THE BATTLE IS ON
Holy Father, your thoughts are higher than my thoughts, as heaven is higher than the earth. What a mighty God I serve.
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[a] 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.”
- Matthew 16:25 The Greek word means either life or soul; also in verse 26.
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.
‘The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.’1
Perhaps the main challenge of today’s passage is to realize that following Jesus means conflict with ease and comfort. That could mean suffering and hardship (vs 21–23), self-denial – and even forfeiting one’s life (vs 24–26). It could mean facing the unbelief of those who refuse to accept that Jesus is the Messiah, Savior and Lord, even when we want to share the gospel with them. This was probably not what the disciples wanted to hear, but what they needed to accept as the cost of following Jesus. There is a battle to fight and a calling to share in their Lord’s suffering – but also to share in his victory (vs 24,28).
What sort of Christian life is presented by the church today? One wonders if the challenge of these verses is often sidelined and the note of spiritual struggle which Jesus presents is absent. Yet this is the mark of authentic Christianity. As George Duffield’s 1858 hymn puts it, ‘Stand up, stand up for Jesus, / ye soldiers of the Cross … where duty calls, or danger, / be never wanting there.’
This chapter underlines that followers of Christ are not to be passive observers of their Lord and what he does. As WD Davies and Dale C Allison wrote in Matthew – a Shorter Commentary: ‘They are not to be seated spectators watching from the grandstand the actions foretold in verses 21–23.’2 Rather, the call to follow our Lord is clear: ‘Discipleship is a doing of what is right, no matter how irksome the privations, no matter how great the dangers.’2 As we read later in the New Testament, faith without works is dead,3 so let us echo the cry ‘Yet not as I will, but as you will’.4
‘When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.’5 How do I respond to that?
Dear God, when my world is shaken, I get shaky. Thank you for the strength and stability that’s mine in you.
1 D Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, SCM, 2001, p151 2 Davies and Allison, T&T Clark, 2004, p278 3 James 2:17 4 Matt 26:39 5 Bonhoeffer, p44
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