The Critical Move


Matthew 16:21

From then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, and that He . . . would be killed, but on the third day He would be raised from the dead (v.21).

Mystery novelist Agatha Christie once suggested that the best way to tell a story that will leave an audience guessing to the end is to conceal the “critical move” with a “big move.” A mysterious movie that stumped me till the end is The Sixth Sense.

The big move was a therapist who started to see a young boy who claimed to see dead people. The critical move that took countless viewers by surprise [spoiler alert] was that the therapist later learned that the reason the young boy “saw” him was because he himself was actually dead.

Jesus’ story took an unexpected twist that few, if any, in His day saw coming. The “big move,” so to speak, was that Jesus was King (Matthew 2:2; John 18:37). His royal proclamation caught many people’s attention, supporters and detractors alike. But as far as we know, no one in His day would have guessed how He would ultimately establish His kingdom.

Yes, He was the King of kings. But as He once tried to explain to those closest to Him, His kingdom would be brought about through His suffering and death (Matthew 16:21). This was the “critical move” that took everyone by surprise.

The cross (and His stunning resurrection) was the unlikely means by which He would defeat the ultimate enemy of sin and death on our behalf—officially establishing His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. In an irony of ironies, the cross on which King Jesus was “lifted up” (John 12:31) turned out to be the “throne” on which His glorious reign ultimately began.

Though they were clueless of its true meaning, even His Roman executioners got it right when they hung this inscription over His head: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37).

—Jeff Olson


Read Matthew 16:24 and consider what it means for you to “take up your cross” and follow Jesus.


Why is it vital that we realize that Jesus the King died on a criminal’s cross? How has His sacrifice changed your life?


lady antebellum sings praises to jesus at their concert from alegator21 on godtube.