"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Matthew 16:24-28 -- Deny Self, Take Up Your Cross, Follow Jesus

Finishing up Matthew 16 today.  Remember in our previous lesson Jesus told Peter that Peter had in mind the things of men rather than the things of God when Peter declared that Jesus would surely not suffer and die as Jesus had informed his followers.  Next Matthew records Jesus turning to his disciples with this warning,

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26What 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? 27For 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. 28I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

Some thoughts ...

First notice that it's a choice. At least that's how I read "if." If you want to follow Jesus, then do these things. Not you must...unless of course you want to lose your soul!  Have you ever met someone who lost her soul due to pursuing material possessions or experiences?  Someone so bent on following her own way that she didn't have time for spiritual or godly, soulful issues.  Makes me wonder if that person is trying to find satisfaction in life or if she is finding fulfillment and excitement and what her heart craves in those pursuits. 

What does coming after Jesus mean?  Pursuing the things of God rather than human things?

Notice the three step process here:
1. Deny self -- that's a biggie since most people are naturally selfish.  And what does that mean exactly? Ordering a small hamburger when you really wanted the Whopper?  Skimping on the ice cream so you can give that money to a needy Haitian family?

2. Take up his cross  -- don't you know mentioning a cross had an impact in that day when crosses were typically used for condemned criminals, not for the general "good guy" population to voluntarily take upon themselves.  What do you think taking up your cross means?  We don't have literal crosses that we carry around on our backs and I doubt Jesus meant this anyway.  Does he mean we identify with him somehow?  If so, how?

3.  Follow Jesus -- In John 14:6 Jesus declares that he is the way to the Father so it seems following him would be a smart thing to do; notice even in this passage Jesus implies that he is the way to salvation (see vs. 25)

Verse 25 reminds us that pursuing godly things is how we find life.  My pastor often refers to God's upside down kingdom (then he corrects himself and said in reality, it is we who have things upside down).  In this "upside down kingdom," the greatest among us and the greatest in God's eyes are the ones who SERVE OTHERS!  It's not the person who takes the best seat at the table or has people waiting on him hand and foot.  My pastor reminds us that true, inner joy comes from serving others. It comes from meeting others' needs and demonstrating grace and mercy to people craving compassion and love.  I think this is what's lacking in the world today and why so many people are empty. Why so many are looking for things and adventures to find fulfillment.  Can you imagine a world where we all sought to meet others' needs? We would be tripping over each other trying to do good for others.   Sounds a bit like heaven. :) 

Jesus came and demonstrated how to be a servant. How to wash others' feet, how to meet needs and show compassion and love even to sinners.  Only to sinners since we all have sinned and fallen short of God's glorious standard.  Jesus didn't just come and give instructions. He lived this way.  He taught by example, not by exceptions even though he was one in whom God was well-pleased and beloved by God such as we will see in the next chapter. He never said God is well-pleased with me so please come take care of all my needs and serve me.  I love that Jesus lead by example. If he can wash dirty feet, so we can we. If he can love the outcasts of society, so can we. If he can touch the sick, so can we.  If he can heal diseases, well, I wish I could do that. But I can offer compassion and love to those ravaged by sickness and those with hurting hearts.

I didn't even touch on the last two verses there, but you can if you want.  What does Jesus mean that some would see Jesus coming in his kingdom and also about himself coming in the Father's glory and with the angels?

Thoughts, questions, comments? 

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