Matthew 16: 21-28
Christ calls us to take up the cross and deny ourselves; this is extreme discipleship, a call that is to cancel out our will so we can submit to His. When we confess Christ as our Savior, it means He is our Lord. We are to surrender to His direction, call, and purpose. When we claim to be His, we need to commit and follow, leaving behind all that hinders and causes us to go astray. This goes against our will and our culture that says, you are number one, and you deserve whatever you want. But, usually what we want is not what is best. Yes, we deserve better; and better is to be in Christ and to follow His ways. When we deny ourselves, we are liberating ourselves from misdirected ways to His way, from temporary, skewed fun to eternal wonder.
· Deny himself is the stance of real commitment. Commitment is remaining obedient in our trust and faith regardless of our feelings, false opportunities, or oppression.
· Take up the cross is carrying the crossbeam to the crucifixion. Jesus was warning us of what is in store for those who are serious and real with the faith. Crucifixion was the most heinous form of execution ever devised in terms of pain and the terror it caused. It is not the entire cross that weighs hundreds of pounds. It is the horizontal portion; the pike portion was usually permanently placed. It literally means a condemned criminal or person carrying their own crossbeam to be used in their execution while the spectators would cry out insults. This is symbolic, and refers to our enduring mockery and scorn for being obedient.
· What profit. We tend to see life in terms of the power and possessions we have, but God sees the value of life in spiritual growth that leads to the character and relationships we form. There is no real profit in money and treasures-only in who we are in Christ. Jesus plays on the words to say, how can you play with your stuff if you are not alive (Psalm 49:7-9; 15).
· Reward each. Here is another proclamation to judgment. Jesus is the Judge who will evaluate us, whether we are saved or not, and reward us for how we serve and represent Him (Psalm 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Ezek. 18:30). This passage quotes Daniel 7:13-14 and Zechariah 14:5.
· Taste death. This phrase is colloquial to say "die." Some have said this means Jesus was to come back in the Disciples lifetime, but this is not the real meaning; others said it can mean the Transfiguration in the next passage which is a part of it (Matt. 17:1-13).
· Coming ties with death, and means a process. This means the events of the Passion, Resurrection, Ascension, and the role of the Holy Spirit, which all the Disciples experienced-except Judas. Jesus was to endure the Passion to usher in the Kingdom and proclaim His dominion.
· The process of tasting death applies to us, that our lives are a process. The Spirit of God is living in us! God's mission is to transform our hearts so we can live in the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom with His values and purpose, regardless of any opposition we might have or the opposition others give us. Usually, it is our own opposition that hinders us the greatest!
The ultimate battle in life is not with arms, it is with wills. This passage is not about choosing suffering; it is about following God's will regardless of suffering. This means we surrender our will to His. This means we are focused upon building our lives on His precepts, not ours. The only way to be a real, authentic follower of our Lord Jesus Christ is to deny what we want and pursue what He wants (John 3:29-30; Gal. 5:24). This means that who we are and how we are, to God and others around us, is essential. We must never be the stumbling stone, trying to muddle with God's plans for ourselves or others. We must conduct ourselves with utmost integrity (Psalm 15) that points to His example. Jesus does not force us to submit and surrender; He models it for us to follow.
- What would this do to your personal life, spiritual growth, and relationships?
2. Why do you suppose Peter, who had just boldly proclaimed his faith, quickly forgot it? Have you done this? If so, how, and why?
3. What would cause Peter to think he needed to protect Jesus?
4. To you, what would be considered extreme discipleship?
5. What hinders you or causes you to go astray from the principles to surrender, submit, and commit?
6. Why was Jesus' goal of martyrdom necessary to pay our dept of sin (Matthew 20:28)? What other passages can you think of to support this fact?
7. Peter tried to superimpose His plan upon our Lord's. How and why do you, or people you have come in contact with, do so?
8. Peter publicly criticized his Teacher-a cultural "no-no." Why would he do this? If you had been there, what would you have done?
9. Throughout Scripture, Jesus uses humorous witticisms and puns; in the Greek, Jesus is, at times, literally doing "stand up comedy." How does this affect your image of Christ?
10. Why is it the only way to be a real, authentic follower of our Lord Jesus Christ is to deny what we want and pursue what He wants? Why is this so hard? Why do so few Christians do this? Have you?
11. What do you need to do to be focused upon building your life on His precepts? Can you benchmark some goals? What can you do to see that these goals turn to reality and not trash?
© 2004 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org/