Losing for Jesus | Matthew 16:21-28
January 11, 2015 Series: Revelation of the King | Matthew Part III
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 16:21–16:28
Good morning, and welcome to Damascus Road Church this morning. My name is Randy, and I am one of the pastors here. I have the distinct honor of preaching the sermon this morning because Pastor Chris and his wife, Tara, had their 6th baby on Friday!! What a weekend! Seahawks win big, a new baby Rich, and now, we feast together on God’s word!
We are currently working our way through the book of Matthew as a church, and today we are going to look at Matthew 16:21-28 together.
21-23 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
24-27 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.
28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
The passage begins by telling us that Jesus begins to reveal more about what he is about to do. Specifically, Jesus tells them about the nearing of his betrayal, suffering, death, and resurrection. Do you remember what we studied last Sunday? The previous passage tells of Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ – the long-awaited Messiah – the Savior!! Finally, it seems, the disciples are starting to really see and understand who Jesus is. It seems that Jesus was pleased with Peter’s confession too! Jesus honors Peter in an amazing way in telling him, “Simon – blessed are you! Your name is now Peter (which sounds like ‘Rock’), and you are the rock on which I will build my church – and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!” What a marvelous high point that must have been. It is a landmark moment that is directly followed by a Hallmark moment.
But the moment soon fades into a different sort of discussion. Jesus continues the progression of revealing the details of his mission to the disciples. We read…
V21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
So far, in the book of Matthew, Jesus gives plenty of hints about who he is, but we really see a progressive revelation.
• His baptism – heavens opened, the Spirit visibly desceneded, and a voice from heaven says “this is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”
• Matthew 6 – he said, “I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.”
• Matthew 8 – he claims God as HIS Father, says that those who would enter the kingdom of heaven would first come to him.
• Matthew 8 – the demons recognize Jesus as the Son of God
• Matthew 9 – Jesus begins to tell people, “your sins are forgiven.”
• Matthew 10 – Jesus gives the disciples authority to cast out demons and heal the sick.
• Matthew 11 – Jesus takes it up a notch: “no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
• Matthew 12 – Jesus asserts himself as LORD of the Sabbath.
• Matthew 12 – Jesus alludes to his death in mentioning the sign of Jonah.
• Matthew 13 – Jesus describes himself as having authority over angels and as the one who will ultimately Judge sin.
• Matthew 14 – Jesus walks on water. The disciples’ response – “Truly, you are the Son of God!”
Finally in chapter 16, Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ. Notice that Jesus says, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.” Jesus is attributing Peter’s belief to the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter becomes the first Christian!
Imagine being Peter and finally feeling like you’ve figured it out. The whole time you’ve been his disciple, you’ve loved Jesus, you’ve known you have to follow Jesus. You’ve seen him heal and perform miracles, but the guy has said some weird stuff. He makes some people really angry. Finally it clicks and you get it.
And the very next moment, the one who you know recognize as the long-awaited Messiah tells you his grand plan for salvation… his plan is to die. Imagine the shock and confusion. Peter’s response to Jesus is understandable. He tells him…
V22 "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you."
Let’s remember that Peter left his job, his wife, and his family to follow Jesus. He was all in, and he can see it all fading away with this “Messiah” letting himself be killed. Peter is definitely an “Act then Think” kind of guy, so it’s not surprising he steps into action.
But Jesus levels a rebuke of a magnitude far greater than Peter’s. Jesus says perhaps the harshest words he uttered walking on the face of the earth…
V23 But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
DISTRACTIONS FROM GOD’S MISSION ARE DANGEROUS
Peter’s problem, as Jesus points out, is that he is distracted from the mission that Jesus is on. Peter is focused on himself, his agenda, and his own good pleasure and fails to see what Jesus is doing. Peter’s wrong thinking is more than a misunderstanding, it is dangerous.
