Matthew 16:21-28 © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
CHRIST CRUCIFIED: WE DIE, TOO!
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Peter was still in training. Peter was still working from a bad paradigm – he still had a different picture of how things should be. Peter was still too full of himself. Peter was afraid!
Peter still didn’t understand then, and a lot of people still don’t understand now. The crucifixion of God’s Son Jesus is the heart of the Christian faith. It’s the key to understanding the Bible. The crucifixion of God’s Son Jesus is the key to Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. It’s the key to determining whether a sermon is Christian. It’s the reason we have creeds. It’s the pattern for living the Christian life. And the crucifixion of God’s Son Jesus is still a stumbling block for some and utter foolishness for others!
Oh, Peter didn’t want any part of that. He was a young man with big plans to have a great job when Jesus assumed the throne of King David in Jerusalem. Do you remember how James and John’s mama asked for something big for her boys when Jesus came into His Kingdom? A lot of people still don’t want any part of a Crucified Christ…even many who call themselves Christians.
If you scratch beneath the surface of any popular group, church, or business, you will find people who don’t want any part of the Crucified Christ, because if Christ dies, then we die, too! It’s really rather ludicrous. Of course, we die, too! Even if we are so young, so healthy, so wealthy, so vibrant with life, love, and a bright future ahead. We can still die, too! Far be it!
Jesus as Mighty Wonder Worker? He’s big! Jesus as Great Teacher and Inspirational Leader? He’s big, too! Jesus as Victorious Strong Man? He’s really big! And Jesus as the Overcomer Against All Odds? Now that’s somebody you can build a successful organization around! But Crucified Christ? A King Who Falls In The Greatest Battle? Nope, it doesn’t sell!
So people keep giving Jesus an extreme makeover to suit their own fear of loss and death.
We have a word for that in the Church. It’s called heresy (from the Greek “heresis” which means “to choose” [wrongly]). Just because an organization, group, church, or business is successful does not mean it can’t be wrong. Human history is littered with superpowers that were wrong. Hittites. Assyrians. Chaldeans. Greeks. Romans. Byzantines. They were all once really big. But now they’re hardly talked about. It will eventually happen here, too!
It can even happen to the heads of the five families (All the guys are thinking “The Godfather” including Barzini, Tattaglia; Cuneo, Stracci…). But I’m talking about: Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Tim Cook (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Eric Schmidt (Google), and Bill Gates (MS). All those guys are dead men walking. Throw in Warren Buffett and George Soros, too. Dead men all!
Hurricane Harvey reminded us we can lose everything here. Jesus says it’s worse than that! “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (16:26). Don’t sell your soul. It’s a hell of a way to go!
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Peter still didn’t understand then, and a lot of people still don’t understand now. The crucifixion of God’s Son Jesus is the heart of the Christian faith. It’s the key to understanding the Bible. The crucifixion of God’s Son Jesus is the key to Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. It’s the key to determining whether a sermon is Christian. It’s the reason we have creeds. It’s the pattern for living the Christian life. And the crucifixion of God’s Son Jesus is still a stumbling block for some and utter foolishness for others! Jesus had to die in order to save us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. There was no other way. That’s the heart of the Christian story.
Of course, you and I are going to die. Of course, every human is going to die. But if you are baptized, hear this: the worst has already happened. When a person is baptized into the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection, that’s the only real death he or she will ever die. Baptism is the end of the old me. We keep practicing our Baptism daily, we confess our sins daily and repent of them, because the old me, the selfish me, doesn’t want to die. But, sorry about that, eventually, the old rebellious me, that wants to be God, will draw her or his last breath in this old body.
Yet the new me, the child of God created in Holy Baptism when the Father for Jesus’ sake said: “You are my beloved child” – that’s who will keep going when our old body dies. That’s who will be raised from the dead in an imperishable, resurrected body: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” The more you practice your Baptism daily, the less afraid you will be.
We remind each other every week what discipleship looks like: “I will strive to pray daily, worship weekly, read the Bible, serve at and beyond St. Matthew’s, be in relationship to encourage spiritual growth in others, and give of my time, talents, and resources.”
If you need help learning to pray daily, take the adult Sunday School class: “Loving Lutheran Worship” each Sunday at 9:45 a.m. There are prayer resources on our website, too!
If you need help getting to worship weekly, agree with a fellow member that you will check with each other every weekend to encourage each other not to miss worship at St. Matt’s.
If you need help reading the Bible, Crossways Bible Study begins again this week at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10 a.m. on Thursdays. There are other Bible studies available, too.
