This chapter is something of a hinge point in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus confronts the disciples regarding his identity as the Christ. He also teaches them about the costs of discipleship.
Matthew 16.pdf (Omar Yamout)
Matthew 16.mp3 (Omar Yamout)
In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, one of the requirements of all citizens is to feel good. When they don’t, which is often, they pop pills containing a hangover-free drug called soma, which makes them feel better immediately. The worse they feel, the more soma they take, and all is well – at least until it isn’t. But the readily available soma never seems to run out. For extreme happiness, say on a weekend, larger doses of soma become pleasantly hallucinogenic.
This is not the world we live in. Ours is old and seemingly less brave, though we can argue that it takes a lot more courage to live in it. Our Savior set the example by walking the path of crucifixion, the same path he calls us to in Matthew 16:24-27.
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 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? 27 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.
At the end of the day, or the age, really, what we want is to have followed Jesus. Much of the time this doesn’t involve feeling pleasant, at least not in the way our flesh desires. Crosses are not meant to be comfortable. But there is a different type of satisfaction, a type that Huxley’s citizens were never allowed to achieve. It’s a confidence inspired by following our Savior, of losing our lives in order to find them. This path has a certainty to it, its satisfaction has a depth, that no amount of soma can give us.
Jim Elliot said it really well when he said, “I may no longer depend on pleasant impulses to bring me before the Lord. I must rather respond to principles I know to be right, whether I feel them to be enjoyable or not.”
We must not forget, however, that self-denial while following Jesus is only temporary. It’s the price we pay for discipleship, for walking near to our cross-bearing Lord. On the other side of the resurrection, we look forward to a cross-free, existence for all eternity in a new heaven, a new earth and a New Jerusalem.
Christ’s public ministry moves forward with various miracles, revealing his power over sickness, nature and the demonic realm.
Like the famous porridge in the story of Goldilocks, a person’s response to Jesus can be “too hot” or “too cold.” Let’s take a look at a couple of examples before we determine what a “just right” response would be.
18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
This scribe seems to have not thought his commitment through. His response is too hot, or overzealous, given his level of understanding. Jesus may made his home in Capernaum, possibly with Simon Peter and family, but the reality of his ministry meant that he didn’t often get back there at night. At a deeper level, we have to think through where our true home is. Paul reminds believers that our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). If we do not consider this reality, then we may find our commitment to Christ is superficial. It may not stand the test of time or the rigor of unforeseen trials.
21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
Without going into detail, we can see that he is asking for a delay. Maybe it would be weeks or months, maybe a year or more. Here are some thoughts from Billy Graham. The man grasps that following Christ involves sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that he is unwilling to make. Unlike the overzealous scribe, this man is underzealous or too cold.
A Goldilocks response to Jesus needs to be carefully thought through rather than hasty. But it also needs to be willing to give whatever is necessary for the cause of Christ. This world is not our home anyway, so with that in mind, why wait? A true and thorough cost-counting will reveal that Jesus is worth more than anything or anyone that we might decide to place before him.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Help us to love not only those who love us first, but also those who treat us badly. Jesus expressed his love by dying for us precisely at a time when we were rebelling against his authority. Help us to do the same sort of thing whenever we are presented with the chance. Then help us to make opportunities to love where none exist.
When we are disrespected, help us to respond with respect. When we are ignored precisely as we think we need someone’s attention, help us to think of the needs of others and pay attention to them. When we are hurt, help us to respond with healing love and in so doing, become more like Jesus our Lord.
In saying all of this, we know that this love does not come naturally to us, but we know that it can arise as the result of you working supernaturally within our hearts. We need your Holy Spirit to work within us to produce this spiritual fruit.
Father, may self-giving love be a mark of who we are as your children and as followers of Jesus Christ. It is in his name that we pray.
18While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
When Christ called his first disciples to follow him, he let them know that their primary focus would change. Instead of catching fish they would now catch people, drawing others into a relationship with you through Jesus Christ.
How appropriate that some of your first followers did this kind of work! They knew what it was to try to bring in a catch. Sometimes they failed and sometimes they met with amazing success. There was even a time when they fished all night and caught nothing until the risen Christ advised them. When they listened to him, they caught more than they could bring into the boat.
Just as no fisherman ever catches all the fish in the sea, there will be many who will not listen to the call that we put out for them. Still, there will be many others who will and it is for these that you have sent us.
Remind us continually that this is our first priority. We are to go and make disciples of all the nations. Help us to no longer live for ourselves, but for you. Let the Holy Spirit advise us now just as Jesus did those tired disciples. Let us see souls won for Christ and disciples multiplied. Let us not only see converts but see those won to you who will then make disciples of others.
And we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, believing that this is your will for us.
Unity, Diversity and Our Identity in Christ
Part 9 of 14
When Jesus Left, he left the church with something to do – make disciples of all the nations.