Series A, Series B
Peter: The Stumbling Block and the Way of the Cross
15A Matthew 16:21-28
15B Mark 8:27-38
Pastor Edward F. Markquart
Grace Lutheran Church
Des Moines, Washington 98198
The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2006.
Basic text for the course: SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, P. 151-152.
#159. JESUS FORETELLS HIS PASSION Matthew 16:21-23; Mark 8:31-33; Luke 9:22
This is the first of three passion predictions of Jesus. The word, “passion,” means suffering. This verse begins a new element in the preaching and teaching of Jesus. Jesus clearly says that the Son of man (himself) must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and be raised from the dead. In this passage, Jesus says this clearly about himself for the first time.
-From this time. Only Matthew. After the confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi that Jesus is the Son of the living God, Peter (and perhaps the disciples) finally understand Jesus’ true identity. At this transitional moment, Jesus then begins to move in a new direction. Jesus tells his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer and die on the cross. This speech seems to be a turning point, a pivotal time, a crossroads in Jesus’ teaching about what it meant for him to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
-Jesus began to show/teach his disciples.
-That the Son of man/he. Notice that the Gospel of Mark records the title, “Son of man.” Matthew, copying from Mark, does not use the title “Son of man” but unconsciously inserts the pronoun, “he.” Jesus is clearly the Son of man. The title, “Son of man,” was Jesus’ self title and self designation during his lifetime. This is the second time that Matthew has done this in his gospel.
-Must. Circle the word, “must.” It is in the grand destiny of things that Jesus MUST go to Jerusalem, and suffer, be rejected, be killed and be raised from the dead. This was the divine destiny for his life. This was his primary purpose for coming to earth in the first place.
-Go to Jerusalem. Only Matthew. Matthew inserts this phrase, “go to Jerusalem.” Shortly, in Luke 9:51, (see page 164), Luke will say, “He set his face to go to Jerusalem.” In our imagination, we can see Jesus setting his face into the wind, going in a new direction for his life, as he approached his final epoch here on earth. In other words, we are coming to the end of this Galilean section of Jesus’ life and Jesus is now getting ready to go to Jerusalem to suffer, be rejected, be killed and to be raised from the dead.
-To suffer, be rejected, be killed, and be raised from the dead. We will see these four specific actions that will happen to Jesus in this new epoch of his life. Highlight all four of these phrases in the three columns. This idea that the Messiah of Israel would suffer, be rejected, and be killed was entirely a new concept for the disciples. The whole idea that the Son of the living God, the Messiah, the Holy One of God would suffer the humiliation of the way of the cross and crucifixion was entirely incomprehensible to their expectations of what the Messiah was to be. Christ on the cross? The Promised Messiah on wood? What an absurdity! What an incredulity! This was an impossible juxtaposition for the human mind in Jesus day…and today.
And he will be raised from the dead. No human mind conceived that Jesus or any human was going to be raised from the dead.
It is interesting that this paragraph is entitled, “a passion prediction,” and the word, “passion,” means suffering. By focusing on the word, “passion,” a reader can overlook Jesus’ prediction that he would be “raised from the dead.” People should not simply call this a “passion” prediction but a “passion and resurrection” prediction. To call this paragraph only a “passion prediction” is to limit the meaning of these words.
-He said this plainly. Mark. In other words, even the disciples could understand what Jesus was saying about himself.
-Peter took him and began to rebuke him. In our mind’s eye, we can visualize the situation. It is almost as if Peter took Jesus by the shoulders and tried to shake some sense into him. From Peter’s point of view, Jesus was talking gibberish and incomprehensible nonsense.
-But Jesus turned and rebuked Peter. In the previous story at Caesarea Philippi, Peter had given the greatest confession ever, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus praised him saying, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. God has revealed this to you. You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.” What glorious words of praise for Peter. But in the very next scene, it all turns on a dime and Jesus rebuked Peter with the strongest possible language.
-Get behind me Satan. This is as strong as a condemnation Jesus could give Peter. Earlier in the gospels, Jesus had met Satan in the temptation story.
Satan was and is the power of evil and temptation that confronts all of us. Sometimes, our closest loved ones can be “Satan” to us, tempting us to do evil. So it was with Peter. Satan, through the personality of Peter, was tempting Jesus not to follow the way of the cross and crucifixion, which was Jesus’ God given destiny. Peter’s words became satanic words, words of temptation to escape the cross and crucifixion.
