Summary: Let’s discuss the value of the cross, losing ourselves to gain ourselves and living a holy life all from Matthew 16:21-28.
Prelude, Purpose, Plan
Have you ever suffered for doing good? Have you ever wondered if it was all worth it? Why do those who do evil seem to prosper? Is there any justice? Is evil really punished and good rewarded?
Let’s realize that payday is coming, for good and evil.
Let’s discuss the value of the cross, losing ourselves to gain ourselves and living a holy life all from Matthew 16:21-28.
Matthew 16:21 The Cross Transcends Human Traditions
In Matthew 16:21 we read that, “Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer.” Jewish Messiahs were traditionally conquering military heroes who saved Israel from enemies. Jesus went totally against that, prophesying his crucifixion. To Peter it seemed to be admitting defeat. Peter’s immediate response was to reprimand Jesus. A Messiah was supposed to conquer, to say take up your sword and follow me, not your cross. The Church of Jesus Christ needs ongoing reformation. We constantly need to pray for and follow His direction not lean on our human traditions. In Jesus, loss is gain, defeat is victory. The cross transcends tradition.
Matthew 16:22-23 Get Behind me Satan
We naturally want to protect others from possible suffering. Like Peter said to Jesus, do we also say, “No way”? Jesus’ reaction was blunt, “Get behind me Satan!” Have we tried to discourage children from what we imagined to be a poor career choice, when maybe it was their life’s calling, their purpose for being. It is an evil and diabolical thing to make a young person unhappy for life, merely for the sake of family expectations. We don’t want others to suffer, and so we tend to want to baby them. Yet, such good intentions may actually do more harm than good. Like Peter, we may be benefiting the devil.
Matthew 16:23 Opposing or Following Jesus
When Peter rebuked Jesus’ regarding his prophecy of his crucifixion, Jesus rebuked him saying, “Get behind Me, Satan!” Satan means “adversary.” Peter was opposed to Jesus’ plans. The word for “behind” is translated in the next verse as “follow” me. Jesus wanted Peter to quit being an adversary and get behind him and follow him. When we try to take the lead from Jesus, we are adversaries. When we create church rules in opposition to Jesus, we are adversaries. When we try to be more righteous than Jesus we are in opposition to him. In this story Jesus is also saying to us, “Back me up, you who are in opposition.”
Matthew 16:23 From Rock to Stumbling Stone
In Matthew 16:23 Jesus told Peter, “you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Peter went from rock of the Rock to rock of stumbling very quickly indeed. He also did worse, denying Jesus. We all experience ups and downs in our faith journey. There are times when we look at events around us and cry out, “Lord; this shall not happen!” Being crucified, at least figuratively, is something that Christians will experience. Are we too tempted to lose faith or cry out to heaven in objection? Let’s not stumble but remember that carrying our own cross of crucifixion is part of the journey.
Matthew 16:24 Confession without the Cross
In Matthew 16:24 Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Peter had confessed Christ. His acknowledgment made him a rock of the Rock, and he received the keys to the kingdom of heaven. But his public confession was not enough. Like us, he was to carry his cross. Altar calls are a public confession of Christ, popularized by Charles Finney in the 19th century. They are not always successful for this same reason. After confession of Jesus Christ is living a Christian life which includes, repentance of sin, baptism and carrying our cross and following Him.
Matthew 16:25 Lose Life to Save It
In Matthew 16:25 Jesus made the strange-sounding statement that “whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” It is counter-intuitive to our natural instincts. We do a lot to preserve our lives. How can Jesus ask us to give up our lives for his sake? Each of us actually has two lives and this riddle speaks of both. Jesus asks us to willingly lose this temporal life. In so doing we gain eternal life. He did not ask us to commit suicide, but give up our self-centered ways, take up our crosses of self-sacrifice and follow him.
Matthew 16:25-26 Losing & Gaining Our Souls
In Matthew 16:26 Jesus asks, “what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” In plain English, what are our lives worth? The Greek word translated as soul or life is the same word, meaning breath. It is used metaphorically for our life, everything that makes us ourselves. It’s a great paradox. Selfishness is a losing life. Giving of ourselves for Christ, we find true life. What good is it if we selfishly gain the whole world, when in so doing we lose ourselves? God values our worth by the death of His Son. True life is found not in narcissistic selfishness but in sharing with God and our neighbors.