Matthew 16 – Revealing Who Jesus Is and What He Came to Do
A. Warnings against the Sadducees and the Pharisees.
1. (1-4) The Sadducees and the Pharisees seek a sign from Jesus.
Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.
a. Then the Pharisees and Sadducees: Their working together showed a deep fear among the religious leaders. The Sadducees and Pharisees were long-standing enemies, and the fact that they came together against Jesus shows they regarded Him as a serious threat.
i. “It is an extraordinary phenomenon to find a combination of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They stood for both beliefs and policies which were diametrically opposed.” (Barclay)
· The Pharisees lived according to the smallest points of the oral and scribal law; the Sadducees received only the written words of the Hebrew Scriptures.
· The Pharisees believed in angels and the resurrection; the Sadducees did not (Paul used this division in Acts 23:6-10).
· The Pharisees were not a political party and were prepared to live under any government that would leave them alone to practice their religion the way they wanted to; the Sadducees were aristocrats and collaborated with the Romans to keep their wealth and power.
· The Pharisees looked for and longed for the Messiah; the Sadducees did not.
ii. Yet for all these differences, Jesus brought them together. Not in a good way – they came together in opposition to Jesus, but they came together nonetheless.
b. And testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven: Jesus had done many signs and they remained unconvinced. They looked for a sign from heaven such as calling down fire from heaven, preferably against a Roman legion. They said they were not convinced by the signs “on earth” Jesus had already done.
i. Jesus had already been asked for a sign in Matthew 12:38, and in response He had already pointed them to the sign of Jonah. Tradition held that a sign done on earth could be a counterfeit from Satan, but signs done from heaven (coming in or from the sky) were assumed to be from God.
ii. “The immediate demand of the Jewish leaders for a sign from heaven contrasts sharply with the Gentile crowd’s response to Jesus’ miracles (Matthew 15:31).” (France)
c. Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times: Jesus condemned their hypocrisy. They felt confident about predicting the weather from the signs they saw around them, but were blind to the signs regarding Jesus’ Messianic credentials right before their eyes.
i. “The proof that they cannot discern the ‘signs’ is that they ask for a sign!” (Carson)
ii. Jesus wasn’t the only one to notice the hypocrisy in His day. The Jews of Jesus’ day had a proverb saying that if all the hypocrites in the world were divided into ten parts, Jerusalem would contain nine of the ten parts.
iii. You cannot discern the signs of the times: Jesus said this of the religious leaders of His own day regarding the signs of His first coming. There were prophecies, circumstances, and evidences that should have made it clear to them as signs of the times that the Messiah had come. Many people today are just as blind to the signs of the times regarding the second coming of Jesus.
d. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign: This statement of Jesus reminds us that signs alone convert no one. It is easy to place far too much confidence in signs and wonders as tools to bring people to faith in Jesus.
i. The problem isn’t that the signs are themselves weak, but that a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after them. The Bible gives repeated examples of those who saw remarkable signs, yet did not believe.
e. No sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah: Jesus promised a sign that would have power to bring people to faith – His resurrection. He had previously mentioned the sign of the prophet Jonah in Matthew 12:39-41, clearly explaining it as His coming resurrection.
i. We remember some of the similarities between Jonah and Jesus:
· Jonah sacrificed himself that others would be saved.
· Jonah disappeared from all human view in doing this.
· Jonah was sustained the days when he could not be seen.
· Jonah came back after three days, as back from the dead.
· Jonah preached repentance.
2. (5-12) Jesus cautions the disciples against false teaching.
Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.” But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?; but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
a. Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees: After the preceding conflict with the religious leaders, Jesus gave this warning to His disciples, using the metaphor of leaven.
i. As noted previously in the parable of the leaven (Matthew 13:33), leaven is consistently used as a picture of sin and corruption (especially in the Passover narrative of Exodus 12:8, 12:15-20).
ii. “It was the Jewish metaphorical expression for an evil influence. To the Jewish mind leaven was always symbolic of evil…leaven stood for an evil influence liable to spread through life and to corrupt it.” (Barclay) “False doctrine; which is fitly called leaven, because it soureth, swelleth, spreadeth, corrupteth the whole lump, and all this secretly.” (Trapp)
b. It is because we have taken no bread: This was a strange concern after Jesus had, in the recent past, miraculously fed both crowds exceeding 5,000 and 4,000 people. The disciples didn’t understand Jesus at all here and His use of leaven as a metaphor.
i. “Our memories are naturally like hour-glasses, no sooner filled with good instructions and experiments than running out again. It must be our prayer to God that he would put his finger upon the hole, and so make our memories like the pot of manna, preserving holy truths in the ark of the soul.” (Trapp)
c. Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees: Jesus impressed the importance of being on guard against false teaching, especially that in the service of religious hypocrisy.
i. Jesus charged His disciples with three things:
· Ignorance, because they didn’t understand that He was using material things (leaven) to illustrate spiritual things (the dangerous teachings and practices of the Sadducees and Pharisees).
· Unbelief, because they were overly concerned with the supply of bread, when they had seen Jesus miraculously provide bread on several previous occasions.
· Forgetfulness, because they seemed to forget what Jesus had done before in regard to providing bread.
B. Peter proclaims Jesus as Messiah.
1. (13) Jesus asks the disciples to tell Him who others say He is.
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
a. When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi: Jesus again withdrew from the mainly Jewish region of Galilee and came to a place more populated by Gentiles. This was likely a retreat from the pressing crowds.
i. “Caesarea Philippi lies about twenty-five miles [46 kilometers] north-east of the Sea of Galilee…The population was mainly non-Jewish, and there Jesus would have peace to teach the Twelve.” (Barclay)
b. Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? Jesus did not ask this question because He didn’t know who He was, or because He had an unfortunate dependence on the opinion of others. He asked this question as an introduction to a more important follow-up question.
i. Caesarea Philippi was an area associated with idols and rival deities. “The area was scattered with temples of the ancient Syrian Baal worship…Hard by Caesarea Philippi there rose a great hill, in which was a deep cavern; and that cavern was said to be the birthplace of the great god Pan, the god of nature…In Caesarea Philippi there was a great temple of white marble built to the godhead of Caesar…It is as if Jesus deliberately set himself against the background of the world’s religions in all their history and splendour, and demanded to be compared to them and to have the verdict given in his favour.” (Barclay)
2. (14-16) A pointed question and a pointed answer.
So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
a. Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets: People who thought that Jesus was John the Baptist, didn’t know much about Him, and they didn’t know that Jesus and John had ministered at the same time. Yet John, Elijah, and Jeremiah (along with other prophets) were national reformers who stood up to the corrupt rulers of their day.
i. Some thought Jesus was a herald of national repentance, like John the Baptist and some thought Jesus was a famous worker of miracles, like Elijah. Some thought Jesus was someone who spoke the words of God, like Jeremiah and the prophets.
ii. Perhaps in seeing Jesus in these roles, people hoped for a political messiah who would overthrow the corrupt powers oppressing Israel.
iii. The general tendency in all these answers was to underestimate Jesus; to give Him a measure of respect and honor, but to fall far short of honoring Him for who He really is.
b. Who do you say that I am? It was fine for the disciples to know what others thought about Jesus. But Jesus had to ask them, as individuals, what they believed about Him.
i. This is the question placed before all who hear of Jesus; and it is we, not He, who are judged by our answer. In fact, we answer this question every day by what we believe and do. If we really believe Jesus is who He says He is, it will affect the way that we live.
ii. “Our Lord presupposes that his disciples would not have the same thoughts as ‘men’ had. They would not follow the spirit of the age, and shape their views by those of the ‘cultured’ persons of the period.” (Spurgeon)
c. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God: Peter knew the opinion of the crowd – while it was complimentary towards Jesus – wasn’t accurate. Jesus was much more than John the Baptist or Elijah or a prophet. He was more than a national reformer, more than a miracle worker, more than a prophet. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.
