Matthew 16:21-28 (NIV)
“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.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
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.”
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 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? 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.
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
In this gospel of Matthew, the phrase ”From that time on” marks a turning point. The disciples were still concentrating on the kingdom of heaven when Jesus turns the tables and announces his death and resurrection. They still have preconceived notions about what the Messiah should be. Peter, Jesus’ devoted follower and friend, wants to protect him from the suffering he has prophesied. Satan is always trying to leave God out of the picture and Jesus rebukes Peter for that. “Get behind me, Satan!” He must lose His life that we might be saved. Peter should not stand in the way of his suffering.
Jesus continues by instructing them to take up their cross and follow him if they want to be his disciples. They know what this means as crucifixion meant a true commitment – the risk of death, and no turning back. A real commitment was pledging their whole lives to his service.
Our current sermon series is focused on looking for the beauty that connects us to God. God’s glory is found in the ugliest of symbols – the crucifix – and turns it into an amazing symbol of beauty.
September 11, 2001 left our country reeling from the horrific terrorist attacks on American soil. Nearly 3,000 lives were lost and over 6,000 people were injured. Out of the ashes arose a renewed American spirit as we drew together as a nation to heal from the carnage. First responders picked up their crosses as they suffered from physical fatigue and emotional stress to search for survivors. Prayers were lifted, neighbors were hugging neighbors, people were packing churches to pray. It was beautiful to see a grateful nation for those who sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy today. Patriotism was reborn as people proudly displayed the American flag and what it stood for. From a most horrifying event, “God’s glory” shone through and it was beautiful.
We, as Christ’s followers, are instructed to take up our cross and follow Him. Our cross is something He places before us to be willing to endure (suffer) because we are His followers. Loving the unloveable; caring for the lonely and forgotten; volunteering to help those in need; visiting the sick. Innumerable acts of God’s grace in service to others.
So, how are we being called? What cross is Jesus placing before us today? How will we respond with “sacrificial love”? How will we find beauty in God’s glory?
Good and gracious God, Thank you for revealing the beauty of the cross to me. Guide me to take up my cross and follow you as your disciple. Open my eyes to discern what you are calling me to do. Amen
On this July 4th, let us remember the words of Abraham Lincoln: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness on the right that God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves with all nations.”
Written by Janece Nelson
Janece and husband, Mike, have been members of Sheridan for eleven years. Janece is a retired mathematics instructor teaching at the middle school and college level. They are blessed with two children and three grandchildren (ages 7-13). Janece finds her greatest joy in spending time with her family and friends. Her passion is writing devotions for patients in hospitals and rehabs she sees every Monday as a Sheridan hospital visitor. As a Teammate, she also mentors girls at Boys Town. Janece credits Faith Builders and Companions in Christ for her spiritual growth.