Jesus Speaks about His Suffering
(Mark 8.31—9.1; Luke 9.22-27)
21From then on, Jesus began telling his disciples what would happen to him. He said, “I must go to Jerusalem. There the nation's leaders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law of Moses will make me suffer terribly. I will be killed, but three days later I will rise to life.”
22Peter took Jesus aside and told him to stop talking like that. He said, “God would never let this happen to you, Lord!”
23Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Satan, get away from me! You're in my way because you think like everyone else and not like God.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples:
If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me. 25 If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find it. 26What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What would you give to get back your soul?
27 The Son of Man will soon come in the glory of his Father and with his angels to reward all people for what they have done. 28I promise you some of those standing here will not die before they see the Son of Man coming with his kingdom.
The whole structure and flow of the Gospel change with this paragraph. “From that time on…” Matthew used the same expression in chapter 4:17 as the Gospel began to move from John the Baptist to Jesus. Now it moves to the culmination of the story that Matthew wants to tell. The immediate future does not look bright.
Peter is front and center and will stay there for the next several years. Interestingly, he is quite emphatic that no leader he follows is going to experience the shame that Jesus describes. Jesus, however, sees a diabolical influence over Peter but he does not leave it there. The one who uttered the confession is no longer a rock but a rock of stumbling! But the real issue is how he thinks. His mind was oriented totally in the wrong direction.
When I first entered ministry in the mid 1970s, a wise man said to me, “If you want to act like a Christian, you have to first think like a Christian.” And that is exactly what Jesus describes in the last part of the paragraph. Jesus is calling his disciples (and Matthew his readers), to a radical denial of personal self-interest and behaviour that looks to the greater good of God’s rule. As numerous passages in the New Testament story remind us, followers of Jesus will be rewarded for what they done based on these criteria (v 27). The expressions are specific enough (vv 24-25) and the questions clear enough in v 26, that one realizes that there is nothing that counts like following Jesus. Is my thinking and life oriented in this direction?
Holy Father, I read this passage and realize that you are always present and will actively work in the future. I ask you to show me where I am not following you in thought, word and action according to Jesus’ directions. I desire to think as you want me to think and live as you desire me to live so you get all the credit. Amen.