-You are a hindrance. Matthew. Write the words, “stumbling block” near the word, “hindrance.” We have seen that concept of “hindrance” in a previous lesson. It means “stumbling block.” Jesus was saying, “Peter, your words are like a stumbling block to trip me, by which I will fall on my face. If I trip and fall, I will not travel further on my God-given path and destiny to suffer and die on the cross.”
In the Greek language, the word is “skandalon” which means an offense, a hindrance, a stumbling block.
We remember our study in the previous lesson of John 6:61, page 149, where Jesus taught his disciples to eat his body and to drink his blood and receive everlasting life. In John 6:61, these words were a “slandalon,” an offense, a stumbling block for some of the disciples.
Those disciples may have thought: “What? We are to eat his body and drink his blood? In the eating and the drinking, we are to receive everlasting life? Those ideas are offensive to our minds. Jesus, your teachings are a stumbling block for us disciples. We no longer can follow you.”
Jesus taught that he, the Messiah and the Son of the living God, would have to face personal suffering, humiliation and death, and this particular teaching offended the thinking of the disciples. Such ideas were stumbling blocks for Peter and his followers.
When we suffer or our loved ones suffer, this also often becomes a stumbling block for us as well. That is, when trauma smacks us in the face and heart, we seem to stumble in our faith to God, often feeling that we or our loved ones should be insulted from suffering. We often blame God for this personal suffering and become angry at God.
-You are not on the side of God but of men. God’s destiny was for his Son to suffer, be rejected, die and be raised from the dead. This new idea overwhelmed the disciples. They could not intellectually fathom that the Son of God must suffer and die. The whole idea of Jesus being raised from the dead was incomprehensible to them. It was as if the disciples didn’t even hear this idea about resurrection because they could not get passed the horrid idea that the Messiah, the Son of the living God, must suffer and die.
#160. IF ANY MAN WOULD COME AFTER ME…Matthew 16:24-28, Mark 8:34-9:1, Luke 9:23-27
We previously studied this section on page 96, #103, when we studied Jesus’ teachings about the conditions of discipleship. Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27. See Gospel Analysis for Pentecost 5, http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_a_true_discipleship_GA.htm
The teaching about “following the way of the cross” seems to fit very well here in this context. Jesus has just taught about the necessity of his own suffering and death and now he teaches that his followers must suffer and lose their life in order to find it.
- He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, This teaching about the inevitability of the cross was also for the crowds and not just the disciples.
-"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Jesus wanted the crowds to know the high cost of discipleship. We know what it means to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ. This verses needs to be memorized.
-For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. See comments below.
-For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
-Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
-Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
-And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
PLEASE TAKE A FEW MOMENTS NOW AND MEMORIZE THIS GREAT TEACHING OF JESUS: Matthew 16:24-25 (Pentecost 15A)
If anyone would be my disciple,
Let him deny himself,
Take up his cross,
And follow me.
He who finds his life will lose it,
He who loses his life for my sake will find it.
Write these pages on pages 362ff.
LET HIM DENY HIMSELF
-If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. These words are in italics at the bottom of the page. Matthew 16:24-28, Mark 8:34-35, Luke 9:23-24. Highlight those words in all three columns. What does it mean to deny one’s self?
To deny one’s self is to love the Lord God more than father, mother, brother, sister and possessions. That is, we are to deny ourselves in that we are to love the Lord God more than earthly relationships and earthly possessions which are both transitory.
To deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. This is one of the greatest teachings of Jesus. Some people never discover what it means to deny themselves. We are reminded of the worldly and successful Little Pip from the musical, STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF, who sings after he loses his wife and her love, “What kind of fool am I? What do I know of love? Am I the only one that I have been thinking of? What kind of man is this? An empty shell? An empty shell in which no heart can dwell.” Little Pip had never learned to love. Little Pip never learned to deny himself and take up the cross of his wife. What does it profit a person if that person is enormously successful and has not learned to love as Christ loves? What good is all the stuff, material possessions and successes that he/she has accumulated during a live time?
