June 25, 2017 – Finding Ourselves by Denying Ourselves for Jesus’ Sake
Sermon recorded at Trinity PC
Preacher: Rev. Charles Drew
Sermon Series: Parting Reflections
Matthew 16:13-28 (ESV)
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
21 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 on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Introduction: Identity politics points to our longing to find a safe place where we are known, loved, and a valued contributor. Jesus offers us such a place, but gives us a counter-intuitive way of getting there. We find ourselves by abandoning ourselves to him and his agenda.
I) What is Jesus’ agenda
A) His goal: To put everything right
- The context of v 25: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (v. 16)
- What Peter meant: Psalm 2
- Dangerous (seditious), especially in Caesarea Philippi.
B) His method: Following Jesus in incarnation
- The second context of v. 25: …the Son of Man must go to Jerusalem and suffer…and be killed and on the third day be raised.
- Shocking and mysterious words arising from God’s insight into our plight
- Nothing less than a re-run by God himself of the whole human story will do
C) Meaning for us
- v. 25 is not a self-help gimmick: “Put others first and you will be happier”
- For my sake makes all the difference, taking us participants in a reality that is much bigger than ourselves.
II) How, practically, do we find ourselves in Jesus’ agenda
A) Denying ourselves
- Not despising ourselves
- Rather relinquishing authority to our destinies and identities
- Entering the world as its friends while taking our orders from outside
B) Taking up our crosses
- Not aiming to suffer
- Rather choosing to serve and being willing to suffer
C) Following Jesus
- Not just emulating him
- Walking with him into life
Take away: Self-justification
Questions for Reflection
- Discuss identity politics in our time. What is important and good about it? What is problematic? Are there any ironies?
- Read over Matthew 16:25. What is Jesus saying? Does it make sense? Recall stories in which you have seen it work—in which it has not seemed to work.
- Notice the phrase “for my sake” in v. 25. Why is it significant? How does that phrase lift v. 25 out of being a simple self-help gimmick?
- “For my sake” invites us to view the context of the saying in the verses that surround it. How do verses 13-28 help us understand what Jesus means by losing our lives for his sake?
- What did Peter mean when he declared near an imperial city that Jesus was the “Son of the Living God” (consider Psalm 2 in your answer). Given who Jesus is, what might giving up your life for his sake include?
- What about Jesus’ teaching in v. 21 disturbs Peter? Why in the light of Psalm 2 is Peter disturbed? Why was it “necessary” for Jesus to go to Jerusalem and how does this make our cross bearing fundamentally unlike his?
- What does losing our lives for Jesus’ sake look like? Note v. 21 and v. 24 in your answer.
- When Jesus tells us to “follow him” he does not simply mean to emulate him. He means to go with him—which means that he is with us, just ahead of us, as we seek to lose our lives for his sake. How does this comfort you? Pray for help to embrace v. 25.
Prayer of Confession
God our Maker, how surprising and praiseworthy are your ways with us. You win us by fully joining us, making our needs and sufferings your own. You conquer us by turning the sword of judgment and conquest upon yourself, making our sins your own. We confess our reluctance to follow you in your love for broken and resistant friends: we are more apt to stand at a distance and cast judgment than to come alongside them. We confess our reluctance to live under your authority wherever we are: we are more apt to be absorbed by our work and our worlds than to be your joyful and forthright ambassadors in the midst of them. We confess that we are half-hearted disciples, holding too tightly to our imagined autonomy. Forgive us by the cross. Conquer us more fully by your Spirit. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.