest in the shadow of his wings, those who call upon the Lord for salvation, who, by faith, paint the blood of the lamb on the doorpost of their hearts, the way is safe, the sword will not strike you (Christ has already been struck on your behalf). Does the scripture not say ‘anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will not be disappointed’? Likewise, it is written, ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved’.
We, nor Peter, could not have followed Christ to Calvary––mortal wrath against sin––but we, by Christ’s work ‘will follow later’.
Truly we, nor Peter, nor any man, could follow Christ to Calvary. But in the new and living way made by Christ’s obedience and perfect sacrifice, we can ‘follow later’ (This work is finished, today is the day of salvation!) in the new and living way–by faith in Christ work on our behalf.
O blessings and praises be bestowed upon the name of Jesus! Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
Where Are We to Follow Christ to?
Yet, you may ask at last, please tell me where we are following Christ. Why, the answer is a blessed one, for we are going through the veil, through the separation and partition (once necessary between God and man because of our sin and rebellion but no longer necessary since we’ve been forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice and given his perfect righteousness) to the tree of life, to dwell with God for all of eternity. No eye has seen, says the scripture, nor has any ear heard, nor the heart imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.
Come and welcome to Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Lord our Righteousness, the bearer of our sin, who now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for his children having said it himself as he died on the cross, ‘It is finished’. Christ, smitten by God, died and was buried. Yet, accomplishing his work of sacrifice, he rose from the grave and ever lives and ever intercedes, and is the living way for those whom God has called.
Today, O sinner, if you hear God’s voice, do not harden your heart but believe. No man, woman or Child is unable to be saved, to be delivered from the sword, from God’s wrath against them and their sin. The scripture says, God justifies the ungodly, the sinner. Are you an ungodly, wicked sinner? Then you qualify as one for whom God has come into the world to save.
You cannot go where Christ went, you cannot bear God’s wrath and live, you cannot save yourself. But thanks be to God that Christ says to you, come through the new and living way I have made, trust in my work alone for your salvation, enter into the joy of your master. Repent, believe, be saved.