Today's Bible Reading: Matthew 16
Selected Biblical Text
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. 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 concerns of God, but merely human concerns."
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 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? 27 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.
28 "Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." (Matthew 16:21-28 NIV)
Reflecting and Thinking
Today's reading introduces a second description of Jesus' ministry: Jesus came dying. The second aspect of Jesus' ministry is solidly built on the identity of Jesus as confessed by Peter: "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (16:16). Matthew summarizes the first part of Jesus' ministry as "teaching, preaching and healing" (4:23). In today's text, he summarizes the second part of Jesus' ministry as "suffering and dying." Because of our familiarity with the gospel story, we may not realize how unbelievable was the idea that the Messiah could become victorious by dying. Jesus answers Peter's impetuous response by contrasting the things of God and the things of men. We must ask ourselves the same question: where is our focus? Are we looking at the things of God or the things of men?
Not only will Jesus die -- all who follow him are also called to die. It is in dying that we truly live. Life is found and saved by losing it; life is lost by seeking to save it, using human standards and desires. Jesus' death will usher in the kingdom, even during the lifetime of some of those who were present and listening to the words of Jesus.
What are some of the human concerns that Peter had in mind? What "things of men" do we today tend to focus on? What specific examples can you give of Christians or churches that consider human things and priorities more than the things of God? What does it mean for us to deny ourselves and take up crosses? In what ways are we called to die?
Dear celestial Father, today we want to focus on spiritual things more than on our own things. We do not totally understand the wisdom of your plan, but we willingly follow, committing ourselves to give our all as faithful followers of the King. Help us understand more clearly how we are called to deny self and take up our crosses. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.