Grace Lutheran Church Weekly Devotion - Matthew 16:21–28
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? 27For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Following the time of Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16), Jesus felt it was time to reveal the things He must do to conduct His work as “the Christ.” And it would all climax with His suffering and death and resurrection in Jerusalem (cf. 21). However, the disciples pictured Jesus to be a conquering King, in the worldly realm. So, Peter boldly rebukes Jesus, “Far be it from You, Lord!,” in other words “this must not be!” (cf. 22). Even today human reason finds the idea of a crucified Christ offensive. They see Jesus as a Leader, Teacher, an Example, but as the Savior who sacrificed Himself on the cross to atone for men’s sins “far be it from You, Lord!”
After scolding Peter, Jesus proceeds to tell His disciples that they too must walk the way of the cross. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself” (24). In other words, “let him deny” his old nature, his carnal desires, all the things which he would naturally love. That may be giving up sinful pleasures, wrongful gain, popularity, and those who would lead you away from God. What is more, self-denial may bring dissension in our own home. Jesus said, “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother . . .. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (cf. Mt.10:35-36). Self-denial calls for control of passion at all costs; “If your right eye causes you to sin, [Jesus says] tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (cf. Mt. 5:20-30). Again, “If anyone would come after Me, let him . . . take up his cross.” The cross here may be mockery and persecution for Christ’s sake. Second Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The cross we bear for Christ’s sake may be suffering or affliction which the Lord permits to come into our lives to crucify our self-will. Taking up our cross is not a cross of our choosing, God Himself chooses the proper cross for you. And you can be sure it will always be the one that is best suited to your needs.
Followers of Christ must lose this worldly life if we are to have eternal life. Trying to save this temporal life by giving up Christ and His doctrine, a person loses their true life here and eternal life hereafter. Self-denial and taking up our cross and enduring all sorts of calamities is difficult. Yet, none of us can come to Christ, deny self, take up our cross, and follow Him unless the Holy Spirit calls us through the Gospel, strengthens, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith. So, rejoice, again I say rejoice! Jesus did “the things of God.” He willingly suffered, died, and rose again, because He loves us even “while we [are] still sinners” (cf. Rm. 5:8). And I pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit, every one of us will answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” . . . “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (cf. 15-16) and fill our lives with “the things of God.” Amen.
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Cheyenne Wells, CO, 80810-0728
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