Summary: Why do evil people seem to prosper, while good people suffer? Is there any justice? Let’s realize that payday is coming, for good and evil. Let’s discuss carrying our cross in Matthew 16:21-28.

Why do evil people seem to prosper, while good people suffer? Is there any justice? Let’s realize that payday is coming, for good and evil. Let’s discuss carrying our cross in Matthew 16:21-28.

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. (Matthew 16:21 NKJV)

Jewish Messiahs were traditionally conquering military heroes who saved Israel from enemies. Jesus went totally against that paradigm, prophesying His crucifixion. This seemed to be admitting defeat. Peter’s immediate response was to reprimand Jesus. Yet, in Jesus loss is gain, defeat is victory. The cross transcends all vain human ideals.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:22-23 NKJV)

Have we expected the Christian life to be one of health and wealth and no suffering? That is a false modern gospel. Life includes suffering. We may want to try and prevent pain. Yet, our good intentions may actually do more harm. Like Peter, we may be benefiting the devil.

Satan means “adversary.” The word “behind” is translated in the next verse as “follow” me. Jesus wanted Peter to quit opposing Him, being an adversary and get behind Him and follow Him. When we try to take the lead from Jesus, to be more righteous than Jesus, we are adversaries.

Peter went from rock of the Rock to rock of stumbling very quickly indeed. He did even worse, later denying Jesus. Do we sometimes look at God’s plans and cry out, “Lord; this shall not happen!” Are we also tempted to lose faith or cry out to heaven in objection?

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24 NKJV)

Peter’s confession made him a rock of the Rock, with a key to open the kingdom of heaven. Our opening the kingdom may also include our public confession of Christ in baptism and confirmation. That's just the beginning. It also continues, including lifelong repentance, faith, carrying our cross and following Christ.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25 NKJV)

This is counter-intuitive to self-preservation. Each of us actually has two lives and this riddle speaks of both. Jesus asks us to be willing to lose this temporal life, to gain eternal life. It’s not suicide. It’s giving up self-centered ways, taking up the cross of self-sacrifice and following Him.

For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26 NKJV)

In plain English, what are our lives worth? Soul also means life or breath, everything that makes us ourselves. The paradox is that selfishness destroys us. God reveals to us what we are worth to Him by Jesus’ death. True life is found not in narcissistic selfishness but in giving.

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. (Matthew 16:27 NKJV)

We are saved by a living faith, and “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26). “Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:10; 7:19) We are to be “fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10).

We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). God, “will reward each person according to what they have done” (Matthew 16:27). By faith we receive the free gift of eternal life. This kind of faith is visible through good deeds, and receives a good reward.

New King James Version (NKJV) Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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