Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Pay attention, my people. Listen to Me. Revelation flows from Me. My decisions light up the world. My deliverance arrives on the run, my salvation right on time…My salvation will last forever, my setting-things-right will never be obsolete.”
Isaiah 51: 4-6
The Message Bible
“In season of severe trial, the Christian has nothing on earth that (they) can trust to, and is therefore compelled to cast (themselves) on God alone. When (our) vessel is on its beam-ends, and no human deliverance can avail, (we) must simply and entirely trust to the providence and care of God. Happy storm that wrecks (us) on a rock as this! O Blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone! There is no getting at our God sometimes because of the multitude of our friends; but when (we) are so poor, so friendless, so helpless that (we) have nowhere else to turn, (we) fly into (our) Father’s arms, and (we) are clasped therein!”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Today’s Study Text:
“Then Jesus went to work on His disciples. ‘Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let Me lead.’”
Matthew 16: 24
The Message Bible
“If anyone would come after Me, (you) must deny (yourself) and take up (your) cross and follow Me.”
“Lest I Forget” Part 14
“May I Daily Bear My Cross For Thee”
“And whosoever doth not bear (their) cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.”
Luke 14: 27
What is the daily cross I have been called to bear?
Am I willing to answer my Father’s call no matter how heavy the cross is?
“God gives the cross, and the cross gives us God.”
Madame Jeanne Marie Guyon
“There are no crown-wearers in heaven who were not cross-bearers here below.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
“May I Daily Bear My Cross For Thee”
Our study text today calls us to a chapter in Scripture penned by the former tax-collector, Matthew. The fact is, in my opinion, it would have been rather difficult for anyone else to write the passage found in Matthew 16. A wealthy taxman, who gave up his riches to follow Jesus is just the person to pen the words we will study today.
In order to better absorb this entire chapter we need to go back to Matthew 16: 1 which tells us “The Pharisee’s also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired Him that He would shew them a sign from heaven.” I wanted to check out the word “tempting” in the Greek. This word, pëirazö, means “to test, to scrutinize, to entice, to prove.” The paragons of religious teaching didn’t like Jesus’ “competition” as they saw it. Here was a simple man, threatening to draw the everyday folk and even some of the “learned” people to His side. So the Pharisees and Sadducees decided they would try to upend Jesus work as quickly as possible. Rather than bow to the wishes of these trouble-makers, Jesus got to the heart of their antics performed by the so-called holy men when He called them out: “O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times” (Matthew 16: 3, K.J.V.). It was as if Jesus was telling these men to wake up, look around, for you want Me to perform some sign when you are living right in the middle of a “wicked and adulterous generation.”
Then Matthew tells us that Jesus, along with His disciples left and went to the other side of Galilee. But while Jesus and His band of followers traveled across the lake, Christ gave a direct warning to His followers: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16: 6, K.J.V.).
The disciples didn’t get what Jesus meant because they came to the conclusion He was referring to the fact that they hadn’t eaten all day. Matthew is honest enough to tell us that Jesus “perceived” the confusion and He reminded those disciples of the recent miracle He performed when He fed the 5,000 plus hungry people and then the 4,000 plus people, as well. No, Jesus could more than handle the hunger pangs which might face His own followers. That wasn’t what was at issue here.
I love the way Matthew writes this portion of Scripture for he points out that: “Then understood they how that Jesus bade them not beware the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16: 12, K.J.V.). It was as if Jesus said, “Listen up. I’m not talking about the yeast put in bread that makes it rise. I’m warning you that the “stuff” the religious leaders sprinkle into their teaching doesn’t work. It’s a false message. Watch out! Don’t be fooled by their phony words.”
Matthew continues by letting us know that when their little boat arrived in Cesarea Philippi, Jesus asked a truly probing question: “Whom do men say that I am?” (Matthew 16: 13, K.J.V.). This is a question that comes to each of us at some point in our lives, “Who do we believe Jesus is?” Especially when we face the darkness and can’t see what’s ahead and we cry out, “Where’s Jesus now? Is He really God’s Son? Is He who He said He was?”
