Matthew 16:21-26 "It's a Must"
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?
Last week we heard how Peter gave such a clear confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah. He didn’t come to that truth on his own. It was revealed to him by God the Father. Yet, Jesus was not ready for that information to get out just yet. He was going to instruct his disciples about what he, the Messiah, had to do. So, from that time on Jesus was going to give them more details about his suffering, death, and resurrection, and what that meant for the whole human race.
Jesus explained that he must go – he had to; there were no other options; the plan of God had to be carried out; it was inevitable. And no one else was qualified to do so except Jesus. He told them that he would have to go to Jerusalem, and there he would have to suffer at the hands of the religious leaders, and then he must be killed, and on the third day be raised from the dead.
Clearly those words were hard for the disciples to hear. Perhaps Peter felt it was his duty to step in and stop Jesus because he didn’t want anything to happen to his teacher and friend. So, Peter took Jesus aside from the rest. Peter said: “Never, Lord! . . . This shall never happen to you!” He expressed strong disapproval. The idiom Peter used basically means “May God be merciful to you and spare you from having to go through all this.” Peter’s rebuke was turned on him in front of all the disciples. Jesus had to deal with this sinful rebuke right away.
It was absolutely necessary that Jesus go to the cross to save mankind from their sins because it was his Father’s will. For Jesus, IT’S A MUST! Jesus couldn’t let anyone deter him from fulfilling God’s promise. Otherwise, he would fail to complete his mission, and no one would be saved. Peter may not have realized that Satan was using him. The sad thing was that this came from a dear friend. Peter had become the unsuspecting pawn of Satan. Satan would use anyone or anything to stop Jesus from his salvation plan.
Since the disciples did not understand the true work of the Messiah, they also did not understand the true nature of discipleship. Therefore, Jesus teaches them with these words: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. The path to salvation did not come easy for Jesus. The path to discipleship does not come easy for us. True discipleship is a matter of fully trusting in Jesus. For Christians, IT’S A MUST! There are no other options for the believer.
Jesus says that the path to discipleship – to faithful service to Him – involves three things – three things that war against our sinful nature. The first is to deny ourselves. Our sinful nature tempts us to be selfish and self-centered . . . to want only what we want, and to do whatever we want to do. To faithfully serve Jesus is to completely lose sight of ourselves and our own interests to focus completely on Jesus. The second is to take up our cross. Our sinful nature wants everything to go smoothly, so it will pick the path of comfort and ease over the path of trial and hardship. To faithfully serve Jesus is to accept and endure the persecutions, troubles, and shame that come from believing in Jesus. The third is to follow Jesus. Our sinful nature doesn’t want to follow anyone’s path but our own. We’ll pave the way; we’ll be the master of our fate. We’ll decide our destiny. Following Jesus is just too hard; it’s not the direction we want to go. To faithfully serve Jesus is to follow him no matter what; to go his way even if it means death. Jesus alone saves. That truth moves us to persevere.
The way Jesus dealt with temptation and sin serves as a model for us. Peter was a stumbling block for Jesus. He couldn’t let Peter, nor anyone else, keep him from saving the world from sin. That’s why we need to deal with our sinful thoughts and feelings right away so that they do not take over our thinking and doing, and separate from Christ. We need to get rid of them – to get them out of our minds and out of our sight – to put them behind us and never look back, so we don’t think about them anymore. The longer we contemplate those tempting thoughts, words, and actions – the greater the temptation to cave into them. We need to tell Satan NO! We must not give in!
Jesus tells us why: 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? Giving in to Satan and into what others think will be spiritually destructive. We can put all our efforts into making our personal and physical lives better and lose sight of what is really important. Our eternal life is governed solely by God’s mercy and grace and not by money, relationships, or medicine. Believers understand that temporal loss for eternal gain is what Jesus is talking about here.
Jesus wants us to live for him and die for him. The Apostle Paul says it this way; If we live, we live to the Lord and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. [Rom 14:8] Even if we could gain the whole worlds riches and attention, that could never equal or be better than our soul’s salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death on the cross is the only acceptable ransom . . . it’s the only acceptable exchange for our souls . . . we have nothing to offer.
In our OT reading, Jeremiah felt the same way we feel sometimes. He objected to his cross – the humiliation, the pain, the loneliness he endured because he followed God’s will. In so many words, God said to him, “Jeremiah, there is no other way.” And in our Epistle reading, Paul reminds us that we bear our crosses for Jesus by offering ourselves as living sacrifices to God. We can only do that when we are spiritually transformed by our Savior.
My dear fellow redeemed: It was a must for Jesus to offer himself on the cross as payment for our sin. He died that we would live eternally with him, and he rose from the grave to prove that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Through his sacrifice, we can be living sacrifices for him right now. Because of his grace we have the forgiveness of sins and life in his name. He enables us to be his disciples – to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him. For us, IT’S A MUST! There is no other way.
Are we all in for Christ? I pray we are. We will never regret it! Amen.