I want to begin a series of essays on Jesus radical call to discipleship in Matthew 16:21-28 for Holy Week. Today we ponder Matt 16:21
NIV Matthew 16:21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
This text occurs at a major transitional point in Matthew’s Gospel. In Matthew 16:13-20, the disciples through Peter declare the true identity of Jesus - “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus commends Peter and gives a great deal of authority to the disciples for the ordering of the life of the community of faith for the future (Matt 16:17-20).
Matthew 16:21 serves as the transition to the remaining third of Matthew’s Gospel which will culminate in Jesus’ death, resurrection, and commissioning of the disciples for a ministry of “disciple making” (28:16-20). Note the force of 16:21. If Matthew 16:13-20 marks the climax of the initial chapters of Matthew’s Gospel in the disciple’s unambiguous declaration of Jesus’ identity, Matthew 16:21 focuses Jesus’ identity as the Son of God on a journey to Jerusalem where Jesus the Son of God will suffer, be killed, and on the third day raised to life.
In this one verse, Jesus explodes many of our popular conceptions about the person and identity of Jesus. Jesus essentially is saying that his identity cannot be fully comprehended apart from his death and resurrection. This is challenging for us because it forces us to come to the cross as well. My friend, Alex McManus likes to talk about the need for Christian leaders to be people “who must.” Notice that Jesus was the first. It was not optional for him to go to Jerusalem, suffer, die, and be raised. He had to do this. It was a “must do” for him. In the verses that follow, we will discover that the cross is a “must do” for us as well.
As we reflect on Jesus’ passion during this holy week, let us begin to ponder deeply Jesus as one who had to embrace suffering and death on a cross.
1) What role does Jesus’ death and resurrection play in my own faith?
2) Would the Jesus that I believe in be crucified?
3) Have I been so touched by the power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that I have been transformed into a person who must?
© 2015 Brian D. Russell