When Jesus calls Peter a hindrance, the Greek word could actually be translated “stumbling block.” It refers to something intended to trap, deter, trip up, or otherwise interfere with movement. In his error, Peter is really tempting Jesus in the same way Satan tempted him in the wilderness. The temptation is to be the Messiah – the triumphant King – without suffering. If Jesus doesn’t suffer and die, His mission fails.
God has a mission for His Church today. This is a specific mission that is directed by God through the power of the Holy Spirit. If you are part of this church, you are part of the Church. If you are part of the Church, you have a personal mission that God has for you. Do you believe this… that God has given you – warts, wrinkles, and all – a distinct mission to serve his eternal Kingdom of which the gates of hell shall not prevail against it?
You are all called to a mission. You are MISSIONARIES. But you will not be able to do anything of value for the kingdom if you are focused on only the here and now and what makes you feel good in this moment – and I fear too many of us are thinking according to the flesh too often for this church to succeed at its mission.
Romans 8:7-8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Phil 3:18-19 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
Is your mind set on earthly things… things of man, or is it set on things of God? Enemies of the cross, unable to please God, hostile to God… these are some harsh words. Don’t be too quick to assume you are all good here. Examine yourself and work out your salvation with fear and trembling. There is no in between, indifference is not a choice – it’s in OR out… hot OR cold… things of man OR things of God.
1John 2:15-16 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
TAKING UP YOUR CROSS
Matt 16:24-26 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Jesus tells them that following Him means taking up their cross and following him. He then presents his disciples with an interesting three-pronged paradox – if they want to save their life, they must lose it. If they lose it for his sake, they’ll find it. If they gain the world they lose everything.
There are five simple observations I want to make about what it means for each of us to take up his cross…
1. Taking up the Cross will be Uncomfortable
There should be no doubt that the disciples knew exactly what Jesus meant when he talked about taking up the cross. Jesus didn’t say ‘’…pick up a cross.” He said that his disciples would each take up their own personal cross. The cross was a common tool in those times – very familiar. The cross meant surrender, it meant unbearable pain, it meant death. The cross was not just death – it was torture… it was regarded as the cruelest form of execution. The word excruciating is derived from the Latin word excruciatus, which literally means, “out of the cross.”
When Jesus says that following him means taking up the cross, he is not just talking to those disciples. Jesus often speaks of disciples in the universal sense – he speaks to all who will eventually come to know him throughout history. This is what Jesus has in view – both those disciples and us today.
Let’s be clear about what Jesus isn’t saying. He’s not saying we, as Christians, should seek out suffering as if suffering has power to atone for our sin or that God is pleased when we are suffering. I think the world has plenty of suffering to offer without us seeking after it. He’s not saying it is sinful or wrong to have wealth. He’s not calling his servants to a life of misery and drudgery.
Why is it that Jesus has to say deny yourself (v24)? It is because he knows that it will be uncomfortable, and that we prefer the path of least resistance. Our preference is ease and comfort – particularly as middle class Americans in the 21st century. Jesus lets us know that the design of the Father is for something different.
We might look at the aspostle Paul for an example.
2Cor 11:24-29 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
Paul’s conversion to Christianity was a transition from being the religious elite to all sorts of beatings, homelessness, hunger, and constant anxiety.
2. Taking up the Cross is Borne from Obedience
Jesus did not take great pleasure in taking up his cross. Neither will it please us to do so at times.
Luke 22:41-44 [Jesus praying in the garden before his betrayal] "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Jesus isn’t saying that suffering equals obedience; but He is saying that obedience sometimes involves suffering. The point is obedience – even to the point of death. The Greek implies a certain willingness or cheerfulness in the decision to deny ones’ self and to take up the cross. It also suggests commitment to the decision.
For some, obedience to the mission God has for you does mean death.
