- Sermon Notes
What it Means to Follow
Illus. What do you mean?
The meaning of words and phrases are important. As we pick back up in Matthew 16:21-27 this morning, we are going to look specifically at two words Jesus
gives His disciples and what they mean, the specific words are “follow Me.”
Illus. Word play.
It is here in Matthew 16 that Jesus defines and describes the relationship His followers have with Him, and what it truly means to follow.
Read: Matthew 16:21-27
Leading up to this, Peter had just given his answer the most important question a person could ever be asked, “who do you say Jesus is?” Peter responded by expressing his faith and trust in Jesus as the Christ, the very One the Scriptures prophesied about and promised, Jesus was the One they had been waiting for. And it was at this point, that Jesus began to describe to the disciples that he would suffer many things from, the Jewish elders and chief priests and be killed, but would be raised the third day.
Peter’s faith and trust in Jesus no doubt carried the hope of sharing in the Messiah’s glory. But as Jesus describes the cross as a part of His earthly destination, Peter is ready to part ways with the plan being put forth.
And Peter is no exception. Like many who come to faith in Jesus today, Peter did not want to accept what did not agree with his personal hopes and ambitions and begins to attempt to bring an admonition. But here Jesus points Peter, His disciples, followers, and you and me today back to His mission and gives insight into what it means to truly follow Jesus.
I. Place Your Desires Higher
- The book of Mark says that Jesus was stating plainly what was to come. It was the first of three times that Jesus would tell His disciples that He was going to suffer, die, and be raised back to life (16:21-28; 17:22-23; 20:17-19)
- Peter clearly did not approve of the plan being put forth, verse 22 says that he “began,” rebuking Jesus, which suggests he was only able to get so far before Jesus stopped him.
- Peter, who was just called “rock,” the one upon whose profession of faith the church would be built, is now called a stumbling block.
A stumbling block is a rock which is a cause of stumbling.
- Peter had just been told that it was God who revealed to him that Jesus was the Christ. And it was.
- Yet just a few verses later, he is saying something that doesn’t line up with Scripture.
- It was out of line with what Scripture had foretold and a contradiction of what Jesus was telling him.
- But Jesus knew it would be the cross, before the crown.
Isaiah 53:7; Isaiah 53:9-10; Philippians 2:7-9
- Jesus knew the cross was the way, and in Jesus’ strong correction of Peter, it is important to understand that Jesus was not calling Peter Satan, but rather, Peter was saying the words Satan would say…That He did not need the cross in order to obtain the crown.
- Peter’s mind was on the things of man, not the things of God. Satan had already tried to temp Jesus two years earlier…
Matthew 4:8-9, Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”
- If you would just worship me, indulge me for a moment, I will give you all that this world had to offer.
- Surely Satan knew that Jesus came to purchase the souls of men back to His Father by the way of the cross, by a perfect sacrifice.
- The suggestion being made is that Jesus doesn’t have to go the way of the cross. You don’t have to do this the hard way.
- We are tempted to do the same in our lives. Why go that way? Indulge a bit, life is short, live it up.
- Certainly, there are times when a path seems to be more difficult, or less appealing, but it is apparent that it is clearly the way the Lord would have you go.
- It seems to be marked with difficulty, but, is the only way in which your life, and or lifestyle will line up with His word.
- The temptation in those moments is, you can have it all now.
- Surely Peter had heard from the Lord regarding Jesus’ identity, but, as he continued forward, it would remain important that he did not get out in front, but place his desires higher, and stay behind Jesus as His follower.
- Jesus said to build your life on the rock of His word (Mt. 7:24-29),
- To “set your mind” on things above is to strive for those things. That is your longing, the enduring pursuit of your life… “Things above.”
Isaiah 55:9, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Illus. Tying shoes.
- Take up your cross
Matthew 16:24, Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
- The word “wishes” is elsewhere translated “desires.” It is a term that indicates intent, will, or to have in one’s mind.
- From other gospels (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:21-27), we understand that it was the crowd of followers as His disciples that Jesus begins to detail the way of His followers.
- I mention this because if it were just His disciples, you might think He is referring only to His 12 disciples, and that reference today might only be for Pastors, Elders, or ministry workers.
- But it is clear that Jesus is addressing both His 12 Apostles, as well as the entire crowd surrounding Him, me and you today.
- “If anyone wishes, or desires to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross.”
- Jesus says here, if you are going to come after me, you must deny yourself.
1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a, “you are not your own; for you have been bought with a price.”
Illus. It’s yours.
- When you give your life to Jesus, you give Him the title as Lord in your life. Jesus takes not simply the wheel momentarily, He takes over.
- The imagery associated with taking up one’s cross, was unmistakable. The way we hear it today, would have had a completely different impact 2,000 years ago.
- For people in Jesus’ day, the cross was not an emblem they would add to their gold chain, it wasn’t a special earring, or attached to a wall for remembrance or in celebration.
- To take up one’s cross was to set off on the path of public execution, a person would carry their cross to the place of execution. It was death by the most humiliating and painful means they could think of.
Illus. Bearing your cross.
- As we look at the cross today, it is a symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love, because we know that the cross, for Jesus, was the pathway to the crown and we have victory in Him.
Isaiah 53:5, But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
- While true for us today, bearing a cross for those Jesus spoke to meant that they would take up their execution device, while facing ridicule as they walked to their death.
- As followers of Jesus, we must follow Him in choosing to take up our cross as well. Those in Jesus’ day would face social and political oppression, rejection, even death itself.
- You take up your cross when you are willing to pay any price for Christ’s sake. Shame, embarrassment, reproach, rejection, persecution, even death if it were to come to that.
Acts 5:41, So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Matthew 5:10-11, Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great!
- Focus on what is found in Jesus
Matthew 16:25-26, For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
- Certainly, life in Jesus comes with sacrifice and surrender, but it is important to always remember that there is a reward waiting for followers of Jesus.
Illus. Finders keepers.
- Our day is a day of following no one, denying ourselves nothing. Seeking the Savior only when it suites our schedule.
- The paradox of following Jesus is this, if you save your life, you lose it. If you lose your life for His sake, you will find it.
- You can’t gain resurrection in your life without first dying. Jesus didn’t, and as His followers, nor do we.
- The Greek word for life, psuche here refers to the soul. The part of a person that includes the personality with all its dreams, hopes and goals.
- Jesus had the opportunity to gain the whole world by worshipping Satan (Luke 4:5-8) but He found life and victory in obedience to the will of the Father.
- The person who loses their own soul in the process of gaining the whole world is exchanging their future glory for a temporary reward.
- The question Jesus asks here is what could possibly be worth having during this lifetime, if to gain it to you would have to exchange your soul?
- A person who “saves” their life in order to satisfy desires and goals apart from God ultimately “loses” life.
Matthew 6:19-21, Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Illus. 0 – 10.
- If you have placed your faith and trust in Jesus, live your life as a follower of Jesus, with a higher desire, denying yourself, taking up your cross, fully focused on what is found in Him.
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.