If you need help serving at and beyond St. Matthew’s, we have worship leader training next Saturday morning at 9 a.m. for greeters, ushers, lectors, worship assistants, and altar guild.
If you need to make new relationships to encourage spiritual growth in others, come to Sunday School or join one of the many ministry groups at St. Matt’s. The sign-up sheets are out for serving when the homeless families stay with us. There’s a great place to make new friends.
If you need help being a good steward, the more we do all the other five things we’ve just thought about, the better steward we will become as we manage what God has given us!
So what’s the connection to Baptism in all those actions? We confess our sins daily, and repent of them, asking the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us to follow Jesus. When we start doing these things and keep doing these things, the old selfish me, who keeps rebelling against our heavenly Father’s good and gracious will, has to die. We find ourselves increasingly joyful when we get out of the center that belongs only to God. As we follow the Lord Jesus in a life of limitless humble service, we lose an old life, yes, but we gain the life God created us to have!
I have this conversation from time to time with people young, old, and in-between. A person says something like, “I’m trying to figure out what God wants me to do with my life.” The younger they are, they are really talking about how they will make a living and with whom they will spend most of the rest of their life. They want to know who they are. The in-between folks have often failed in marriage, or lost at love before ever having gotten to the altar, or have discovered they really don’t like their life but are afraid to change jobs. And the older folks have usually retired and have discovered that playing all the time has lost its luster, and now they want to be significant. They want to make a difference. They want to leave a legacy that will last.
If you are baptized, you are going to live forever. That’s God’s promise. He doesn’t lie! But what on earth are you here for? That’s what practicing your Baptism daily is all about. When you die to yourself with Jesus every day, you find the forever life your Father always wanted! Filled with our Lord’s true Body and most precious Blood, we go from this place to give our lives away in limitless humble service joyfully! So, then, we can go in peace to love and serve the Lord (Thanks be to God)!
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
©Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
Bulletin Insert (see below)
Christ Crucified: We Die, Too!
“Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 620).
Matthew 16:21 “…suffer many things…and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
St. John Chrysostom (late 4th – early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople): “My suffering is not an unseemly matter. You are making this judgment with a carnal mind. If you had listened to my teachings in a godly way, tearing yourself away from carnal understanding, you would know that this of all things most becomes me. You seem to suppose that to suffer is unworthy of me” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Matthew 14-28, 48 ).
Matthew 16:23 “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me.”
Origen of Alexandria (late 2nd – mid 3rd century Bible scholar and theologian): “Satan had overpowered the one following Jesus in order to turn him aside from following him and from being behind the Son of God, to make him, because of ignorant words, worthy of being called ‘Satan’ and a scandal to the Son of God, ‘not thinking in the ways of God but of humans’” (48).
Matthew 16:24 “…let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. ”
St. John Chrysostom (Chrysostom mean “Golden Mouthed;” greatest preacher of the early Church): “So now he begins discussing more fully the outworkings of the future, not only with respect to his own suffering and death but with theirs as well. Unwillingness to die is grievous, but to be ready for death is good and of great profit. Jesus makes this clear by what follows, but for the present he works it out on one side only… ‘I force no one, I compel no one, but each one I make lord of his own choice’”(49).
Matthew 16:26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
Origen of Alexandria: “But what shall a person give in exchange for his life, would seem, if spoken in answer to a query, to indicate a person who trades his life; a person who, after sin, has given up his substance in order that his property might feed the poor…I think this indicates that there is nothing in a person that he can give in trade for his life that will buy off death. God, however, has ransomed us all with the priceless blood of Jesus to that ‘we are bought with a price,’ having been purchased not with perishable things like silver and gold but with the priceless blood of the spotless flawless Lamb” (50).
- Does my own fear of suffering and death affect the response I give to God’s grace?
- How would I react if I knew I were going to die soon? Would I, like Peter, want to tell God that my suffering and death were not part of my own plan for my life?
The Ten Commandments (from Luther’s Small Catechism)
As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.
The First Commandment
You shall have no other gods.
What does this mean?
We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.
- Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.
- Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.
- Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend how God’s love and mercy in Christ is a gift that can be returned unopened. If God’s grace in Jesus Christ is utterly unearned and unmerited, then what do we have to offer to God but our sin and our death?
- Privately, make a list of the other gods whom you have feared, loved, and trusted most in the past week. In what ways have those other gods kept you from loving and obeying the one true God? In what ways have those other gods kept you from loving others?
For Husbands and Wives
Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”