Matthew 16:21-28 – Championship Caliber Christ Followers…

Posted: January 17, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 16:21-28
Jesus Predicts His Death the First Time

If you know me at all, you know that I am a football nut. I love the game. I love to watch it and I love to observe and understand it. Part of the reason I love the game so much is, as I tell my wife and kids, “Football is life.” There are so many life lessons, necessary life lessons that we can learn from football. I have heard stories of football players returning years later to see their favorite coach and tell them that the lessons that they learned under their leadership have carried them through life. No greater compliment can a coach receive than to hear a former player credit the coach for helping them become responsible men. Football can teach us a lot about life and even our Christ-following life.

We have seen in the great sports movies. We have experienced it ourselves at times when we have had the opportunity to be a part of a championship sports team of any kind. There is always something unique about championship teams. They are different from the teams that do not make it to the championship. Sometimes, there is luck involved – a player being at the right spot at the right time to make a play that preserves the championship season. However, the main thing that you see in a championship team is brotherhood and sacrifice. Championship teams are always marked by a feeling that you are brothers. You have brothers back. Championship teams, I think, if they got in a bar fight would be the ones who defend each other to the death and never leave a fellow brother behind. These championship teams are the ones that would, off the field, defend their fellow teammate from whatever. The other aspect of championship teams is that the goal is more important than ego. Almost always on championship teams, you see the willingness to do whatever it takes, make whatever sacrifice is necessary to win the championship. The team goal is more important than individual goals. That quality is rare to find in our me-first, what I want matters the most, society in which we live. The championship on championship teams makes all the sacrifices worth it. It is worth the extra hours in the film room that are not required by coaches. It is worth the extra hours in the weight room even when you have already completed the requirements of the strength coach. It is getting up early all summer long when everyone else is goofing off on summer break and running. It is worth running up and down the hills to increase your endurance. It is worth switching positions from the position that you want to play because that is what the team needs and that is what is best for the team. It is about playing hurt because you don’t want to let your brothers down. It is about giving it all when you’ve got nothing left in the tank but you are just playing on heart and desire alone because it’s for your brothers. That’s championship team members. That’s what make a championship team. Brotherhood and sacrifice. Thinking of the team first and ourselves second. How are we when it comes to our walk with Christ? Do we have what it takes to be championship-caliber Christians? Why do I bring this up? Let’s read today’s passage, Matthew 16:21-28:

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, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Here we see a couple of things about the difference between championship Christianity and mediocre Christianity. First, the cross is necessary. It is the goal that Jesus never loses sight of. Second, Peter is an example of having the desire for the Messiah but not willing to put in the sacrifice. Finally, how far are you and I willing to take this Christ following thing?

The first thing that we see here is that Jesus knew what His purpose was and He let nothing deter Him from that goal. The goal was to become the sinless sacrifice that dies on the cross in order that we may be reconciled to God. Without the completion of the death on the cross, the once and final completion of the sacrificial system that God instituted in the Old Testament, Jesus’ coming to earth is incomplete. Without the cross, the sinless life He led would have been nice but incomplete. The cross is absolutely necessary for you and I to have any chance of being reconciled to the Father in heaven. Without the cross, we stand condemned. No matter how good we try to be, no matter how many good deeds we try to post in the asset side of our ledgers to outweigh the sins on the liability side of our ledgers, we just can’t be good enough to overcome the stain of sin. We are screwed without the cross. We are up crap creek without a paddle without the cross. Jesus coming to earth without the cross is like playing three quarters of great football and then slacking off in the 4th quarter. Jesus knew what had to be done. He knew what was necessary. He knew from his human fleshly side that it was going to be gruesome and painful but He was willing to make the sacrifice on the cross because of the goal. The goal was to make a way for us to be reconciled to the Father. Jesus was willing to put in the pain and the sacrifice for the goal. He as God in the flesh loves us that much. The goal is for us to be able to stand in the presence of God in heaven free from our sin nature. Jesus knew that could only come through sinless sacrifice on the cross. Nothing else could perfect us or can perfect us. It is the cross that does it for us. Jesus knew it was going to be rough and that it would be easier not to do it, but the goal was too important to worry about having to suffer. We are too important to Him. We are worth the trouble of setting aside His own glory as part of the Trinity and coming to earth to live the sinless life, show us the way to holiness, and become the once and final sacrifice for the atonement of sin. That’s the championship goal from which Jesus was undeterred. That cross was the whole purpose for His earthly ministry and everything was worked toward that. Nothing would distract Him from what He knew He had to do.

