Prepare to Listen. Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Prayerfully Read Matthew 16:21-26
21From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ 23But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ 24Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?’
Peter correctly identified Jesus as Messiah but was shocked when he explained that, instead of overthrowing the Romans, he was destined to end his life in seeming defeat and failure. Since this wasn’t what Peter wanted or expected from his Messiah, he dared to rebuke Jesus: “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” Peter believed Messiah was to lead a revolution, topple the occupying Romans, and make Israel great again. He wasn’t meant to suffer and die. Peter got it wrong because he hadn’t listened to Jesus’ promise about being raised on the third day. Jesus rebuked him in harsh terms.
Then he turned and spoke to all his disciples, including Peter, giving an uncomfortable and loaded command. Deny yourself; take up your cross; lose your life! Was Jesus kidding? This isn’t a verse we choose as our life verse. “Some of us,” writes Taylor, “like to believe that Jesus was talking only to his disciples—those twelve special Christians—and that the rest of us are excused from denying ourselves and lugging crosses and things like that.” But this is the upside-down way of Jesus. It ought to be our life verse. His triumph over evil comes, not by charging in with guns blazing, but the exact opposite. Jesus’ way involves suffering and death, losing our life rather than trying to save it. He did and called us to the same way. Denying self, losing your life isn’t about abstaining from something for a period, long or short. It’s about “coming to see that God is the center of your life,” not yourself. It’s about living a God-focused not a me-focused life.
What do you think it means to lose your life?
Respond in Prayer
Lord, give me the courage and power to live by denying myself, losing my life for your sake. Amen.
Live Obediently. Lose your life for the sake of the gospel.
 Taylor, Barbara Brown. The Seeds of Heaven: Sermons on the Gospel of Matthew. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 2004, p. 76.
 Brueggemann, Walter. A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 2017, p. 28.
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Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.