Matthew 16: 21-28. A personal example of potential choice.

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[f] 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.”

We have now reached the stage in the development of the disciples where Jesus shares with them the fact that he will suffer, die, and be raised to life. Peter, (impetuous Peter), jumps right in and before Jesus can explain in greater detail, Peter decides to attempt to take control and say how he thinks it should be.

Jesus began in verse 21 by showing that he was going to be obedient to his Father, Peter was seen as an obstacle to the kingdom by his reaction in verse 22. Thanks to Peter we are given a reasoned answer to his objections (verses 24-28). We do not get a neat simple teaching; Jesus explains it as it is. To follow Jesus requires a sacrificial way of living, being a Christian is not a soft option where we pick and choose our level of commitment and decide the intensity of our involvement.

Jesus explained to his disciples that to follow Christ is a deliberate response to a personal call. He spells out the demanding cost. Jesus reveals that he is dealing with an eternal perspective. It is not just about the here and now, Jesus throughout his ministry highlighted that our earthly life is temporal and what really matters is what happens when we die. His suffering, death, and resurrection had the purpose and meaning that through his shed blood we can be forgiven for our sins and the gates of heaven are opened up to us.

It would have been interesting to have had a verse 29 to follow, I wonder what the followers of Jesus made of that teaching. It is clear from reading on that they did not fully understand but chose to continue to follow him.

We will never fully understand, that is where faith comes in, we must encourage one another to undertake the personal call, take up the private challenge of self-sacrifice, and appreciate the promised consequences. Our steps of faith will lead us into areas of hope and peace. One thing this pandemic has taught us is that things can change rapidly, and our lives can be radically changed in an instant. Jesus was preparing his disciples with the true perspective of what is important and what is vital.

We are in the process of attempting to return to church soon, albeit in a very strange form of corporate worship, we will have the opportunity to thank God for his faithfulness and the chance to follow him in a changing world. Our need for prayer and Bible study is paramount if we are serious about worshipping and witnessing our Christianity in a meaningful way.