Friday 1 September 2023

 Matthew 16 v 21-28


We have come to the end of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, and He is now on His way to Jerusalem and the Cross, where He will suffer and be killed. He predicts He will be  arrested and face crucifixion.

Peter took Jesus aside, and told Him that this should not happen. In consideration of the Jewish master-disciple relationship agreement, it was unacceptable for a disciple to try and correct his master.

 The Apostles knew Jesus was the Messiah, but they had a mistaken understanding of what hat meant to Jesus. They, like many Jews saw the Messiah as a warrior, who would remove the Romans from their country and lead Israel to power. This is why Jesus had commanded them not to tell anyone who He was.

 Peter’s reaction is indicative of how they had not realized what Jesus meant when He claimed to be the Messiah and Son of God. Jesus opened their eyes to the fact that for Him, the Cross was the only way to suffer at the hands of the elders, chief priests and scribes. Peter had been brought up to on the idea of a Messiah with power, glory and conquest. This brought a rebuke from Jesus, with a get behind me Satan. The Apostles had forgotten the prophecy of Isaiah 53, which foretold all that would happen.

 Jesus reacted in the way He did, because there came back to Him in that moment, all that He had already been through with the temptations, alone in the wilderness, all of which He had to face from Satan, and now Peter was imitating to do the devil’s way. He knew that Peter loved Him and was only trying to protect Him

 Jesus then said something which He had stated previously several times, that whoever wants to follow Him must do three things. First, he/she must deny themselves, which includes self-denial of certain activities, and make God the center of life. Secondly, take up his/her cross. The life of some sacrifice, such  as time and pleasure to serve God. The Christian life can be a sacrificial life by the demands of God, and the needs of others. Thirdly, must follow Jesus Christ, that is to render  perfect obedience and obey the commands He made, which are in the Scriptures.

 In this world there is a difference between living and existing. To exist, is to have the body functions  in working order; to live is to be in a world where everywhere gives pleasure and feels worthwhile. Jesus, gives us the recipe for life, as distinct from existence.

 A person may be intent on being safe. When Matthew wrote his gospel, the days saw bitter persecution, and to avoid being involved, people would surrender their faith, but this was seen as losing your life, not saving it. The person who is faithful may die, but he lives to die.  We may not live now for martyrdom. But it is still fact, that people for the sake of safety, ease and comfort, take the decision to fall in line with what grants that. We saw, for example in the last war, when Germany occupied most of Europe, people co-operated with the Nazi forces to avoid hardship.

 The one who risks all for Christ will find life. It has always been a fact of life that the person who has been adventurous and ignored security and safety, were those who made history, and in so doing helped others. Unless brave people had not been prepared to take risks, medical cures would not have been discovered ; unless mothers had taken risks, few would have been born; it is those who believe there is a God, that finds life.

 Jesus stated, if a man plays for safety and gains the whole world, then finds life is not worth living, he cannot get life back again. In every decision of life, we can make ourselves a certain kind of person, with a recognized character, and become unable to do less worthy things.  The world  stands for material things opposed to God, and a person can gain all the heart was set upon, and

find the effort has made them ill, or found the real thing gained was a disappointment All that we attain, will have to be surrendered when our life is over . The world is full of voices shouting that a person is a fool who gives their life for material things.

 Jesus then asks, what will a man give for his soul.  A man who loses his life for security and all else, will find he can never get it back and give Christ a place in his life. People sometimes give money to help the local parish Church survive, especially in a village setting, which adds a feeling of having a home in a typical English scenery. The fact that this is an evasion, which does not reflect a Christian character, is not realized, the only gift possible to please Christ is to attend the Church to worship Him.

 The chapter ends with two distinct sayings. The first is a warning of inevitable judgement.  Life is going somewhere, and life is going to judgement There is no escape from the fact that Christianity teaches, that the persons who keep themselves in safety, and comfort are in heaven’s eyes a failure however rich, successful and prosperous.  The one who spends life for others, who earns heaven’s praise, will receive God’s rewards.

 The second saying is a promise. Jesus said to a gathering of people, that there were people present who would not see death, until they saw the Kingdom of God come with power. There were men standing  there who saw the coming of Jesus  in the coming of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost. There were those who were to see, Gentiles and Jews swept into the Kingdom, which spread across Asia Minor and Europe until it met Rome.

 This should be taken with what went before. Jesus had warned His Apostles He had to go to Jerusalem, where He would suffer and die. That was the shame, but the shame was not the end. After the Cross came the Resurrection.  The Cross was not to be the end, it was the beginning, to unleash the power that would circulate around the world. This was the promise to the disciples of Jesus Christ, that nothing can hinder the expansion of the Son of God.

 We see in these verses, the impression the disciples had of the reason for Jesus coming into this world. Like Peter, they could accept the idea of a crucifixion. They did not see the need for Him to suffer then die. Our Lord corrects these ideas in solemn tones.    .We learn that people must make up their minds they will face trouble and self-denial to follow Jesus,

 The Lord further surprises them by telling they must take up the cross; they must face the fact they will experience persecution and affliction ,if they are to be His disciples. They  may face death, in order to save their souls. It is for us to see these facts, and not conceal them from true Christianity, but it is spiritual death that Jesus has in mind.  There is a warfare to be faced, the world for us is not a playground, it is a battlefield. All this is part of real religion.

 Jesus stressed the saying He repeated several times in His ministry, the question, what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and loses his soul. There is not heaven without a soul that has been saved. The Bible teaches through the New Testament that there is nothing on or under the earth that can make amends for a lost soul.  The world and all that is in it is temporal, fading and passing away, but the soul is eternal.  The fear of the cross, he narrow way is what we must face, but Jesus always made it plain that becoming a true Christian means counting the cost, and warned people to reflect on this.  Jesus sought quality, not quantity; the  second coming of the Lord will  be the time when His people will get their rewards.

 Jesus knows the heart of a man/woman, He knows how we can feel cast down and become discouraged. So holds out a promise, that He is returning one day to earth, and this time His people receive their good things. There will be honor and glory and reward in abundance, for all who have served and loved Jesus.  The bitter must come before the sweet, the cross before the crown.  

 As  you read this passage. look at the message, we must be prepared to accept a different way of life from the many, and if you believe in the teaching of the soul, it will be your eternal destiny.


May the Lord bless His message to us, and His Holy Name be praised.

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