Years ago I was sitting in the library at Princeton when a guy waved to me from the sidewalk outside. I waved back, not knowing who he was; and minutes later he was sitting right across the desk from me.
It was an old college roommate who I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. Maybe it was his beard. Maybe it was seeing him in Princeton, rather than Boston. Maybe it was the years and the miles; but it wasn’t until he opened his mouth that I recognized him.
He led with multiple questions about my life and what had transpired since leaving college. I spoke briefly of my time in D.C., Miami, Philadelphia, and Princeton. Then I asked him about his last decade, and he spoke of New Brunswick, N.J. and Calcutta, India. It seems that Jim had traveled to Calcutta to spend a few months with Mother Theresa.
When he arrived he tried for three days to see her, but to no avail. Each time he was told that “the Mother” was busy. Finally, on the fourth day he sneaked into the back of the mission, and found Mother Theresa carrying a bedpan away from the bed of a leper. “Mother”, he said, “I’ve been trying to speak with you for three days; and each time they say you’re too busy. What have you been doing?”
“This”, she said. Jim stared at the bedpan and said, “This? Why? Don’t you have enough servants?” She smiled and said, “My dear, I am a servant.”
Now that’s exactly what Jesus is talking about in this fourth week of our series, “A Charge to Keep”.
This week’s text is Matthew 16:13-24. The command we will be digging into is found in verse 24, “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” This is one of the relatively few commands that finds its way into all three synoptic gospels. There’s a good reason for that; it’s the essence of coming to Jesus and taking upon yourself His yoke (last week’s message). It’s the essence of living out the Great Commission (the first message in our series).
In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Just Say No”, you may wish to consider the following:
- What prompts Jesus to take His disciples to Caesarea Philippi?
- What sign does He give His disciples to prove His identity? (See the difference between Matthew 11:1-4 and Matthew 11:21f.)
- What was this site, the foot of Mt. Hermon, known for by the Romans and the Greeks?
- Had the disciples confessed the identity of Jesus as the Messiah prior to this?
- What does Jesus’ response in verse 17 mean?
- How does Peter’s behavior and rebuke in verse 22 set up Jesus’ command in verse 24?
- Why does Jesus attribute Peter’s remark to Satan?
- What does “denying yourself” mean?
- What does “taking up your cross” mean?
- Why does Jesus follow the words of verse 24 with three “fors” in verses 25-27?