Read Matthew 16:21-28.
Peter had just made a great confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Wow, that’s powerful stuff, and truth at that. Jesus recognized it as something that Peter could only have declared by the power of God, and blessed him for it.
At this point, Peter must have felt pretty good about himself. Not only had he made a great proclamation, but he’d been commended by the Master himself.
Then Jesus’ tone changed, as he began to talk about the sufferings to come and his ultimate death. After such a clear declaration by Peter, were the disciples not ready to handle the inevitable?
Obviously not, because Peter pulls him aside.
I can picture it now. Peter, seeing himself as the one who had been honored, wanted to protect Jesus from himself. So, he tries to move him away from the others, so he can rebuke him. Can you image? The disciple is rebuking the teacher? And not just any teacher, but The Teacher!
Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!
Poor Peter. He should have stopped talking while he was ahead.
Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.
Ouch. So much for the blessed Peter.
That’s when Jesus gives his “if” statement, but not just to Peter, to all those following him.
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
If Peter had really understood what Jesus was saying about his sufferings and death, he would have realized that what Christ was facing would be the model for us all. Jesus denied himself the glory of Heaven to come to earth in the limited form of a man to make the way for all mankind to find salvation. Without his initial denying of self, we would not have life eternal.
That was the first thing he rebuked, because the words Peter spoke were not inspired by God, but by Satan. Yet, Jesus also wanted his disciples to know that choosing him was not the easy way of this world, but a narrow and sometimes hard path.
When we accept Christ’s sacrifice, we follow his example by denying the “I” of the sinful nature. Without the “I” in the middle, SIN has no hold on us and falls apart. Jesus wanted not only Peter to get the message, but his other disciples as well.
Have I accepted the free gift of salvation, but struggle in following Christ, because I cannot take myself out of the picture? When Jesus calls, do I first ask: “But what will that do for me? What will I have to do? What if I look bad to others?”
Do I recognize that this is my sinful nature speaking?
Denying self is an act of the will, but only requires us saying two words: “Yes, Lord.”
I’m going to work on taking the I out of sin and saying “yes” to the One who calls me to follow him. My goal is to hear the words of my Master say on that day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
What about you?