The Scriptorium

This Way to Life

If you want to live, you have to die. Matthew 16.24-28

Matthew 16: Turning Point (6)

Pray Psalm 5.11, 12.
But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You.
For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield.

Sing Psalm 5.11, 12.
(Angel’s Story: O Jesus, I Have Promised)
Let those rejoice who seek You and shelter ‘neath Your wing.
Their tongues shall rise to speak to Your praise; Your grace they sing.
Your people You will bless, Lord, all those who to You yield.
Preserve them with Your best Word, and guard them like a shield.

Read Matthew 16.1-28; meditate on verses 24-28.

Prepare.
1. What did Jesus say about how to find life?

2. What did He say about the Kingdom?

Meditate.
In the light of Peter’s confession and blunder, Jesus lays all His cards on the table: The way to life is through the cross, and there’s a cross for everyone who intends to follow Jesus (“his cross”, v. 24).

Not necessarily a literal cross, but the cross as a symbol of self-denial, willingness to suffer, love for God and neighbor, and resolute faith. Jesus suffered before He entered the joy that was set down before Him (Heb. 12.1, 2). Why should we think it would be any different for us? The greatest barrier between us and the joy of God in Christ is not the suffering we may have to endure in following Jesus. It’s the allure of the world (v. 26), the mocking voice that says suffering is for suckers and simpletons; life is for the taking.

The world looks so bright and attractive, but it is a dark and devouring snare; and the more we dabble in it – the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life – the more we are transformed into its image. Christina Rosetti saw that wooing power in her poem, “The World”:

By day she woos me, soft, exceeding fair:
   But all night as the moon so changeth she;
   Loathsome and foul with hideous leprosy
And subtle serpents gliding in her hair.
By day she woos me to the outer air,
   Ripe fruits, sweet flowers, and full satiety:
   But through the night, a beast she grins at me,
A very monster void of love and prayer.
By day she stands a lie: by night she stands
   In all the naked horror of the truth
With pushing horns and clawed and clutching hands.
Is this a friend indeed; that I should sell
   My soul to her, give her my life and youth,
Till my feet, cloven too, take hold on hell?

When Jesus comes again, all our works will be revealed (v. 27); and if we have loved the world more than our cross, that will be made known, and we will be exposed for the hypocrites we have been. We must stop trying to save our lives by grabbing for all the worldly gusto we can get. Instead, we must deny the world and its charms, take upon us the calling of Jesus, and follow Him in righteousness, peace, joy, and service.

Verse 28 is most important: It tells us that the Kingdom of God came within the lifetimes of those who heard Jesus. It came in the Son of Man, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, precisely as Daniel had predicted (Dan. 7.13-18). And it came with crosses to distribute all around.

Have you taken up yours?

Reflect.
1. How would you explain the idea of the cross to a new believer?

2. What’s the nature of the cross Jesus has commanded you to bear?

3. What are the keys to denying self and the world, so that you can follow Jesus in the way of the cross?

He taught that they should deny themselves for the sake of themselves—that is, they should not wish to be that which they had once begun to be. These things which are held close are accompanied by the enticements of gratifying joy, but they may lead to a wavering and uncertain hope. Therefore it was necessary by the authority of a real and manifest example that he teach them of the loss of present things and place these in the context of future gains.
Hilary of Poitiers (31-367), On Matthew 17.1

Give me grace, Lord, that I may take up my cross today as I…

Pray Psalm 5.1-8.
The cross awaits you today, and the Lord is with you to enable you to bear it. Dedicate your day to the Lord, and commit all your activities to denying the world and living for Him.

Sing Psalm 5.1-8.
Psalm 5.1-8 (Angel’s Story: O Jesus, I Have Promised)
O Lord, attend and hear me, consider how I groan.
Receive my cries and near be, and love me as Your own.
By morning, Lord I seek You, for You will hear my voice.
My every need You speak to, and make my soul rejoice!

In sin You take no pleasure; no evil dwells with You.
Vain boasts You will not treasure, nor those who boasting do.
Sin kindles Your hot anger, You crush all those who lie.
The violent live in danger of Your all-searching eye.

O Lord, Your lovingkindness escorts me in this place.
I bow before Your highness and praise Your glorious grace!
In righteous ways You guide me; Your pathway I will know.
No good will be denied me as I with Jesus go.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

 

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore