Matthew 16:21-23 – From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
Jesus not only predicted his death three times, but also explained the circumstances leading up to and following his death. With utmost clarity, he knew and described that his journey to Jerusalem would eventuate in his bitter betrayal, false accusations, unjust arraignment, cruel death, and victorious resurrection. His prediction was more than foreknowledge; it was acceptance and surrender to God’s will.
Although the final two announcements garnered no verbal response from any disciple, the first announcement of Jesus’s death was staggering enough for Peter to speak up. Peter’s rebuke, though well intentioned, was actually the attempt of Satan to thwart the plan of God (16:23; see 4:8-10). Peter’s ill-advised rebuke was followed by Jesus’s insightful redress. Jesus summarily explained that following him requires taking God’s perspective by denying your own (see 10:38-39). Peter would have to deny himself by rejecting his concept of God’s plan for Jesus. People empower their expectations for life to rob them of the blessings available in the real life of God’s plan.
As the stakes were raised, the mettle of the disciples would be tested again. Could they accept that the death of the Christ and King would be for the good of anyone? Moreover, could they actually accept the truth that to lose one’s life was to actually obtain a better life (16:24-26)? Could they personally accept that truth and the change it would necessitate in their lives?
Answer this: What would you have to gain in order to feel like your choice to follow Jesus was worth it?
Many people could part with certain niceties and not infringe upon life. But Jesus does not ask you to just cut out the extras. He does not ask you to cut out fringe interests or passing amusements. No, Jesus asks you to give up your cherished ambitions. He asks you to surrender your will to God’s will. He asks you to submit to the rule that you’ve been opposing. He asks you to give up anything that characterizes your life as anything other than a cross-carrying follower. He asks you to avow, “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). He calls you to affirm, “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). We, who once rebelled against God, are now called to express our allegiance to Jesus by resolving to be obedient with the same energy with which we were previously rebellious. Take the passion you exerted in your sinful life and redirect such energies to yield yourself as an instrument of righteousness for God’s glory (Romans 6:13, 19). You can drop your cross to obtain the glory of the world, but your hands would still be empty and your soul would be lost. Yet if you clutch the cross, you will die to worldliness andbecome alive to God (Romans 6:11)!
Real discipleship involves following Jesus and doing his will, wherever that path might lead. Life will become more intense. You will be called upon to affirm your commitment to follow Jesus. Whatever you are clinging to in this world, whether real or imagined, is not a worthy replacement for Jesus. In fact, it is a dangerous idol that will ruin you by leaving you empty.
If your faith is being tested intensely then you must clutch the cross with the white-knuckle force of desperate dependence. Confirm your commitment. Follow Jesus wherever the path leads. Glorify God. Start today!
Daily Reading: Matt 16:21–23, Matt 17:22–23, Matt 20:17–19
Bible Reading Challenge: 14 Days on the Resurrection
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