i. We can surmise that this was an understanding that Peter and the other disciples came to over time. In the beginning, they were attracted to Jesus as a remarkable and unusual rabbi. They committed themselves to Him as His disciples or students, as was practiced in that day. Yet over time Peter – and presumably others of the disciples by this point – understood that Jesus was in fact not only the Messiah (the Christ), but also the Son of the living God.
ii. Peter understood that Jesus was not only God’s Messiah, but also God Himself. The Jews properly thought that to receive the title “the Son of the living God,” in a unique sense, was to make a claim to deity itself.
iii. “The adjective living may perhaps have been included to contrast the one true God with the local deities (Caesarea Philippi was a centre of the worship of Pan).” (France)
3. (17-20) Jesus compliments Peter for His bold and correct declaration.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.
a. Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven: Jesus reveals to Peter that he spoke by divine inspiration, even if he didn’t even know it at the time. In this, Peter was genuinely blessed – both by the insight itself and how it came to him.
i. We too often expect God to speak in strange and unnatural ways. Here God spoke through Peter so naturally that he didn’t even realize it was the Father who is in heaven that revealed it to him.
ii. This also speaks to us of our need for a supernatural revelation of Jesus. “If you know no more of Jesus than flesh and blood has revealed to you, it has brought you no more blessing than the conjectures of their age brought to the Pharisees and Sadducees, who remained an adulterous and unbelieving generation.” (Spurgeon)
b. I also say to you that you are Peter: This was not only recognition of Peter’s more Roman name; it was also a promise of God’s work in Peter. The name Peter means “Rock.” Though perhaps unlikely, Peter was a rock, and would become a rock. God was and would transform his naturally extreme character into something solid and reliable.
c. On this rock I will build My church: The words this rock have been the source of much controversy. It is best to see them as referring to either Jesus Himself (perhaps Jesus gesturing to Himself as He said this), or as referring to Peter’s confession of who Jesus is.
i. Peter, by His own testimony, did not see himself as the rock on which the church was founded. He wrote that we are living stones, but Jesus is the cornerstone. We could say that Peter was the “first believer”; that he was the “first rock” among “many rocks.”
ii. Peter said as much in 1 Peter 2:4-5: Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
d. I will build My church: This is the first use of the word church in the New Testament (or the Bible for that matter), using the ancient Greek word ekklesia. Significantly, this was well before the beginnings of what we normally think of as the church on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
i. This shows that Jesus was anticipating or prophesying what would come from these disciples/apostles and those who would believe in their message that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
ii. The ancient Greek word ekklesia was not primarily a religious word at all; it just meant, “group” or “called-out group.” In describing the later group of His followers and disciples, Jesus deliberately chose a word without a distinctly religious meaning.
iii. Furthermore, this statement of Jesus was a clear claim of ownership (My church). The church belongs to Jesus. This was also a claim to deity: “What is striking is…the boldness of Jesus’ description of it as my community, rather than God’s.” (France)
iv. Taken together, the promise is wonderful:
· He brings His people together in common: I will build.
· He builds on a firm foundation: On this rock I will build.
· He builds something that belongs to Him: My church.
· He builds it into a stronghold: the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
e. And the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it: Jesus also offered a promise – that the forces of death and darkness can’t prevail against or conquer the church. This is a valuable promise in dark or discouraging times for the church.
i. The Puritan commentator John Trapp explained the gates of Hades this way: “All the power and policy of hell combined.”
