Pondering the Passages: Matthew 16:24-28
This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
The disciples had just heard some news that devastated them... Jesus’ prediction that He would soon be killed. Peter reacted rather strongly to this news (as we might expect from Peter) – and Jesus let him have it with both barrels. He then looks his disciples squarely in the eyes and issues this spiritual gauntlet. Here are a few of the things that I thought about as I pondered this passage:
“If anyone would come after me“ – Jesus was not twisting His disciple’s arms and making them follow Him – and He is not twisting our arms either. He is making sure that their eyes are wide open and they know what they are getting themselves into. But it is their choice. And it is our choice. There are consequences to both choices just as there is in all of life. He spells out the consequences of “coming after Him”…
“deny himself” – When you say yes to Jesus you are automatically saying no to a lot of other things. The Christian life is a life of self-denial. There are a lot of things that I would really like to do, in fact that I think I would enjoy doing – that I choose NOT to do because I have said yes to Jesus. Everyday I have to deny myself worldly pleasure because the pleasure of God upon my life is more important.
“take up his cross” – For the early Christians, following Jesus was essentially a death sentence. All but one of the men He was talking to in this passage ended up being martyred – that is, being put to death for their faith in Jesus. We American Christians for the most part have absolutely no idea what this kind of commitment is like. We equate taking up our cross with being willing to wear a cross around our neck. In this sense, our faith has become somewhat of an accessory to our lives – an add-on, so to speak, rather than the driving force behind every decision that we make. We are very good at wearing our faith to impress others but not so good at living our faith to please God.
“follow me” – Following Jesus is not like following somebody on Twitter. You don’t just check in with Him from time to time to see how He is doing. And if you only let Him speak to you in 140 character sound bytes then you’ll miss a lot of what He wants to say. Following Him is more like being in a haunted house and He is leading the way and you are not about to let Him out of your sight. You stick with Him every step of the way because you never know what you might encounter around the next corner. In a lot of ways we live in a haunted world – but following Jesus takes the scariness out of it and allows us to experience the adventure of it.
“whoever wants to save his life will lose it” – Jesus has always been on the side of losers. There are a couple of things that come to my mind here: 1) you have to know that you are lost before you can be found. 2) You have to lose your grip on the all things worldly if you want to be saved. Americans too often find their salvation and satisfaction in things of this world rather than in the One who created the things of this world.
“What can a man gain in exchange for his soul?” Pleasure? Yes! Success? Yes! Fame? Yes! Toys? Yes! Acclaim? Yes!…. Eternal life? No! Joy? No! Applause of heaven? No! Reward from God? No!
We get so caught up in this life that we lose sight of the fact that we were created for Heaven. We forget that “the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory“.
May our choices today reflect the fact that we are living not for today but for THAT DAY!
I’m just sayin’!
Next Week’s Passage: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Next Week’s Memory Verse: 1 Peter 1:3