William Barclay in his commentary describes what it means to “deny self.” He writes: “We will understand the meaning of this demand best if we take it very simply and literally. ‘Let him say no to himself.’ If a man would follow Jesus Christ, he must say no to himself and yes to Christ. He must say no to his own natural love of ease and comfort. He must say no to every course of action based on self seeking and self-will. He must say no to the instincts and desires which prompt him to touch and taste and handle forbidden things. He must unhesitatingly say yes to the voice and command of Jesus Christ. He must be able to say with Paul that it is no longer he who lives but Christ who lives in him. He lives no longer to follow his own will, but to follow the will of Christ, and in that service, he finds his perfect freedom.”
DISCUSSION QUESTION: WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU TO DENY YOURSELF? (A person is to record the responses and turn them in after class)
Members from one class said that “to deny self” means:
-To deny self means to put aside those parts of our lives which are sinful; to turn to Jesus.
-To deny self means to be convicted of my own sin, that I am not living a worthy life.
-To deny self means to deny my old life of sin.
-To deny self means to daily drown my own needs and to put other people needs before my own.
-To deny self means to acknowledge our own sinfulness. -To deny self means to deny overeating, overdrinking, overworking, etc. -To deny self means to pray for others needs ahead of your own.
-To deny self means to give up a planned pleasure without being a martyr.
-To deny self means the sequence of J.O.Y. = Jesus, Others, Yourself. (Learned at camp.)
-To deny self means to deny the plans and pleasures a person had for one’s life. God places a person in need in front of you e.g. an aging parent, sick child, a foster child.
-To deny self means frustration and tension in trying to balance the needs to care for my aging parent with the needs to care for my nuclear family and children.
-To deny self means to give up your personal wants for the greater good.
-To deny self means to accommodate your lifestyle for the sake of the family.-To deny self means to put the needs of others first.
-To deny self means to take care of people whom God has put on our doorstep.
-To deny self means to seek God’s will, let God lead us, and daily submit to God’s will.
-To deny self means to face activities we would otherwise not chose, activities that yiel greater spiritual rewards.
-To deny self means to be like Mother Theresa in her selflessness.
TAKE UP HIS CROSS
-Whosoever does not bear his own cross daily. Only Luke. Luke 14:27. Circle the word, “own.” Focus on the word, “own.” In the same column, find Luke 9:23 which is printed in small italics. Highlight the words, “take up his cross daily.”
Each one of us has different crosses to bear during our lives. Sometime it is one cross; sometimes, there are several crosses. Crosses can be interpreted as burdens that we carry. Circle the word, “cross,” and write down a burden or primary burdens that you are carrying now. Please date it; that is, also write down the date that you wrote that statement. Some of our crosses are more painful than others; some of our crosses feel more trivial than others. But all people carry a cross or crosses.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU TO PICK UP YOUR CROSS DAILY? (A person is to record the responses and turn them in after class.) Members of one class answered the above question with the following remarks:
-To take up our cross daily means to take up the burden of another person’ life (or one’s own). To someone else, it may seem that my mother or father is a burden, but they are not.
-To take up our cross daily means to pick up the burden has in one’s life such a devastating disease or accident or handicap.
-To take up our cross daily is like carrying my brother/sister on my back. Because that person is my brother or sister, I do not think of them as heavy.
-To take up our cross daily means to be open and flexible to God’s plan.
-To take up our cross daily means to focus on God daily e.g. daily devotion.
-To take up our cross daily means that we fail. That is, we do not do it.
-To take up our cross daily means to try to be loving every day.
-To take up our cross daily means to have grace under pressure.
-To take up our cross daily means to go the extra mile to do our jobs of life well.
-To take up our cross daily means to work among atheists and agnostics who see Christianity as ridiculous.
-To take up our cross daily means to work on my relationship with my mother and with people I do not like.
-To take up our cross daily means to go against what our culture/media say is success.
AND FOLLOW ME
This whole course is an exercise in learning to follow Christ. To follow Christ is to believe in him and live a life of his love.
WHOEVER FINDS HIS LIFE WILL LOSE IT;
WHOEVER LOSES HIS LIFE WILL FIND IT.
-He who finds his life will lose it; he who loses his life for my sake will find it. (See also Matthew 10:39.) This, too, is one of the classic teachings of Jesus. Matthew connects this teaching with the cross; that is, to take up the cross and follow Christ implies to lose your life for the sake of Christ. This is one of the Grand Reversals found in Jesus’ teachings: find/lose, first/last, humbled/exalted. Jesus reverses the conventional wisdom of the world and offers the wisdom of the cross.