ii. “Neither doth hell signify here the place of the damned…but either death, or the graves, or the state of the dead: yet the devil is also understood here, as he that hath the power of death, Hebrews 2:14.” (Poole)
iii. “The gates of hell, i.e., the machinations and powers of the invisible world. In ancient times the gates of fortified cities were used to hold councils in, and were usually places of great strength. Our Lord’s expression means, that neither the plots, stratagems, nor strength of Satan and his angels, should ever so far prevail as to destroy the sacred truths in the above confession.” (Clarke)
iv. A slightly different view: “Is thus to say that it will not die, and be shut in by the ‘gates of death.’” (France)
f. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: This idea of Peter holding the keys of the kingdom of heaven has captured the imagination (and theology) of many Christians throughout the centuries. In artistic representation, Peter is almost always shown with keys.
i. Some people think that this means that Peter has the authority to admit people to heaven, or to keep people out of heaven. This is the basis for the popular image of Peter at the Pearly Gates of Heaven, allowing people to enter or turning them away.
ii. Some people think that it also means that Peter was the first Pope, and that his supposed successors have the keys that were first given to Peter. Indeed, the Papal insignia of the Roman Catholic Church is made up of two prominent keys crossed together.
iii. There is no doubt that Peter had a special place among all the disciples, and that he had some special privileges:
· He is always listed first in the listings of the disciples.
· He opened doors of the kingdom to the Jews in Acts 2:38-39.
· He opened doors of the kingdom to the Gentiles in Acts 10:34-44.
iv. Yet there is no Biblical argument whatsoever that Peter’s privilege or authority was passed on. To put it one way; one might say that Jesus gave Peter the keys, but didn’t give him the authority to pass them on to further generations, and there is not a whisper in the Scriptures that Peter’s authority was to be passed on.
v. The idea that apostolic authority comes from Jesus, who gave it to Peter, who set his hands on the heads of approved and ordained men, who in turn set their hands on the heads of approved and ordained men, and so on and so on through the generations until today is nonsense. It is exactly what Spurgeon said it was: the laying of empty hands on empty heads.
g. And whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven: The power for binding and loosing is something that the Jewish rabbis of that day used. They bound or loosed an individual in the application of a particular point of the law. Jesus promises that Peter – and the other apostles – would be able to set the boundaries authoritatively for the New Covenant community. This was the authority given to the apostles and prophets to build a foundation (Ephesians 2:20).
i. We should understand this as Jesus giving both the permission and the authority to the first-generation apostles to make the rules for the early church – and indirectly, the inspired writings that would guide all generations of Christians. The authority that Peter carries is “not an authority which he alone carries, as may be seen from the repetition of the latter part of the verse in Matthew 18:18 with reference to the disciple group as a whole.” (France)
ii. “Binding” and “loosing” were administrative terms in daily Jewish life; whenever a Jew came up against the Law of Moses, that Jewish person was either “bound” or “loosed” in regard to that law. To loose was to permit; to bind was to prohibit. To loose was to free from the law, to bind was to put under the law. “Their regular sense, which any Jew would recognize was to allow and to forbid. To bind something was to declare it forbidden; to loose was to declare it allowed. These were the regular phrases for taking decisions in regard to the law.” (Barclay)
iii. In daily Jewish life, this could be rather complicated. Here is one example from ancient rabbinical writings, cited by teacher Mike Russ:
· If your dog dies in your house, is your house clean or unclean? Unclean.
· If your dog dies outside your house, is your house clean or unclean? Clean.
· If your dog dies on the doorstep, is your house clean or unclean? Ancient rabbinical writings took the issue on and decided that if the dog died with his nose pointing into the house, the house was unclean; if the dog died with his nose pointing away from the house, the house was clean.
iv. As their rabbi, Jesus did this binding and loosing for His own disciples. Without using the same words, this is what Jesus did when He allowed them to take the grains of wheat in the field (Matthew 12:1-8).
v. Significantly, when it came time to understand the dietary laws of the Old Covenant in light of the new work of Jesus, God spoke to Peter first. He and the other apostles, guided by the Spirit of God, would bind and loose Christians regarding such parts of the Old Covenant.
vi. In a lesser, secondary sense, this power is with the Church today. “Today the Lord continues to back up the teaching and acts of his sent servants, those Peters who are pieces of the one Rock. The judgments of his Church, when rightly administered, have his sanction so as to make them valid. The words of his sent servants, spoken in his name, shall be confirmed of the Lord, and shall not be, either as to promise or threatening, a mere piece of rhetoric.” (Spurgeon)
h. He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ: Jesus was pleased that His disciples were coming to know who He was in truth, but He still didn’t want His identity popularly known before the proper time.
i. “Before they could preach that Jesus was the Messiah, they had to learn what that meant.” (Barclay)
4. (21) Jesus begins to reveal the full extent of His mission.
