Matthew 16:21-28 Don’t Lose It!
There was a little girl who was spoiled by her parents. Whatever she wanted she got. And when her parents hesitated about giving this little girl whatever her heart desired, the little girl would throw a loud, obnoxious fit. One day the little girl got up for breakfast and announced that she wanted a worm for breakfast. When her parents asked why, well then the tempestuous tantrum began. So the father went outside and dug up a worm. “I want it cooked in butter,” the child demanded. So mother cooked the worm in butter. When the worm was presented to the little princess she declared, “I want daddy to eat half.” So daddy cut the worm in half, held his breath and swallowed the half of the worm. The little girl let out with a fit of screaming and stomping and throwing whatever she could get her hands on. “What’s wrong,” the mother pleaded. We cooked the worm and daddy ate half of it, mother cried. Thelittle girl, in between screams declare, “Yes, but he ate the wrong half.”
At an early age most of us became initiated into the reality that we don’t always get our own way. If we don’t have this experience at an early age, the fact is that eventual it will happen. Still, the fact is that we are born with a desire to get what we want. But our desires cannot know what the ultimate outcome of their results and our wants are often corrupted by selfish nature that can get us and others into trouble. And whether we realize it or not, our human nature and the desires it generates are often at odds with the loving desire of our creator, our God.
In this account of the life of Jesus we find such a struggle between the will of humanity and the purpose of God. The account tells us how Jesus has decided to begin preparing his disciples for what is to come. Peter has (in the previous verses) declared that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. Now Jesus explains what this means. He lays out for the disciples what was spoken by the Prophet Isaiah in the 53 chapter about the one who would be the Messiah of God. It is not a pretty story. It is a story of pain, anguish, of punishment and suffering and being crushed. But Jesus adds the hope to the end of the story. He speaks of resurrection.
But Peter most likely doesn’t pick up on the resurrection part. He hears the other stuff. He hears things that he does not like, that he does not want. Peter doesn’t think Jesus should be saying these things. Peter responds. The account says that Peter rebukes Jesus. Peter tells Jesus this must never happen. I doubt Peter was ready for Jesus response. Jesus calls Peter Satan! Suddenly Peter who was called the Rock in verse 18 becomes the stumbling stone of verse 23.
But Peter just wanted the best for Jesus. No, Peter wanted what he perceived was the best and in doing so acted just like Satan did in the wilderness when Satan tried to get Jesus to pervert his purpose. Jesus had become human for a divine purpose. Jesus came to fulfill justice. Jesus came to be a sacrifice of reconciliation. As it says in Isaiah, it was our sickness and sufferings he bore, it was for our rebellions he was pierced, crushed because of our crimes. His life was a restitution that would make many righteous as he bore our guilt.
But that sounds so negative. That story just doesn’t fit how we think today. We want a more positive religion. I guess this just goes to show how much like Peter humanity can be. People still want to only hear what they want to hear. Too many people still do not grasp just how serious our situation really is. Too many say, “I don’t need a savior. My sin is not that bad. Jesus didn’t need to go through the suffering he when through and die on the cross like he did for me.”
This story is not about speculation. This story is about revelation. The Gospel is not about stories of being good, it is about the sacrifice of God. It is not about speaking to morality but about our mortality. It is about how a fallen, foolish, frail figures called humans were so loved by their creator that God would lose his life to give us ours. It is a terrible tale that would be the ultimate tragedy expect for the fact that its end is really its beginning. Listen again to what Jesus says at the end of verse 21, “and raised on the third day.” This is what Satan did not want. This is what Peter did not understand.
It is said that most people are terrible listeners. The reason for this is that when we listen to other people, after a few words, we begin to think about how we are going to respond and thus do not really hear what they have to say. After Jesus responds to Peter, he then takes the time to put into perspective the reason for his words. It is very important that we understand this. Listen again to verse 24. This verse is about understanding this life. This life is not the way things were intended to be. No matter what you gain in this life, you will lose. What you have will be taken. In this life there will be sorrow, but that is not what God wants for us. In this life will be pain. In this life there will be suffering. Why would we want to hold on to this life? Why, because we have been deceived. We think we can make this life worth it by grabbing a little pleasure here and there. We seek to live in moments because the reality rushing at us is just too overwhelming. We try to cling to this existence but no matter what we do we cannot escape from the certainty of death. We lie to ourselves and say death is a natural part of life. No it is not. Death is death. It is not natural, it is consequential. It is the result of our being separated from our original purpose of being joined to God.
Then Jesus enters this world and tells us he came to seek and save that which was lost. He tells us he came to give us life that will not end in death. He came to restore that which was broken. He came to be lifted up in order to draw us to God. He tells us that when we are ready to let go of this life, this life that ends in death, and are willing to lose this life in order to gain the life to come we will understand the truth and this truth will make us free.
Our culture is consumed with the idea of success. If you can just be successful you’ve got it made? But what is success? Is it money? Is it fame? Is it power? What do you call a successful person who dies? You call them a corpse, a dead person.
The cross is not about being successful. It is about being faithful. The cross is not about a burden. The cross is about belonging. The cross is not about death. The cross is about deliverance. This cross does not limit. The cross offers liberty, it offers us life. So let us listen to what Jesus has to say about what is to come. Let us listen to every word. Let him prepare us. Let him guide us. Let him lead us. For where he is taking is us is resurrection. What he is offering is a new heaven and a new earth. He is tell us how we can begin to live it now. Don’t lose it. Don’t let it be taken. Let’s not given in to thinking in the limitations of human thoughts but allow God’s thoughts to fill our minds.