Today we read again from the series put together by the students, staff and faculty of Baylor University Seminary:
Relevant Scripture: Matthew 16:21-28
A few weeks ago, I ordered a really cute scarf from one of my favorite online retailers. Imagine my surprise when the item I had been longing for arrived, and it was instead a shirt at least three sizes too small. This was a small mistake; I eventually got the item I had actually ordered.
This was a small and slightly hilarious mix up, but I am sure that you can relate. Maybe you expected your prayer for healing would send cancer into remission. Or that your prayers for a spouse would lead to the end of an aisle surrounded by friends and family. Or that your years of prayer and seeing doctors would lead to a nursery and cute little baby to snuggle. We all know the confusion, the feeling of despair, the frustration that comes when our expectations of God do not match the reality of the situation.
The disciples can relate. Imagine their confusion, these good Jewish boys who have left their families and their jobs because they had heard their whole lives—first at home, then in Hebrew school, then at the city gates— about a coming King, an Anointed One, who will restore their nation and make their political enemies a footstool. Finally, these prophesies that had been passed down through the generations had been fulfilled. They just knew that when their Messiah eventually came, their old kingdom, the one lost to war and disobedience, would be restored to its former glory.
Yet, here was the one they were sure was their promised King, but he is not talking about restoring an earthly kingdom. He is not concerned with defeating their political enemies. Instead, he is talking “great suffering” and being killed. This cannot be right. Peter exclaims, “God forbid it, Lord. This must never happen to you!” Peter was trying to help Jesus understand how it was actually supposed to go. The king was supposed to make others suffer, not suffer himself. Yet, Peter is called Satan for his efforts.
Being called Satan is bad enough, but Jesus went even further. Not only would he suffer, but those who follow him will suffer too. “They must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.” There would be no riches, no worldly status, no political power to be gained by following this Messiah.
Jesus confounds our expectations. This Anointed One was anointed to die. This King’s triumphant entry was actually a death march to a cross. Peter and his fellow disciples were being called into a different kind of kingdom—where the way up is actually down and to win is actually to lose.
There is a cost to discipleship. We may face suffering, disappointment, disillusionment, and despair. But, just as Jesus died and rose again, our choosing to die daily to ourselves leads to new life in Christ. We may never get the things our hearts long for on this side of glory, but in losing there is a far greater glory that outlasts and outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).