An important question for all of us is: “What does it mean to lose one’s life?”
Let Scripture interpret Scripture. A fundamental principle in Bible study is to “let Scripture interpret Scripture.” That means, we find the same or similar Scriptures elsewhere in the Bible and read those other similar Scriptures in order to see if they help us understand more fully. Notice there is a parallel teaching about “losing life” in the Gospel of John and Luke. In other words, we have the same teaching of Jesus but placed in three very different settings in three different gospels. We ask the question, “What does it mean to lose one’s life” and we are listening to the same Scripture but in three different settings. We have seen that Matthew connects this teaching to the cross and dying on the cross.
John’s setting helps us understand what it means to lose your life. Please turn to John 12:25, p. 271, #302. John does not connect this teaching about “losing your life” with the cross but with the dying of seed when it is planted. John says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life, loses it; but he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John says that we are to be like a grain of wheat planted into the ground. As the seed dies, it produces much fruit. And so with our lives. We are to die to self that others might live. When we die to self, that produces wonderful fruit in our own life and in the lives of others.
But what does it mean, “to die to self, to die like a grain of wheat?” It means that selfishness dies in our life, slowly and ever so gradually, over time.
Dying to self is a daily event. There is a daily dying of selfishness in our lives. Ever so slowly, you begin to focus on other people’s needs rather than you own.
As selfishness dies, “otherness” is born. This “otherness” is alive and grows.
This whole process of inner death and inner rebirth is a miracle, like the transformation of a seed. When a seed dies, it is not the result of its will power, but is a miracle within the seed. Similarly, when we humans die to self, it is not the result of will power but a miracle of God within.
Ignatius: “I am God’s grain.” Early church history has a memorable story about one’s life being a grain of wheat. “Ignatius of Antioch went to a martyr’s death, willing to hate his life in this world in order to live eternally, and thus gave an example of how servant would follow Jesus. As he did so, he cried out, ‘I am God’s grain.’” Raymond Brown, on John 12:24-26.
Luke’s setting of this teaching is not nearly as good as John’s setting. Luke’s setting in on page 203, #235, Luke 17:32ff. Luke puts this teaching into the theme of the end of the world. Luke refers to Lot’s wife. “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it (e.g. Lot’s wife), but whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night, there will be two in bed and one taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together; one will be taken and the other left.” Luke puts the same teaching (he who loses his life will find it) in a setting about the End of the World.
To lose one’s life is to lose one’s selfishness and self-centeredness. This is a daily experience, to daily die to self. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Not I but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20) As selfishness dies within, we can begin to see the needs of others more clearly. This is a daily process: the destruction of selfishness and self-centeredness within and also being raised to new life as we find new love for others. There is an inverse relationship: that is, as selfishness is slowly destroyed within, a new love for Christ and others is born and growing within.
We are aware that the concept of “losing your life” seems to be parallel to “denying yourself.”
This teaching of Jesus is absolutely true. It is not just some pulpit platitude. It is not just some pious talk. This teaching is as sure as day follows night and night follows day. It is as sure as two plus two equals four. If you live your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you lose your life for other people and their needs, you will find it. Jesus’ teaching is absolutely true.
Jesus says that you are to deny yourself. By that, Jesus is saying that we are to die to selfishness. We are to surrender our selfishness to God. We are to surrender our selfishness to Jesus Christ. Rather than serving our selfish needs, we are to serve God and other people.
The great religious geniuses of the world have understood that. St. Francis of Assisi wrote: “For it is in giving that we receive, and it is in dying to self, that we are born again to a living hope.” Mother Theresa, celebrating her eightieth birthday, preached and talked about surrendering our selfishness to Jesus Christ. The most important thing that can happen to anybody’s life is to surrender one’s self to Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul said in the epistle lesson for today, “Present your whole self as a living sacrifice to God.” As a Christian, you are offering your whole self to God: your eyes, your ears, your legs, your feelings, your thoughts. You offer everything to God. You surrender your whole self to God as a living sacrifice.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU TO “LOSE YOUR LIFE AND THEREBY FIND IT?”
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