Jesus wasn’t trying to get His disciples to acknowledge only what they had heard others say about Him for we uncover in Matthew 16: 15 that Jesus asked His followers an even deeper question, “Whom say ye that I am?”
The rest of the words that follow Jesus’ inquiry, “Whom do you say I am?” help us get a better grasp on why Jesus would ask such a question in the first place.
Interestingly, it was none other than the feisty and bold disciple Peter who stated, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16: 16). It was just like our precious Jesus to shower words of blessing upon Peter when he recognized the divinity of Jesus.
But here’s where the story gets personal in more than one-way. First, Jesus told the disciples to keep quiet about Who He was. And then Matthew informs us that from this time on Jesus began to “shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matthew 16: 21, K.J.V.)
Jesus had warned His followers that the religious leaders were trying to sell a phony religion to them…a fashionable religion…an easy path. Sounds nice doesn’t it? A prosperity gospel that says the rich are blessed by God and the poor are blighted by God. Oh, and if you happen to get sick, it’s because you or maybe even your parents did something wrong and God’s making you pay dearly for your mistakes.
Sadly, the false “leaven” the Pharisees were trying to sell as religion back during the time Jesus walked the earth isn’t much different than some of the falsehoods we hear today. Do what’s right and that Ferrari will be in your driveway before you know it. And you know that house you just lost to foreclosure by “greedy” banks, well it was really your fault because of some evil in your life. Don’t deny it – this type of false “leaven” is still being pawned off on God’s precious children today.
After Jesus straightened out who He was with His disciples, then He turned to His children down through time to this very day and He made it totally clear, not only to Peter but to us as well, “Don’t tell Me I won’t suffer. Don’t say you won’t carry a cross of suffering either because if you follow Me, there will be a cross on your shoulders as well” (Matthew 16: 24).
It’s quite easy for me to want to say, “You go Peter. Get Jesus to say that life with Him will be easy.” That’s what I so frequently want to hear. I love to know that my Jesus has the power to feed thousands. I love to watch Him tell a dead Lazarus, “Come out of that tomb!”
But then Matthew has to go spoil the day by writing down Jesus’ words: “If anyone comes after Me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross, and follow Me.” The fact is that Jesus’ words use a personal pronoun – ‘his cross, her cross.” For each of us the cross is different but if we want to call ourselves disciples, we must be prepared to say, “Put the cross on my back…I am willing Lord to carry a cross just like You did.” This is the tough part of following Jesus. And only a person like Matthew who gave up his business, walked away from his home and his wealth, could really say it best, “If you want the crown, accept His cross.” Matthew didn’t just stop with the cross. He continued for he wrote that Jesus promised those who accept the cross, “before you know it, the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of His Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You’ll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift” (Matthew 16: 17, The Message Bible). We may carry a personal cross but we’ll also wear a personal crown and be given a personal name by our Saviour and Friend.
I’ve shared quotes before penned by one of my favorite writers A.W. Tozer. His words about the cross touch my heart in such a personal way for he notes that “there are three marks of one who is crucified: One, (she) is facing in only one direction. Two (she) can never turn back. And three, (she) no longer has any plans of (her) own.” Take up My Cross and follow Me are words that ring from Golgotha’s mountaintop to this very day. The answer is yours and mine to make today and every day! “I will follow You!”
“Lord Jesus Christ,
alive and at large in the world,
help me to follow and find You there today,
in the places where I work,
and make plans.
Take me as a disciple of Your kingdom,
to see through Your eyes,
and hear the questions You are asking,
to welcome all others with Your trust and truth,
and to change the things that contradict God’s love,
by the power of the cross
and the freedom of your Spirit.”
John V. Taylor
“We must do something about the cross, and one of two things only, we can do – flee it or die upon it.”
Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone
“Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.
A consecrated cross I’ll bear,
Till He shall set me free;
And then go home my crown to wear,
For there’s a crown for me.
At the Cross
“Alas, and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For someone such as I?
Was it for crimes that I have done,
He suffered on the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
But drops of grief can never repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do!
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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