Whoever Wants to Be My Disciple Matthew 16:21-28
Iranian actress Aideen Strandson quietly renounced Islam while still living in her homeland. After seeing footage of a woman being stoned to death, she recalled, “I decided at that moment, I don’t want to be a Muslim anymore.” Shortly after, she said, “I had a dream about Jesus. He was sitting near me, and he took my hand.” In 2014, Strandsson fled Iran for Sweden, where she applied for a work visa, petitioned for asylum and asked for a public baptism to confirm her embrace of Christianity. But recently, the country’s migration board rejected Strandsson’s asylum request. She was ordered back to Iran, where as an “apostate,” she could face prison or death for leaving Islam for Christianity. Now, Hungary has responded by opening its doors to her. Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen said, “Taking in persecuted Christians is our moral and constitutional duty.” More Christians are being persecuted today throughout the world than during the reign of Roman Emperor Nero.” -Bence Rétvári, Hungarian Government Official.
We don’t experience persecution in the US, but a good question for people around the world is, “Who would want to be a Christian?” It is not an easy question – though I would guess all of us would say “ME!” Even to his disciples Jesus would say, “Whoever wants to be my disciple…” Being a disciple of Jesus is not easy- it calls for a great commitment. Yes, it’s a grace-covered experience. It is also a life that is filled with many decisions – some are uncomfortable. If we are looking for easy, comfortable, natural Christianity, don’t look in the Bible.
How does Jesus describe his disciples? What is He calling us to be?
1. Disciples Follow A Risen Savior (21)
Matthew 16:21 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, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
He is a teaching Savior – Jesus began to explain – disciples are committed to listening and learning from our Master! He is a suffering Savior – at the hands of the religiously powerful, rejected by men, he would suffer on the cross, die. He is a Risen Savior – on the third day … Look for this pattern in the life of Discipleship … learn, suffer, rise. Look for this pattern in this text. In what ways are you learning? Suffering for your faith? Focused on eternity?
2. Disciples Have the Concerns of God (22-23)
Matthew 16:22-23 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
There is always a danger when we object to the teaching of the Master. We clearly do not know as much as Jesus. We take a step out of discipleship when we object to Jesus. We can have the concerns of the Enemy, not the Father.
What are the concerns of God? Certainly the Gospel path of Jesus, Death, Burial, Resurrection. Are we concerned with Heaven’s Desire… In our Homes, In our Habits, In our Workplace / Community, In our Church? Among our friends? Peter wanted to tell Jesus how things were to be… Jesus stopped him in his tracks. If Jesus could see our motives and ways of living, would He think they were driven by Heaven’s desires? Disciples follow a risen Savior and have the concerns of God.
3. Disciples Practice Self-Denial. (24)
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.A. Much of the struggle of the Christian life is self-denial.
The ‘self-focused’ individual has a hard time choosing God’s ways over our own. Our attitude about cross-bearing is usually about small, meaningless things in life that may be unpleasant but they hardly come up to the level of the cross. The Earliest Christians were convicted by the crucifixion of Christ to deny self. Times of fasting and prayer characterized much of the early Christian life.
Romans 15:1-3 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
Can you imagine what the world/church/you would be like if this were practiced faithfully? Much of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles lead us toward self-denial.
Barclay: “To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say no to self and yes to God. To deny oneself means once, finally and for all to dethrone self and to enthrone God….The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.”
Mitchell Reddish, Feasting on the Word: “The condemned criminal who carried the horizontal bar of the cross to the site of crucifixion would have been subjected to taunts, humiliation, rejection, and shame before finally enduring an agonizing death. The disciple who “takes up the cross” is one who is willing to surrender pride, ego, status, comfort, and even life for the sake of the kingdom of God.”
4. Disciples Have an Eternal Perspective(25-26)
Matthew 16:25-26 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
AMP: For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world [wealth, fame, success], but forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
We have so much to gain …True Life Comes Only from Jesus.
John 6:35 “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.”
John 10:10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”
John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
The world cannot give us what Jesus does. Guidance to Heaven’s Desires. Grace so we do not have to be anxious. Mercy so we can move on. Holy Spirit to help us in prayer. Presence to comfort us. Avoidance of many dangerous traps of the enemy. You don’t have to look around long to see the misery of the world. Even in the lives of Christians who attempt to live worldly lives while clinging to some form of religion. ‘Just enough religion to make them miserable!’
’Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of the world will grow strangely dim In the light of his glory and grace.’ (Ravenhill: Will grow strangely grim)
5. Disciples Anticipate the Return of the Master (27-28)
Matthew 16:27-28 For 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 they have done. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
For them, the resurrection and coming of the church were immanent. For us, the return of Christ may be today, or not in our lifetime, but we anticipate the renewal of all things.
In August of 2003 – the Church of the Holy Cross in Midtown Manhattan, New York City was broken into twice. In the first break-in, thieves stole a moneybox that was situated near a votive candle rack. Three weeks later, the church was burglarized a second time. But this time, the thieves escaped with something much more valuable. They stole a 4-foot tall, 200-pound plaster statue of Jesus from the crucifix, but they left His cross behind. When interviewed by the media, the church caretaker,David St. James, expressed his bewilderment at this. “They just decided, ‘We’re going to leave the cross and take Jesus.’ We don’t know why they took just him. We figure if you want the crucifix, you take the whole crucifix.” In other words, David St. James was saying, “If you want Jesus, you take his cross, too.”