Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 16:24
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” – Matthew 16:24
Earlier in this chapter, Jesus asks His disciples an intriguing question. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Matthew 16:13b. They answered with several names, John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other Prophets. Then He asks the same question, this one specifically to them. “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:15b-16. He then blesses Peter and says this was revealed to him by His Father in Heaven.
Shortly after this, Jesus foretells His death and resurrection. “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” Matthew 16:21. Peter than took Him aside and told Him “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” Matthew 16:22b. After which Jesus responded, “But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Matthew 16:23. This is a strong rebuke to Peter. Not long before, Jesus blessed him because he heard from God and told all that He was the promised Christ, God’s Son. Now, Jesus rebukes Peter for not looking at what God was doing through Him, but what man wanted.
Jesus had just declared what it would mean to fulfill the role of Messiah (Verse 21), that being to suffer many things from the Jewish leadership, and then be killed, but after this rise from the dead after three days. Now, He addresses the disciples and spells out the consequences of following Him. He does this in two parts. The first is “If anyone wishes to come after Me,” Matthew 16:24a. This question can be worded as “If you are really willing to follow me.” He is with them now, but He will die at the hands of the Jewish leadership. Were they truly willing to follow Him wherever it took them? Then Jesus explains what truly following Him means. “he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24b.
First, they must deny themselves. They must renounce any selfish pursuits that get in the way of pursuing Christ. Second, they must take up their cross. They must embrace any situation which God has appointed for them, and suffer through any trials, troubles or difficulties he may have to endure when walking the way of a true Christian. Even if it means their death. And they must follow Him. They must imitate Jesus, do what He does, suffer all that is required to do the will of God and please Him and His Father.
And He not only spoke these words to them, but to us as well who desire to follow Him. These days are becoming more difficult. Christians are being looked down upon, ridiculed, and sometimes enduring abuse at the hands of those who hate us. And it will only get more difficult as we get closer to His return. So, do we desire to follow Him more than anything else in our lives? Do we submit our lives to Him, renouncing our own likes and pursuits when they get in the way of His desires for us? Are we willing to endure anything no matter what to continue following Him? These are difficult questions. However, this should be our goal as Christians. And remember, God will always be with us and give us the strength to endure anything if we sacrifice all for Him. “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.