The surprise of Jesus — part 5
40 blogs of Lent — day 26
I called the readings in Matthew Chapter 16 the surprise of Jesus. It is such a surprising chapter. It starts with Jesus refused to perform a sign of his power to the religious leaders of his religion straight after feeding 4000 foreigners until they were satisfied with a bit of bread and fish. He is going to the wrong people, or so it seems. That is one surprise
Then when Simon Peter confesses that he thinks Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God he accepts and confirms it. That, in that society, would be blasphemy, unless you can show that you are. The second surprise.
Then Jesus tells his close followers that he is not going to do the things that will prove to the people of his day that he is Messiah, just the opposite. The third surprise.
Now there is a fourth surprise.
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[g] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”Matthew 16:24–28 ESV UK
So far, Jesus has spoken about himself, what he has said about himself has been surprising and radical. Now he turns to the disciple and says, “This is about you too,” It is, and it is about us too. We also are supposed to be surprising and radical. The idea that Christianity is a nice religion for nice people to do nice things is wrong, it doesn’t just miss the mark, it shoots in the other direction. Yes there are some very nice people, far too nice to complain about me writing this, so I’m safe. But I like the nice Christians, especially the ones who can go into edgy situations and deal with the most awkward people without losing their niceness. I not only like these people, I am in awe.
What Jesus said about having to suffer applies to us too. Denial of self and taking up the cross is what Jesus is about to do. Jesus was not in it for himself and we are not supposed to be in it for ourselves. The Christian life, in whatever we are called to do is service. Christians run food banks because they care, not to become rich, or celebrities or because they are working their way into heaven (you can’t). Persecution has always been there for Christians, there are places where because of the political situation, religious situation or both Christians are being denied work, have to take steps to keep their faith a secret and are being jailed and killed for worshipping Jesus. The call to follow Jesus is a call to self denial and often to suffering. We are to walk where Jesus walked, amongst the people ostracised by society.
The apocalyptic verses are important. Whilst some theologians in the reletively safe persecution free west make up all sort of plans of the last times, persecuted Christians are reading these verses and being comforted. Jesus Christ has won the battle against evil and death. It is finished. No matter how bad things get for Christians, even seeing family members being executed, Jesus has still won, the victory belongs to Jesus, not only at the end of time when Jesus returns, but now.
Where is Jesus calling you to go?