DIGGING DEEPER INTO MATTHEW 16:23–17:8
Bible Background: Jesus has just told his disciples that he will suffer and die and be raised. Peter resists that kind of talk. Then Jesus speaks these hard words about taking up the cross and following. The Transfiguration scene on the mountaintop has a mysterious feel to it. We read that as another story that reveals Jesus’ true identity and mission. And we, with the disciples, are encouraged to keep the focus on “Jesus, only”.
Going Deeper: 1. Jesus speaks of “taking up the cross,” not of enduring some hardship that life has saddled you with. Sometimes we point to someone who has “a hard cross to bear in life”. Jesus is referring to a cross we choose to bear. How is that different from one that life burdens people with?
2. “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it” sets a high bar! What do you hear Jesus saying? Is this about “losing ourselves” (i.e. giving up self-centeredness, selfish ambitions) for a cause larger than ourselves? That seems to be what the apostles did after Jesus put them in charge! And they did so knowing the risks and the costs of discipleship.
3. The Transfiguration of Jesus is an amazing story! Who do you think needed that mountaintop experience more: Jesus? or the disciples? or both equally? What message from that story is also for us? Think of what the heavenly voice says: “this is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him!”
4. The disciples are filled with fear. Jesus tells them “Get up and do not be afraid!” In what situations in life do you need to hear those words? How do they help you keep going? Who do you know that needs to hear those words spoken gently and often? Pray for them today!
5. This section is the turning point in Matthew. From here on, the gospel writer shows Jesus moving steadily on towards Jerusalem, where he will give his life on the cross. It’s not all gloom and doom. But it sure isn’t easy! Jesus still has much to do and much to teach before his death. Who do you know, who has been confronted with their own mortality, who has lived with new focus and commitment? What can we learn from someone like that?
Prayer concerns: Those who pour out their lives for others: relief workers, first responders, care givers. Also, those facing persecution because of their faith. Those deciding on what to focus on in life.