Read Matthew 16:1-28
No one said it would be easy. The general perception of the Christian life seems to be something you would read out of the Precious Moments Bible. Everyone is happy and getting along with one another. It doesn’t matter what happens to them, they are going to smile through it all and trust in Jesus.
Anyone who has been a Christian knows that that isn’t the case at all. The Christian life is hard. It’s not all fun and games. It isn’t easy to turn the other cheek when someone hurts you. It’s not easy to trust in Jesus in the midst of trials. It’s not easy to put your faith in Him while you’re in the unknown. You can have a boat load of stress and pray to God to take it away but instead He remains silent. These aren’t “precious moments” are they?
Matthew 16 is a very iconic section of Scripture. In the midst of His earthly ministry, Peter says to Him that “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” He tells Jesus that He is who He claims to be. Jesus then responds with the first reference to the Church in the Bible, “upon this rock (this truth) I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Here, Jesus is promising that a universal Church will be stablished and nothing, not even the grave, will ever overcome it.
Seems like a promising statement, doesn’t it? While that prophecy is true, it will come at a cost. It will never be easy. After the prophecy of the universal Church, Jesus goes into the “BUT” in verse 24. He says the following: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
Jesus was always one to use object illustrations. During the time of Jesus, Jerusalem and surrounding cities were under Roman control. There had been a Zealot revolt against the system that was quickly thwarted. As a punishment, the Romans crucified the surviving rebels in the streets of Jerusalem as a sign of their power. They also weren’t too quick to take the bodies down after death. Just that memory, or even the scene of some still hanging, was the backdrop to this statement by Jesus. There would be some sacrifice needed to follow after Him.
Although we don’t usually deal with the threat of death, the principle still applies to us today. Following Jesus is frequently difficult. There are some hard times where we are forced to lean on Him for deliverance rather than our own power. Do you trust in Jesus’ plan for humanity? Have you encountered trials as a result of your faith? Are you willing to do what it takes to make Jesus known? Sure, it’s going to be tough, but boy oh boy is it worth it.