Discipleship: The Call (Matthew 16: 21-24, (NIV)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

(This post is a revision of the Lenten thought I posted yesterday.)

Jesus makes three things abundantly clear to those who choose to follow him. They must develop spiritual insight; submit their will to the will of God, and understand from the beginning of their commitment to him that the life of a disciple is difficult.

Today’s lesson focuses on developing spiritual vision.  Jesus’ disciples are to view the world through spiritual lenses.  Hence, Jesus renders the following rebuke 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.” (Verse 23, NIV) The admonition was issued in response to Peter discounting Jesus’ prophecy about the circumstances of Jesus’ death.

Each time I read the exchange between Peter and Jesus,I am reminded of the countless times I have heard Christians scorn one another for speaking the truth, when that truth is uncomfortable, scary, or contradicts the hearer’s understanding of a biblical concept.  It happens most often among people who believe affirmation of the negative (acknowledgement of an illness or other problem) constitutes lack of faith. Those speaking the truth are often criticized and characterized as lacking faith or being negative, neither of which is necessarily true. Sometimes the person is simply stating a hard to swallow fact, such was the case in the referenced passage of Scripture that prompted Jesus to admonish Peter.

Conversely to Peter’s response to Jesus’ prophecy, there is not a single place in Scripture where Jesus admonished a person for confessing a need. To the contrary, people made their needs known to Jesus and he met those needs

So, a question for consideration is: “How does one develop spiritual insight?”  The answer that immediately comes to mind is to search the Scriptures; study history, and culture, and pray for God’s guidance.

Food for Thought

  1. How is the exchange between Jesus and Peter related to faith?
  2. Make a list of incidents recorded in the bible where either Jesus or his disciples rebuked a person for stating a personal need.

Discipleship: A Meditation for the First Monday in Lent

Scripture Reading:

  • “…If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”  (Matthew 16:24, New Living Translation).
  • “A righteous person will have many troubles, but the LORD will deliver him [her] from them all.”   (Psalm 34:19, International Standard Version)

The background for this reflection is found in Matthew, Chapter 16. In the text, Jesus raises a familiar New Testament theme-the tension that exists between the sacred and the secular. He also highlights two attributes of his disciples and characterizes their lives as burdened.

In the following  excerpt Jesus explicitly admonishes Peter for focusing on the secular instead of the spiritual. ‘Jesus turned to Peter and said, “…You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s'” (Matthew 16:23).  Jesus’ reprimand identifies spiritually-centered as a key quality of his disciples.  

In verse 24, Jesus describes selflessness as another characteristic of discipleship.   Jesus  makes it clear that those who follow him must give up selfish ambition.  They must also understand  that following him is more than:  lip service, attending religious services, praying, fasting, engaging in good works, and memorizing and quoting Scripture.  His disciples are expected to do all the things previously mentioned and more. Each is required to subordinate his or her will to the will of God. God’s will is for them to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel-God loves, saves, delivers, and heals and salvation is free and available to everyone (John 3:16).


Furthermore, Jesus asserts that God’s perfect will:  –  “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ ’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”[ (Luke:10:27) becomes the desire and personal mantra of every disciple of Christ.

Image result for proceed with caution meme

To prepare them for the cost of discipleship Jesus  warns against thinking following him  protects them from sufferings common to the human experience. Instead, Jesus infers (verse 24) discipleship adds an additional burden to their lives. Because of their message- God is love and Jesus is the only way to God- his followers will lose most of their earthly possessions, including social status and treasured relationships. They will be misquoted, misunderstood,  ridiculed, rejected, and ostracized.

In other parts of Scripture Jesus encourages and reassures his disciples that  the reward for discipleship far outweighs the high cost of following him ( Matthew 5:11). According to Jesus the sufferings his disciples experience in this life will be rewarded with eternal life- perpetual fellowship with God-Creator.

Food for Thought 

  1. Using your own words, list three examples of biblical love depicted in Scripture.

Close with Prayer


The lives of the people depicted in Scripture reflect the following universal truths:  none of us are perfect and none of us are defined solely by our misdeeds. Like us, most biblical characters are complex. They exhibit weaknesses and strengths and they experience the range of emotions common to all humans. At times they demonstrate great faith and courage. Other times they lack faith and act out of fear. Their character flaws and weaknesses are revealed and immortalized in Scripture.

I identify most closely with the characters during their most vulnerable moments when their weaknesses are exposed. For example,  I empathize and sympathize with Sarah when out of fear she lied to the Angel of the Lord by denying she laughed at His prophecy: she would bear a child in her old age (Genesis 18:9-15). I imagine the shock and fear Sarah must have felt after the Angel of the Lord acknowledged her unbelief by revealing her thoughts. It must have been terrifying for her. I don’t know how I would have responded. But, I am convinced that like Sarah my response would have been fear driven.

Similarly, I grieve for Peter every time I read about him weeping bitterly after denying Christ three times (Matthew 26:75).  I visualize the great shame, dejection, and self-loathing Peter must have experienced. Like Sarah, when Peter lied he showed a lack of faith.  Subsequently, Peter has become a pillar of the Christian faith.

As much as I agonize over the sufferings and defeats of the people whose narratives are etched in Scripture,  I am also encouraged by and rejoice over their personal, political, and spiritual triumphs. Their life stories remind me life is a journey full of ups and downs, to err is human, and no matter how bad a thing seems where hope abides possibilities for good and growth exist. No one goes through life unscathed; but, those who produce the most positivity are deeply spiritual and have an authentic relationship with the Creator.