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
a. He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things…and be killed: This must have come as quite a shock to His disciples. After fully understanding that Jesus was the Messiah, the last thing they expected was the Messiah would suffer many things and be killed.
i. Yet this was the predicted work of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:3-12). He must die, and He must after His death be raised the third day.
ii. The suffering and death of Jesus was a must because of two great facts: man’s sin and God’s love. While His death was the ultimate example of man’s sin against God, it was also the supreme expression of God’s love to man.
iii. “The ‘must’ of Jesus’ suffering lies, not in unqualified determinism, nor in heroic determination (though some of both is present), but in willing submission to his Father’s will.” (Carson)
iv. “The elders and chief priests and scribes were the three groups who together made up the Sanhedrin, Israel’s highest court; Jesus is to be officially executed. The estrangement between Jesus and the official Jewish leadership is thus already irrevocable.” (France)
b. And be raised the third day: The disciples were probably so shocked that Jesus said He would be killed in Jerusalem that these words didn’t sink in. Later, an angel reminded them of these words (Luke 24:6-8).
5. (22-23) Peter’s unwitting opposition of Jesus.
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
a. Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You! At this moment Peter had the remarkable boldness to rebuke Jesus. Peter did it privately (took Him aside), yet was confident enough to tell Jesus that He was wrong to consider going to Jerusalem to be killed.
i. It’s not hard to see Peter following these steps:
· Peter confesses Jesus as the Messiah.
· Jesus compliments Peter, telling him that God revealed this to him.
· Jesus tells of His impending suffering, death, and resurrection.
· Peter feels this isn’t right, and he feels that he hears from God and therefore has some authority or right to speak.
· Peter begins to rebuke Jesus. “‘Began’ suggests that Peter gets only so far before Jesus cuts him off.” (Carson)
ii. We can infer that if Peter was bold enough to rebuke Jesus, he was confident that God told him that he was right and that Jesus was wrong at this point. Where it all broke down was that Peter was far too confident in his ability to hear from God.
· What Peter said didn’t line up with the Scriptures.
· What Peter said was in contradiction to the spiritual authority over him.
b. Get behind Me, Satan! This was a strong rebuke from Jesus, yet entirely appropriate. Though a moment before, Peter spoke as a messenger of God, he then spoke as a messenger of Satan. Jesus knew there was a satanic purpose in discouraging Him from His ministry on the cross, and Jesus would not allow that purpose to succeed.
i. We can be sure that Peter was not aware that he spoke for Satan, just as a moment before he was not aware that he spoke for God. It is often much easier to be a tool of God or of the devil than we want to believe.
ii. “Origen suggested that, Jesus was saying to Peter: ‘Peter, your place is behind me, not in front of me. It is your place to follow me in the way I choose, not to try to lead me in the way you would like me to go.’” (Barclay)
c. You are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men: Jesus exposed how Peter came into this satanic way of thinking. He didn’t make a deliberate choice to reject God and embrace Satan; he simply let his mind settle on the things of men instead of the things of God, and Satan took advantage of it.
i. Peter is a perfect example of how a sincere heart coupled with man’s thinking can often lead to disaster.
ii. Peter’s rebuke of Jesus is an evidence of the leaven mentioned in Matthew 16:6. With his mind on the things of men, Peter only saw the Messiah as the embodiment of power and strength, instead of as a suffering servant. Because Peter couldn’t handle a suffering Messiah, he rebuked Jesus.
