Our reading for this Sunday follows on the heels of last week’s account and is a real turning point in Matthew’s gospel. Up until this point, Jesus has been gathering disciples, performing miracles, healing the sick, feeding the masses, quieting the sea and generally drawing excited crowds wherever he would go. In our reading for Sunday, Jesus “turns toward Jerusalem,” stating that he “has to” or “must” go. The disciples have a better understanding of who Jesus is, having identified him as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Yet they’re not at all prepared for what Jesus has to tell them about what being the Messiah will really entail. They were looking for a political Messiah who would come in might to save them from Roman occupation. Jesus begins to talk about a Messiah who must suffer, die and rise from the dead.
This passage raises issues about our understanding of a “suffering” Messiah. It also raises questions for us about suffering in general. Jesus tells about the cross he must bear and then instructs his disciples, if they are willing, to take up their cross and follow him. Jesus talks about losing their lives in order to find them. I can only imagine, in their shock and confusion, that some of the disciples started to have some reservations about what they were doing and where they were going as followers of this Jesus. Is this a path that leads to suffering and death or is it, as Jesus says, a path that leads to life?
I hope you’ll join us on Sunday for more reflection on this important passage and subject. You are also welcome, each week, to join the Wednesday Bible Study that reviews the sermon topic from the previous Sunday and reflects on the questions that are listed below. If you’re interested in joining us from 11:30 to 12:30 on Wednesdays, please notify the church office or Pastor Lori and we’ll send you the Zoom link. Looking forward to being together on Sunday!
Matthew 16:21-28 (CEB)
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Consider these questions:
- Can you think of different categories or types of suffering?
- Is there a type of suffering that is a part of our faith journey? How can that suffering lead to life?
- In your faith journey, how do you describe your “cross?” Do you have a sense that there’s something you “must” or “have to” do?
- What does it look like for you to “give your life away?” How do you experience that now? How does the Lord call you to live into that in new or different ways?