Summary: What does it mean for us to "take up your cross" and deny ourselves. I signed up for the benefits! I didn’t sign up to die.
OPEN: I recently read the true story about a preacher who was standing at the door shaking hands as the congregation departed. He grabbed one man by the hand and pulled him aside.
The preacher said to him, "You need to join the Army of the Lord!"
The man replied, "I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Preacher."
The preacher questioned, "How come I don’t see you except for Christmas and Easter?"
He whispered back, "I’m in the secret service."
APPLY: The Secret Service? …I don’t think so.
ILLUS: Several years ago, I was exchanging ideas with several people on “BibleMaster.com”.
In the course of these conversations, I encountered a young man who’d just been called up to go to Iraq, because our nation had declared war on Saddam Hussein.
The problem for this young man was – he didn’t want to go.
He explained that he hadn’t joined the army to go to war… he’d joined because of the benefits: the pay, the college tuition, the insurance, etc.
Now, something’s wrong with that kind of thinking!!
One of the primary functions of the military is to prepare for war.
You’ve got to know that if you sign up! I’m sure its somewhere in the job description.
Armies do NOT exist to pass out benefits (those are perks).
Armies exists to deal with conflicts.
To defend their people.
To fight the enemy.
And hopefully to contend against evil.
But there are people who actually join up hoping for a free ride.
And that kind of mentality undermines the military of any nation.
That same kind of mentality can also undermine the church.
Too often believers sign up for the benefits. They expect Jesus to “be there” for them… but they don’t expect to “be there” for Him.
That’s the issue Jesus is addressing here in Matthew 16.
He’s explaining to His disciples that they’re part of His army.
He has called them to war, and there’s a decision to be made.
Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
In other words – it’s not about benefits.
It’s about picking up your cross and going into the trenches.
It’s about being willing (if necessary) to lose your life for Christ.
It’s all about being SERIOUS in our commitment to Jesus.
Jesus has been with His disciples now for at least 2 years. He’s been training them and teaching them, and exposing them to God’s power. And they’ve listened as He’s shared his teachings and His parables. They’ve seen Him heal the deaf, the mute and the lame. They’ve even seen Him raise a little girl from the dead.
In addition they’ve observed Him perform powerful miracles. They were out on the sea when Jesus came walking on the water. And again they were on that same sea when He stilled a frightening storm by simply saying “Peace be still.”
And they were there when 5000 men, along with their wives and children, were fed with 5 barley loaves and two small fish. And again when He fed 4000 men and their families in a similar way.
Just a few weeks before this story we find in Matthew 14 that Jesus sent His disciples out to the surrounding villages to preach, and to heal, and cast out demons.
But now, time is getting short.
Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion are only weeks away and Jesus has to make it clear to them how serious their task is.
So the first thing He does here is: He lays the foundation of their allegiance to Him.
In the early part of Matthew 16 He calls them together and asks:
“Who do men say that I am?”
And they reply, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Mt 16:13-14
Then Jesus asks: “But who do you say that I am”
Never a loss for words, Peter steps right up and says:
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16
And Jesus commends Him for that.
But then Jesus explains that He has one final battle to fight and explains to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests & teachers of law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Matthew 16:22 tells us that Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
This isn’t what Peter signed up for.
Jesus HAS TO LIVE… He’s not supposed to die!!!