Last October, a 57 year old Redmond man named Rich Bergeson was murdered in his own home. Rich was a man who loved Jesus, and was faithful in serving sacrificially. He participated in mission trips to Africa and South America and was also involved in work his church was doing locally. About a year before his death, he opened his home to a homeless man. He shared his home with this man for a full year for the fame of Jesus. This man apparently killed Rich by beating him with a shovel and fled with his car, money, and credit cards.
Nobody would argue with the fact that Rich’s death was tragic. But the world looks at this story and sees foolishness. We might even look at it as foolishness. They see a life wasted by doing a good deed for some scumbag that was bound to exploit the situation somehow.
I don’t know the details – it could have been foolishness. But from what I’ve heard about this case, and the man that Rich Bergeson was, I would guess he was simply being faithful to what God had called him to do. He took up his cross. And it led to his death. I was reminded of this passage…
1Cor 1:18-21 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe…
Taking up your cross is not always going to be the result of reason and logic. Paul says it clearly – salvation comes through the folly of what we preach. We must be faithful to God’s plan, even when it seems like folly.
3. Taking up the Cross Involves Effort
It is a simple observation, but Jesus does not tell his disciples to obediently carry the cross once it is placed on their backs. No, they are to pick it up themselves. This means initiative. This means actively taking on the load that comes with the cross. What’s more is that the parallel text in Luke 9 says to DAILY take up the cross. This is not a one-time act of repentance, it is a lifestyle…
For me, this was probably the most convicting aspect of preparing this sermon. I have struggled to remain committed to any sort of routine that requires continued effort and perseverance. Saying that I struggle might give you the impression that I’ve fought more than I have. I know that it is somewhat the result of some challenges I had in my day job for a number of years that caused me a lot of anxiety and probably even some depression, but as I reflected on this text I realized how lazy I have become in my spirit. It has affected me in many ways.
Perhaps you’re in that place. You feel weak, you feel tired, you feel as though anything that requires you to put forth effort is too much for you.
2Timothy 2:1, 3-7 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus… Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
4. Taking up the Cross Leads to Genuine Satisfaction
This might sound like a heavy message so far this morning… but there is also great delight to be found in this passage in what it reveals about the grace of God.
Matthew 16:25-26. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Jesus commands any that would follow him to voluntarily expose themselves to the cross. Peter’s response to Jesus’ plan to be put to death is a lot like our response to the idea that we should expose ourselves to the brutality of the cross. We really struggle with that.
At the core of that struggle is a very significant heart issue. We don’t believe that the way God has instructed us to live will bring us the satisfaction we are so thirsty for. Jesus is saying – it’s right here for you – all that you need, if you would just take it! CS Lewis puts it well in his famous quote…
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We should have faith that Jesus is correct in saying that when you are willing to lose your life is when you will finally find it. God’s laws, from the very first law of “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” have been put in place for our benefit, for our safety, for our joy. Our way leads to death, God’s way leads to satisfaction (sex, food, money, parenting, marriage, etc.). We can gain all that this world has to offer – and it would not satisfy us.
5. Taking up the Cross Leads to Life
In another paradox, it is Jesus’ suffering and his death that brings life to a dying world.
(Rom 5:12) Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…
(Rom 5:18-19) Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
We have a problem: sin. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. The law of God requires perfection, and none of us measure up to the law. God is perfectly righteous, completely holy. He is just in his condemnation of all mankind for their sin. But, he provides the way. Not just the way out – but the way that leads to life and vitality in this world as well as eternal life in the world that awaits.
The questions Jesus asks in v26 are rhetorical - For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? The answers are obvious – a man profits not by obtaining what the world has to offer, and there is nothing we can give or do to pay for the ransom of our souls.
He didn’t leave us to our sin, but sent his Son, Jesus, to die… to take up the cross… to bear our iniquity. He who knew no sin became sin. And through His death, we have been given life. (John 3:16?)
Jesus makes it clear in v27: For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. He is returning, and he will repay us according to what we have done. That is a sobering thought. For those who are in Christ Jesus, we have no fear of judgment because Jesus is our defense.