Matthew – God’s Purposes
We put values on everything and everyone in this world. “How much does it cost?”, we ask immediately on spotting something we are considering to purchase. “What is this worth?” we ask at a garage sale when we spot something old but in good shape, (like me). “What is your price?”
We ask these questions as we are figuring out how much we are willing to pay. “Is what I about to buy worth giving up what I have?” Mm.
Jesus purchased us with his life without a second thought about what He thought of our worth and value or His cost. No questions asked. We are all worth what He was willing to give for our souls. He loved all of us, died for all the sin of each one of us on this planet. “While we were yet sinners, he died to save us,” explains Paul to all who will listen. God loved us that He GAVE His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, so that all who believe in Him will be saved…eternally saved. Forever and completely saved. (John 3:16, paraphrased)
Now, let’s dive into this next passage as Jesus prepares His disciples for how this is going to work and how God’s redeeming plan will be implemented. There are no parables here, only the plain facts of prophecy about to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Matthew 16, NLT
Jesus Predicts His Death
21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.
22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. 28 And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”
THOUGHTS FOR REFLECTION:
Having declared His person, Jesus now declared His work, for the two must go together. He would go to Jerusalem, suffer and die, and be raised from the dead. This was His first clear statement of His death, though He had hinted at this before this moment in time.
Peter’s response to this shocking statement certainly represented the feelings of the rest of the disciples: “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned His back on Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
“You are a stumbling block to me!” is a more literal translation). Peter the “stone” who had just been blessed (Matt. 16:18) became Peter the stumbling block who was not a blessing to Jesus! What was Peter’s mistake? He was thinking like a man, for most men want to escape suffering and death. He did not have God’s mind in the matter.
Where do we find the mind of God? In the Word of God.
Peter had enough faith to confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but he did not have the faith to believe that it was right for Jesus to suffer and die. Satan used the same approach when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness!
Jesus had not yet specifically stated that He would be crucified (He did this in Matt. 20:17–19). But His words that follow emphasize the cross. “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”
To deny self does not mean to deny things. It means to give yourself wholly to Christ and share in His shame and death. Paul described this in Romans 12:1–2 and Philippians 3:7–10, as well as in Galatians 2:20. We will be mocked for knowing and following Christ. This is sharing in what He went through for us.
To take up a cross does not mean to carry burdens or have problems. (I once met a lady who told me her asthma was the cross she had to bear!) To take up the cross means to identify with Christ in His rejection, shame, suffering, and death. But suffering always leads to glory. This is why Jesus ended this short sermon with a reference to His glorious kingdom (Matt. 16:28). This statement would be fulfilled within a week on the Mount of Transfiguration, described in the next chapter.
So, what is your soul worth?
Is it worth it to me to gain control over this world, avoiding talk of Christ, while trying to keep that control which leads to death in the end?
OR is it a better plan to lose all control of self interests, wants and desires, giving all of who I am to Jesus and HIS control which leads to life abundant here with eternal life with him to follow? Death or paradise? Unrest or peace? Help through troubles in this world or not? This seems to be a no-brainer.
“I want to know Christ”, says Paul to the church. But we seldom read and understand what follows this famous, encouraging verse in Philippians 3. The rest that follows this declaration is…“and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” Paul, saved by grace on the road to killing Christians, considered all he was and did before Christ to be worthless”.
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.” (Phil 3:8-9, NLT)
So, Jesus words to his disciples then is what He is asking of us today who say we love and follow Him;
“Is anything worth more than your soul?”
Dear Heavenly Father,
Nothing, absolutely nothing in this world is worth more than my soul. ALL my heart, mind and soul belongs to you. Thank you for encouraging me with my worth to you, this very day and always. When mocked for my simple faith in You as Savior and Lord, I am in wholesome, powerful company. You saved me. You made me whole. You have restored the joy of my salvation and are constantly renewing my mind, filling my heart while protecting my soul. Thank you, Lord.
In Jesus Name, Amen