From: Su Min
Subject: (13 Jan) Follow Jesus
CYBERCHURCHIANSMonday 13th January 1997
Epistle to The CyberChurch
The Lord has appeared to us from afar saying:
"I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving kindness."
TEXTToday we look at Matthew_16:21-28. See also Mark_8:31-9:1,_Luke_9:22-27.
CONTEXTJesus had just completed just blessed Simon Peter for recognising that his Master The Son of the living God, the long awaited Anointed One (Matthew_16:17). Jesus had stated that He would build His church, and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. Then He warned his disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ (Matthew_16:20)
APPOINTMENT ON CALVARYFrom that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hand of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew_16:21).
Jesus knew that the end was near: He had come to bring a spiritual renewal, but the people both friends and foe saw him as a leader of an earthly revolt. He had come as Prince of Peace, but they saw him as a military answer to the Roman Empire. Jesus, Himself was prepared for the task ahead: His disciples were not prepared, and He teaches them, councils them, shows them by words and by example: the path ahead was not easy: he would suffer persecution, humiliation, beatings, false charges, wrongful imprisonment, and the worst form of execution that was reserved for the most dastardly of criminals.
Yet for Jesus, death would not mean defeat, because Jesus meant defeat for death. Jesus would conquer the grave and rise from the tomb to live forever, seated at the right hand of God: King of kings and Lord of lords, (glory, hallelujah!,) there to reign over us for ever and ever and ever, AMEN!
DENIALPeter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!" he said, "this shall never happen to you!"
Peter, one of his most beloved disciples, one of the inner most circle of three, just blessed for recognising his Master as The Christ, cannot accept this picture of apparent impending doom. He pulls his master aside, and tells him to stop talking rubbish. Again we see the impulsive nature of Peter. Big rock upon which the church was built? Small rock? Either way, he loved His master, but looked at the scenario in temporal terms.
STUMBLING BLOCKJesus turned and said to Peter, “Out of my sight Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" (Matthew_16:23)
We do not know the time interval between verse 17 and verse 23 of Matt 16. Perhaps hours, perhaps days, perhaps weeks, perhaps months. Either way, the two incidences are linked closely. Jesus has been recognised as the Christ, and Jesus tells them that the Son of God has a date with death. Peter is blessed after his response to the first, and condemned after his response to the second. "Get thee behind me, Satan!"
It is no doubt a figure of speech, a hyperbole. Would Jesus appoint to head His church someone He would call "Satan"? This same Peter is going to deny his master thrice: This same Peter is going to be reinstated,
"Do you truly love me?...Feed My lambs"
"Do you truly love me?... Take care of My sheep"
"Do you love me?... Feed My sheep"
Be that as it may, at this junction, Peter's inability to grasp the spiritual dimension of his Master's role on earth causes Peter to be a stumbling block to Jesus. The path Jesus has to walk is difficult. The least His disciples could do, if not to emulate Him, is to empathise and encourage him. Instead Peter is trying to dissuade Him from doing what he must do, walk the Via Dolorosa.
In human terms what Jesus set out to do was foolish: But when seen in eternal perspective it is love personified. God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Colossians_1:27)
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrated His own love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans_5:7-8)
Peter, The Rock becomes Peter, The Stumbling Stone. An enabler becomes a disabler, when he changes focus from things eternal to things temporal.
TAKE UP YOUR CROSSThen Jesus said to his disciples, "If any one would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me". (Matthew_16:24)
This is a hard teaching, but encapsulates Christian discipleship. If we call Jesus "Lord" but do not follow Him, then we offer but lip service.
A tri-partite instruction: If any one would come after me...
- he must deny himself
- and take up his cross
- and follow me.
1) he must deny himselfSelf denial is the first step.
We, who are so self-centred, must surrender the self will, deny the right to determine ourselves what we want, surrender the control of our lives to God.
"It is no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me." I, me, and myself, the dreadful trio must be banished, replaced with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
No longer a selfish hedonistic pursuit of the pleasures of the flesh, but to lay up treasures in places where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew_6:20)
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (Romans_8:13)
We who are strong ought to bear the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. (Romans_15:1)
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Galatians_5:24)
If we call Jesus "Lord" we must place the lordship of our lives into His hands.
2) and take up his crossThe cross is an ugly instrument of torture and death. A very few will be called upon to literally take up a cross and follow Jesus down the Via Dolorosa. Taking up the metaphorical cross primarily is accepting the badge of "the sentence of death to earthly things". We are called to surrender our life to Jesus. Prepared to leave everything else behind. Particularly our selfish self-centred ways. Crucify the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Nail them to the cross. Live a new life.
3) and follow Me.Follow Jesus. Follow His example. Follow His teaching. Follow Him into eternal life. Follow the Good Shepherd who will guard and guide.
LIFEFor whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. (Matthew_16:25)
Paradox paramount: whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his will find it. Nonsense in human terms. But when seen with spiritual eyes, when heard with spiritual ears, the spiritual dimension of this teaching unfolds.
Trying to keep your life for yourself, to do as you will on this earth, will result in loss of the opportunity for eternal life. Subjugating yourself to the Lordship of The Christ, losing your life to Jesus, opens the gates of heaven to you.
I come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John_10:10)
TEMPORAL VERSUS ETERNALWhat good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul (Matthew_16:27)
The window of opportunity is very narrow. We have but a lifespan to make the choice. If we focus on things temporal, on things of this world, we can eat, drink and be merry, but the devil will have claim to our soul. No bargaining then. All is lost. Christ's supreme sacrifice will be of no avail. The gates of hell will close upon us. Ours will be eternity spent apart from The Father. We will be cast into the outer darkness. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. The fire will burn endlessly. The worm will gnaw ceaselessly. Our thirst will be unquenchable. The suffering will be with no end. The fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah will pale in comparison. Repent now before it is too late!!!
FINAL REWARDFor 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 he has done. (Matthew_16:27)
Jesus is coming again in glory and will sit in judgement: All of us will have to account for what we have done, good or bad.
You, O Lord are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done (Psalms_62:12)
Your eyes are open to all the ways of men, you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve (Jeremiah_32:19)
I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord (Ezekiel_18:30)
The servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. The one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke_12:47-48)
For we all must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Colossians_5:10)
Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear (1_Peter_1:17)
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which was the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. (Revelation_20:12)
Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me and I will give to everyone according to what he has done (Revelation_22:12)
The Word of God has said it so well: thee is nothing else I can add: I can but plead that we will humbly submit ourselves to the will of God, and beg that He will show his mercy and loving kindness to us.
SEE THE SON OF MAN COMINGI tell you the truth, some are standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew_16:28)
This is the tantalising link to the next part of this gospel: for indeed after six days Peter, James and John see Jesus in all His transfigured glory... (Matthew_17:1-2): watch out for next Cyberchurch Epistle...
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
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