C. Jesus’ call to disciples.
1. (24) Jesus declares His expectation that His followers would follow Him by dying to self.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
a. Said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me”: This was a word spoken to the disciples of Jesus; to those who genuinely wanted to follow (come after) Him.
b. Let him deny himself, and take up his cross: It was bad enough for the disciples to hear that Jesus would suffer, be rejected, and die on a cross. Now Jesus told them that they must do the same thing.
c. Deny himself, and take up his cross: Everybody knew what Jesus meant when He said this. Everyone knew that the cross was an unrelenting instrument of death. The cross had no other purpose.
i. The cross wasn’t about religious ceremonies; it wasn’t about traditions and spiritual feelings. The cross was a way to execute people.
ii. In these twenty centuries after Jesus, we have done a pretty good job in sanitizing and ritualizing the cross. Yet Jesus said something much like this: “Walk down death row daily and follow Me.” Taking up your cross wasn’t a journey; it was a one-way trip. There was no return ticketing; it was never a round trip.
iii. “Cross bearing does not refer to some irritation in life. Rather, it involves the way of the cross. The picture is of a man, already condemned, required to carry his cross on the way to the place of execution, as Jesus was required to do.” (Wessel, commentary on Mark)
iv. “Every Christian must be a Crucian, said Luther, and do somewhat more than those monks that made themselves wooden crosses, and carried them on their back continually, making all the world laugh at them.” (Trapp, commentary on Mark)
d. Deny himself, and take up his cross: Jesus made deny himself equal with take up his cross. The two express the same idea. The cross wasn’t about self-promotion or self-affirmation. The person carrying a cross knew they couldn’t save themselves.
i. “Denying self is not the same as self-denial. We practice self-denial when, for a good purpose, we occasionally give up things or activities. But we deny self when we surrender ourselves to Christ and determine to obey His will.” (Wiersbe, commentary on Mark)
ii. Denying self means to live as an others-centered person. Jesus was the only person to do this perfectly, but we are to follow in His steps (and follow Me). This is following Jesus at its simplest: He carried a cross, He walked down death row; so must those who follow Him.
iii. Human nature wants to indulge self, not deny self. Death to self is always terrible, and if we expect it to be a pleasant or mild experience, we will often be disillusioned. Death to self is the radical command of the Christian life. To take up your cross meant one thing: you were going to a certain death, and your only hope was in resurrection power.
2. (25-27) The paradox of the cross: finding life by losing it.
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”
a. Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it: We must follow Jesus this way, because it is the only way that we will ever find life. It sounds strange to say, “You will never live until you first walk to your death with Jesus,” but that is the idea. You can’t gain resurrection life without dying first.
i. You don’t lose a seed when you plant it, though it seems dead and buried. Instead, you set the seed free to be what it was always intended to be.
b. What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Avoiding the walk to death with Jesus means that we may gain the whole world, and end up losing everything.
i. Jesus Himself had the opportunity to gain all the world by worshipping Satan (Luke 4:5-8), but He found life and victory in obedience instead.
ii. Amazingly, the people who live this way before Jesus are the ones who are really, genuinely happy. Giving our lives to Jesus all the way, and living as an others-centered person does not take away from our lives, it adds to it.
c. He will reward each according to his works: This ultimate gain is given on this day. If we live life blind to this truth, we really will lose our own soul.
i. “Not only Jesus’ example, but the judgment he will exercise is an incentive to take up one’s cross and follow him.” (Carson)
ii. With His angels: “They are his angels: he stands so far above them that he owns them and uses them.” (Carson)
3. (28) A promise to see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
“Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
a. Some standing here… shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom: Jesus said this at this moment to emphasize an important truth. Walking with Jesus doesn’t just mean a life of death and crosses. It also means a life of the power and glory of the kingdom of God. Jesus promised some of His disciples would see glimpses of that power and glory.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission