Trinity 14/Proper 17 : Matthew 16:21-28
There are two different sermons...
Matthew 16:21 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, chief priests and 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 things of God, but the things of men." 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his 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 he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
Last week we saw how greatness is about being humble and serving, Luke 22.24-30. We compared the crown of an earthly King and Jesus' crown of thorns. We looked at road signs and the need to go God's way and not our own way if we want to get to the right place.
This week we see how Jesus humility and service would lead Him to the cross and resurrection, and how this went against the expectations of Peter and many of his fellow Jews.
I haven't played snooker for a long time. When I did play, one of the frustrations is that you could play a brilliant shot, followed immediately by missing an easy one. Even the professionals do this, sometimes.
Peter had just told Jesus that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, v. 16. Jesus had told him that he was blessed because God had revealed this to him. A reminder that it is by God's revelation that people discover Jesus. Jesus then told Peter that he would become the rock upon which the early church would be built, v. 18.
Jesus then tells his followers what kind of Christ He was going to be. Jesus explains that this will involve him being rejected and killed by the Jewish authorities before his resurrection.
This was a shock to Peter, who followed the thinking of the day that the Messiah would be a victorious earthly King who would defeat the Romans and establish a prosperous, peaceful Israel.
In human terms it was understandable that Peter and the Jewish people wanted to be free from Rome. Understandable that, as leader of the disciples Peter might have hoped for an important role in a restored Israel. But, God had sent Jesus to earth to show us how to live by His teaching and example, to be rejected, executed and raised to life. This was God's plan for Jesus. This was the person He was meant to be. Peter tries to impose his wishes upon Jesus and began to rebuke Jesus, v.22. The only positive thing about this is that he took Jesus to one side to do this, rather than rebuking him privately.
Little has changed in 2000 years. We still live in a world where people will try to rebuke us and try to direct us away from what God wants us to be and do. The litmus paper is are we following God's plans or people's sinful wishes? If we are following the wrong way this can offend God and be a stumbling block to the spread of His kingdom.
One of the ways of assessing what is the right way to go is to ask, “Is this from God. Is it rooted in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control?” Is it consistent with what we know about God and His ways from the Bible?
Today the philosophy of many is “If it feels good, do it”. They may use sex, tobacco, alcoholic drinks, drugs, sport or exercise, power, and position to get this. All of these things will fail to give true life, purpose, and lasting satisfaction. The way to follow is Jesus. His way is of self-denial but also love, acceptance, a purpose in life, and resurrection.
Last week we saw how Jesus' kingship and kingdom is different. Based on humility, service, sacrifice. Not being seen as great, being served and receiving.
Jesus said v24, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
We will all fail to follow Jesus properly all of the time. But this verse reminds us and challenges us that to follow Jesus means living a life of obedience to Him, to deny our own selfish will, to put to death a life with ourselves at the centre. This may seem negative, difficult and painful, and I am not suggesting that following Jesus is easy. In some cultures it will lead to people being ostracised, persecuted, executed. But, putting to death a selfish life means that, inspired by God's Spirit, we can be better people and this will bless us and others, too. Living for Jesus will also give us fellowship with God in this life, and into eternity.
The certain hope of resurrection is behind what Jesus is saying. He can face injustice, rejection, suffering and death because He knows that there is resurrection that flows from and follows these things. The true believer can also look forward to resurrection, especially when things are difficult.
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
It has been said that a faith that costs nothing is worth nothing.
This week I was talking to a colleague who had organised an outreach event that was not as well attended as he would have liked. He was saddened by this and the lack of interest by many in the Christian faith.
Following Jesus is not an easy route. It is not a popular route. Jesus said, Mt 7.14 “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.
So we need to be realistic. But we also need to be determined, empowered by God's Spirit to live for Jesus, equipped by God's Spirit with gifts of service, enabled by God's Spirit to produce fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
I don't know how many here have had a mortgage on your house and paid it off. You took out the loan, perhaps for 25 years. Paid regularly, sometimes with difficulty at the start, especially when interest rates were high. Then, finally one day, the last payment and you owned all of your home.
Whilst salvation is a free gift from God, Jesus teaches in verse 27 that those who do keep going with and in God can look forward to their reward in heaven. God sees everything that we do. Jesus said "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt 6:19-21 (NIV) Make Jesus your treasure, your delight. Follow Him.The song “What grace is mine” by Kristyn Getty to Londonderry air fits this passage very well http://www.gettymusic.com/hymns.aspx
1/9/02 6 p.m.
Used to be Manager of Insurance Brokerage. Relative asked me to get some Life Assurance quotes with different types of cover. Wasn't too bothered, but I obtained these and gave them to these people. Someone else who didn't have a full understanding of the types of Policies on offer, and wasn't prepared to listen to me tried to tell me I didn't know what I was doing ! I was banging my head against a brick wall so I left things.
In today's reading Peter tries to tell Jesus what type of Messiah he ought to be. Jesus corrects Peter and the disciples, and uses this to point to what it means to be a disciple and what reward this will bring. So we are thinking of three headings :
The True Messiah; The True Disciple; The True Reward.
The True Messiah.
A few verses earlier Peter had called Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, verse 17. Jesus replies that this had been revealed to Peter by God the Father and that Peter was the rock upon which he would build the church.
Peter had used the right words to describe Jesus, but he was unable to cope with what Jesus' Messiahship would involve. The Jews at the time expected that the Messiah would come in military power, defeat the Romans, and establish a prosperous earthly kingdom like that of King David. But Jesus was talking about being rejected by the religious rulers, being killed and raised to life on the third day. This was a shock for the disciples. There had been other rebels who had led uprisings against Rome and had been defeated and soon forgotten about. Was Jesus going to go the same way ? And what was this being raised to life ? They had seen Jesus raise people from the dead. Would it be like this ? They couldn't cope with the idea of this and Peter begins to rebuke Jesus.
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 things of God, but the things of men."
What a contrast to the previous passage we looked atv last week when Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ. Then Peter was speaking words revealed to him by God. Now he is speaking for Satan and for sinful humankind. Tempting Jesus with the easy route to glory, just as Satan had tempted him in the wilderness. Peter was described as a rock upon which the church would be built. Now he is described as a rock over which Jesus could stumble.
Today people may be able to use the right words about Jesus. Calling him Christ, Messiah, Son of God, even Lord. But words mean nothing without understanding and action. People need to understand that God chose Jesus' death on the cross as the only way by which they could be restored to a right relationship with God. It is a way that would have been unthinkable to a first-century Jew like Peter. It is a way that can seem barbaric and unjust to people today. God revealed to Peter who Jesus is. So, today, God needs to reveal to people not only who Jesus is but that he died for their sin. Receiving the punishment that they, and we deserve as he hung there on the cross, separated from God the Father.
It is only when people realise the type of Messiah that Jesus was that they can become a true follower of Him. Jesus was rejected, humiliated, and suffered because he followed God's will. He got up the nose of the Jewish religious leaders. He told them they had got it wrong, they misunderstood the law that they spent their time studying. That they were hypocrites pretending to be upright and religious but neglecting justice. His life and teaching were a challenge to them. So they killed him.
Jesus goes on to say that just as he is preparing to be burdened, to suffer, and to die, so too must the disciples be prepared to face a similar life, and perhaps, death.
So a understanding The True Messiah leads to...
The True Disciple.
If Jesus had been an all conquering earthly king it would be safe to assume that the disciples would not only be free from Roman rule but would occupy positions of influence in the government that Jesus would establish. They would be famous, their names would be recorded in the Jewish History books, they could give nice cushy jobs to their relatives and so on...
You can understand Peter's reaction to the news that Jesus was expecting to be killed by the Jewish religious leaders. He might have thought that now Jesus would confidently share with them his secret plans to oust the Romans.
Yet Jesus is saying the True Disciple who will follow Jesus is to also expect to suffer.
This will involve Self-denial. Putting God and other people first. Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane was not looking forward to dying on the cross the next day. But he prayed, 'Not my will but yours be done'.
It's not popular. It's not easy. But God calls us and equips us to do it in the power of the Holy Spirit. But we have to rely upon His Spirit and not our own.
We are to take up our cross. A voluntary act. It involves taking a burden upon ourselves. In Jesus' day the condemned man had to carry the cross beam that he would be crucified upon to the place of execution.
Sometimes we hear of someone referring to an illness or a difficulty as the cross that they have to carry. As Christians we need to understand the difference between the sufferings that are part of our humanity and those that are part of our Christianity.
There are some sufferings that are common to everyone. Things like disease, accidents, death, and natural disasters, such as the recent floods. They are not God's intended purpose for us but, because of our fallen world they happen. The fact that we are unhappy about these things does point to the perfect purpose for which we were created. A purpose that we all chose to ignore or reject at times.
Other sufferings come to Christians because they of their faith. In this country some Christians have lost their jobs because they refuse to work on Sundays. Others are under pressure because they do not conform to the standards of those around them. In other countries Christians do not need to have the opportunity to take a stand for Jesus. Just the fact that they are Christians can lead to them being attacked, beaten or killed and unable to get a job, justice, or political representation.
In Indonesia there have recently been murders and attacks in Mayoa to the south of Tentena. The razing to the ground of the villages of Matako, Betania-Malitu, Sepe and Silanca, the torture and massacre of Christians pulled from public buses and private vehicles.
This report came dated August 17, 2002
From Freedom Now World News
HIGH LEVEL ALERT:THE MASSACRE OF CHRISTIANS IN INDONESIA HAS BEGUN!
"After jihad terrorists have attacked and razed to the ground 5 Christian villages in the last 24 hours and several have been killed and wounded. One child was strangled to death. One elderly man was shot several times. Many others have been killed or badly wounded.
Many have fled into the jungles and tonight are living in fear and terror not knowing what tomorrow will bring. As they huddle in small groups under trees or jungle shrubs, they pray not knowing if they will be hunted down and slaughtered in the jungles or whether they will yet see another dawn.
Intelligence reports provided to us have warned that tonight the town of Tentena is in extreme danger. With thousands of jihad warriors based in Pandajaya to the south, Malino to the east, Poso to the north and only jungles to the west, we are warned that an attempt may be made to attack tonight or early tomorrow morning, as they plan to celebrate Indonesia's Indepence Day (August 17) in Tentena. This is a very high level alert and we urge your immediate attention."
Dr. Jeff Hammond, Indonesia.
Look at pieces of paper ( see the end of this ) to see the persecution that some Christians are undergoing and how we can pray for them.
Jesus said that being a true disciple may bring destruction.
25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
We have to give up our life to Jesus in order to gain a true life. Not existing but living it to the full, knowing God as our best friend. Our life is precious, priceless, more important than owning the whole world. We cannot give anything to buy our soul. The only price that could buy us has already been paid, Jesus, the only Son of God. Who loved us so much he gave his life on a cross.
This is so important to some people around the world that they are prepared to risk their jobs, comfort, reputation, even their lives.
It asks us the question, 'How comfortable are you ? ' If we are too comfortable then perhaps we are not denying ourselves enough. Perhaps, although we use the right language Jesus isn't truly Lord of everything. Our time, our money, our possessions, our relationships, our families, our jobs, our leisure activities, our reputation and so on.
A true disciple follows the true Messiah. A way of suffering and rejection.
The True Messiah; The True Disciple;
The True Reward.
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 he has done.
Does this disagree with the doctrine that we are saved by faith ? Isn't this saying that we will be saved by what we have done rather than our trust in Jesus ?
No. What this is saying is that a true disciple of Jesus will do what Jesus commands. In this passage his command is to self-denial. So those who have put their trust in Jesus will show that their trust is real by obeying him, denying themselves, putting God and others first. This shows that we have truly understood the lengths that God has gone to in saving us. This shows that we really have given up our lives in order to gain life. This life is eternal life. Eternal not only in it's length but also in its breadth. Eternal life is not only everlasting, it is a quality of life. A life in a right relationship with God the Father. A life where, one day, there will be no more death or mourning or weeping or pain because the old order of things will have passed away.
This is the kingdom that Jesus is referring to in verse 28. A kingdom that the disciples were to see a glimpse of in Jesus' Transfiguration, his resurrection and his ascension. A kingdom that will break fully into human history when Jesus returns. Not anonymously in a remote stable as a helpless baby. But in power and glory on the clouds for everyone to see. This is the living, certain hope that it ours as Christians. It is a hope that should inspire and sustain us as we seek to work and witness for Jesus.