REWARDED FOR LOSING
Lord, help me to accept what makes no spiritual sense.
Read MATTHEW 16:21–28
Jesus Predicts His Death
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their 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 they have done.
28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
As Jesus died, Caesar was on his throne and death appeared to have the last word. Give God thanks for eyes to see beyond the surface.
Our familiarity with Peter’s story makes it extremely difficult for us to stand in his shoes and to comprehend the enormity of what he is facing. His understanding of how the world works is under challenge. No wonder it provokes an exceptionally strong reaction. We know that “Jesus came to die.” It trots off the tongue. For Peter and the other disciples, however, the death of the messiah is a contradiction of everything they have ever been taught. The messiah is not to be murdered. For Peter, Jesus is set for glory, not humiliation. Of course, if Peter has been listening, he has heard that resurrection follows rejection (21), i.e., the humbling precedes the glory. However, Peter is in no state to hear what Jesus is saying. Convinced that he knows better than Jesus, he ends up sounding like the devil instead. It’s what happens when we imagine we have it all figured out.
The death of Jesus is a monstrous crime. The rejection of God’s Chosen One is horrific. There is no other way, however: Jesus must die, and so must we. Like Jesus, we die to any claim to security; we deny our rights and are sometimes humiliated. It’s tough to be considered a loser. Being a winner is so much more attractive, even if it is only for this life. Losing means admitting mistakes, feeling sheepish, submitting to others, forfeiting the best things, perhaps living below the level to which we are accustomed—but through it we find life (25).
Not for the first time, Jesus now turns to the topic of his glorious return (27). Jesus the King will come in splendor to proclaim the real losers and winners. Until that point, however, these disciples will witness his kingdom’s arrival through his death and resurrection.
Business person or retired, bus driver or homemaker or athlete, what does it mean for you to “lose your life”? What does it look like?
Lord, we anxiously await Your exalted return to earth when You finally set up Your eternal kingdom here on earth.