Read Matthew 16
Red sky in the morning sailor take warning.
Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.
The original version might have said shepherd instead of sailor. It is the rhyme of the past two millennia that might have been referenced by Jesus in this 16th chapter.
The Pharisees demanded that Jesus prove he is the Messiah.
Jesus did not oblige them and in fact he taunted them a little telling them that they seem to be wise in the ways of the world and ignorant in the ways of God.
Nope, you guys get the same sign as everyone else—the sign of Jonah.
Then Jesus chastised his own disciples a bit with a warning about the yeast of the Pharisees. This was while they were afloat and the disciples had not taken any bread with them for the journey.
The disciples thought Jesus was upset with them for not packing a lunch.
In all fairness to these disciples, Jesus did pick them and knew from the start they were not literary scholars. His figures of speech often confounded the disciples. Maybe Jesus used these men to test his messages before speaking to the multitudes just to make sure that all the people could understand it.
It’s like Jesus saying; c’mon guys if my disciples get it then you should get it.
You won’t find that anywhere in your standard scriptures. Perhaps it is included somewhere, perhaps the first chapter of the Book of Second Opinions.
Jesus was talking again about the teaching of the Pharisees. The Pharisees should have known better but they didn’t. Jesus reinforced what he said about the blind leading the blind.
Ignore the teaching of the Pharisees. They just don’t get.
The disciples had no higher education but the Pharisees did and it did them no good.
Jesus was clear. He told his disciples not only to disregard the teaching of these religious leaders but to be on the lookout for their teachings.
The teachings of the Pharisees had pervaded almost every aspect of everyday life and Jesus told his followers to be on the lookout, don’t let their teachings worm their way into the truth that you are receiving now.
The truth will not fit into false teachings. The truth must prevail. Discount and discard what is false.
Jesus and his followers must have found a place to come ashore where they were not met by a crowd as Jesus was able to continue his conversation with the 12. He asked, who do people say that I am?
This was a question that disciples could answer. They must have heard what the people were saying.
John the Baptist.
A prophet for sure.
But Peter answered differently. He said to Jesus: “You are the Christ. You are the Messiah. You are the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus replied, “You couldn’t have figured this out on your own. God himself revealed this to you. You, Peter the son of Jonah, you are surely blessed.”
Jesus identifies Peter as it might be done in a legal document.
He then commissions him with power and authority to establish the church on the earth. Peter surely had no idea what Jesus was talking about as was evidenced in the verses that followed, but Peter would have authority to make the necessary rules and provisions for the church that would come, to include some disciplinary matters.
Surely the Roman Catholic faith anchors papal authority in these verses, but they are for all of the forms of church government that have evolved.
The church would be a viable entity in the age to come.
These few words are also a precursor to the commission that would follow at the end of this gospel.
Peter surely did not understand all of this at this point in the gospel story, but he is surely feeling bold.
Jesus told his disciples that he must suffer and die and be raised from the dead and Peter took Jesus aside and said, “Not on my watch.”
Jesus has so much in store for Peter but Peter is not quite ready for prime time. His carnal mind still rules. He is not ready for the story that will unfold with the man that he just attested to be the Messiah.
Jesus gives the disciples words that seem upside down but reveal the truth that Jesus brings to the world.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Jesus is challenging his followers to stop living for the transitory and start living for the eternal.
He is telling them to look beyond the temporary needs of their bodies and know the eternal relationship that Christ himself brings with God.
We should remember that God breathed his Spirit into us and made us a living soul. It is the Spirit that holds the secrets to real life.
Jesus challenges his disciples to embrace the life that God has in store for them and quit clinging to the things of this world.
Let go of what is transitory and embrace that which is eternal.
The challenge was and is to pick up your cross and follow Jesus. Today, the cross symbolizes the atonement for our sin. It includes our acknowledgement of the suffering of the Christ but it proclaims victory of sin and death.
When Jesus was speaking to his disciples, the cross only meant death. The Roman occupation of the Promised Land and most of the known world made the cross the universal symbol of death.
So if we pick up our cross, we are saying that we are dead to the world.
The second part of this challenge is what brings us to real life—following Jesus.
Jesus is saying throughout this section, “Die to the world and live to the full now and forever.”
Leave the rules of a world that wants to bribe you with things for the rewards that only your Father in heaven can give.
Of course, Jesus had to give his followers in the age to come something interesting, though not an essential part of salvation and life, to chew on.
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Was Jesus talking about the transfiguration that would follow? Was it the destruction of the temple that would precede the second coming, though that throws a few wrinkles into those who believe the temple will be rebuilt before the end of the age?
Would there be some who would live to be 2000 or 3000 years and remain as witness on the earth?
Did Jesus already come back and we missed him?
What exactly did this mean? Scholars don’t agree. Unless you are called by God to find the definite interpretation of this scripture, we are best to just go with it was fulfilled in the Transfiguration that was discussed in the next chapter.
It is good to have some mystery in our faith.
How can we wrap up this chapter?
We know and believe the sign of Jonah to which Christ told the Pharisees would be the only sign they would get. We are blessed to live on this side of the cross.
Our teaching for this age is to let go of living for the things that this world says are important; in fact, we should die to the demands of this world.
Live completely for Jesus. Real life is in him. Abundant life is in him. Eternal life is in him.
Suppose for a moment that we got everything that our greedy nature desired but lost our very soul–but lost that vital connection with the God who loves us so much.
Suppose we took the love story that God wrote and turned it into a tragedy because we loved the things of the world more.
Let’s stop supposing and die to the selfish nature and embrace the nature and life that God has for us.
Let’s go with pick up your cross and follow Jesus.
Want a fresh take on talking about Jesus with your friends?