Peter, just in the last passage, knew who Jesus was. He had to know Scripture. Isaiah tells us that the Messiah must suffer to redeem us from our iniquities. He knew all that as any good Jewish boy should. However, there was a disconnect for many Jews between what the Bible tells us of the Messiah in prophecy and the Messiah that they wanted. They wanted the Messiah to be a conquering hero to drive out the Romans and re-establish the Jewish kingdom. Peter wanted the messianic glory but not the messianic sacrifice. He wanted to pick and choose the parts of Messiah that he wanted to hear. He wanted the good stuff and not the hard stuff. If Jesus was going to suffer, it meant that most likely that they were going to suffer also. If Jesus was going down, it meant that they were going down. Peter wanted the good stuff of the past three years but not the hard stuff that was coming. When crunch time came, Peter failed miserably. He denied even knowing Jesus Christ because he was trying to preserve his own skin. Peter wanted the glory but when it required guts, he failed. He did not want to make the ultimate sacrifice to say I stand with Jesus. He failed the team. Thank God for Jesus’ restoration of Him later. Peter got another chance to get back on the field and win the championship. He had to be humbled and see the greater goal.
Is that not like us? We like the good stuff about being Christ followers. We like prosperity and blessing. But are we willing to make sacrifices that are necessary to advance the kingdom of God. Are we willing to give sacrificially in obedience to the Lord? Are we willing to go where Jesus sends us? Are we willing to be sent? Are we willing to do more than volunteer at church-wide benevolence events that make us feel good? Are we willing to make sacrifices for Jesus? How much are we willing to put on the line? Are you willing to risk your comfort and move to India to fight sex trafficking and redeem these young women in the name of Jesus? Are you willing to spread the gospel in the Middle East? Are you willing to help house churches in China or North Korea? Are you willing to spread the gospel in the inner city of Detroit? Are you willing to teach gang members that Jesus loves them in the streets of Los Angeles? Are you willing to go on mission for extended periods of time or even years? Or is the Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway good enough for you? Is giving the extra $20 in your pocket good enough for you? Are you willing to risk your life savings to open up a soup kitchen in Lyman because the Lord led you to do it? How much are you and I willing to put on the line for this Christ following thing? Are we championship caliber Christians or are we just mediocre Christians? How far are we willing to take it? Sunday morning is good enough? Being a Christian baby good enough? Or do you have what it takes to do the painful process of growth in Jesus Christ where our guts get revealed? Where the Holy Spirit reveals to us what we need to change? Where we see our salvation for the great pearl that it is and that our lives become thanksgiving for what Christ did for us on the cross? Are we willing to change the things that we need to change about ourselves to become more holy? Are we willing to let Christ lead us to do things that we don’t think we can do? Are we willing to become dependent on Him? Are we willing to humble ourselves enough to say Lord, you lead and I will follow – wherever that might lead, whatever that might look like? How much are you and I willing to sacrifice for this team? Championship teams require humility and sacrifice. Championship teams let nothing deter them from their goal. Championship teams are willing to pay the pain to get the gain. Championship teams put the team’s goals before their own. Are you? Am I a championship caliber Christian willing to do whatever it takes to become a deeper Christ follower and to follow wherever He leads?
Amen and Amen.


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