ON Scripture

ON Scripture


Matthew 16:21-28: Jesus Has No Part-Time

posted by Odyssey Networks


By Greg Carey


Matthew 16:21-28
 confronts us with the gap between Jesus’ gruesome fate and our own modest discipleship.  Jesus’ verbs say it all.  Deny the self, take up the cross, follow Christ.  Moreover, only in losing one’s life – the primary meaning of apollymi is to destroy – one may save it.  And Jesus apparently means it.  Judgment he says, involves “repaying” people according to what they have done.  At this moment we are hearing Matthew’s distinctive voice:  salvation comes not to those who call Jesus “Lord,” but to those who do what he says (7:21-29).  The Great Commission involves teaching people “to obey everything that I have commanded you” (28:20).  It’s a matter of life and death.  Disciples are to walk Jesus’ grim path.

So we face the chasm between Jesus’ call to discipleship and our own lives as part-time volunteers for the gospel.  Few Christians abandon everything for the gospel’s sake.  Most of us simply fit our Christianity into the open spots on our calendars.  But in this passage Jesus links the life of discipleship with his own path.

This spring Mark and Katharyn Richt sold their second home, a lakefront property valued at just below two million dollars.  Best known as head football coach at the University of Georgia, Mark Richt has earned – if you can call it that – over twenty five million dollars since taking that position in 2001.  He also openly professes his Christian faith and engages in a variety of ministries.



The Richts sold this property so that they could give to anti-poverty work.  Mark Richt attributed the decision to the dynamic book “The Hole in Our Gospel” by Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision.   Named the “Christian Book of the Year” for 2010, this resource introduces readers to the harsh reality of global and local poverty, pressing the question of how Christians should respond to human suffering in the light of the gospel.  If you’re interested, a fully resourced curriculum (DVDs, daily exercises, study guides and the like) supports the book for congregational and small group use.

Some of us might not be all that impressed by the Richts’ sacrifice.  What does it mean to sacrifice two million dollars on an income of more than three million dollars per year?  “I’ll make that sacrifice,” the cynic might say.  For my part, I am impressed.  Katharyn and Mark Richt clearly understand that the gospel not only blesses our souls, it also calls us to service that will enrich our lives and bring forth our resources.  Following Dietrich Bonhoeffer, my denomination’s contemporary statement of faith confesses “the cost and joy of discipleship.”  The Richts are not just giving money.  This summer they’ve joined World Vision in a trip to Honduras devoted to the construction of water wells.  I fully trust the Richts are experiencing joy in their service.

Matthew 16:21-28 moves from a focus upon Jesus and his vocation to his demands for disciples.  Jesus has just congratulated Peter for his recognition that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Moreover, Jesus’ language has intimated authority and privilege:  Peter the Rock provides the church’s foundation, he receives the keys to the realm of heaven, and his earthly authority carries heavenly significance.  But now Jesus begins a process of reinterpreting what being the Messiah really means – and what following that Messiah entails for the disciples.  If Peter cannot bear the revelation of Jesus’ coming suffering (16:22), how will he respond when the focus shifts to disciples whose fate mimics that of Jesus?


Some readers hardly need to hear this news.  Moment by moment, many of us are constantly mindful that we fall far short of Jesus’ standard.  By contrast, our culture needs the reminder.  The prosperity gospel holds greater sway than many of us want to admit.  According to a 2006 Time magazine poll, 17 percent of Americans claim allegiance to the movement, while 61 percent agree that God wants us to be prosperous.  Maybe our preaching doesn’t draw folks who think that way.  Then again, we find all sorts of surprising attitudes in our congregations, don’t we?

Whatever the threat posed by the prosperity gospel, a more insidious assumption definitely lurks among us, that God wants us to be happy.  Countless praise choruses celebrate how much Jesus loves us, how much we love Jesus, and how great God is.  Self-help books pack the inventories of Christian bookstores.  This happiness assumption has sunk so deeply into our collective psyche that even the words of Jesus can hardly challenge it.  Are we even capable of hearing that God might call us to radical sacrifice, even to danger?  Can Jesus’ words get past our ears?

It does no good for preachers to rehearse Jesus’ extreme demands while congregations sit in well-cushioned and air-conditioned sanctuaries.  Preachers must level with our congregations.  Precious few of us lay everything on the line for the gospel, but neither can we ignore its call.


In 1961 a group of Nashville students resolved to reinforce the Freedom Rides.  Two previous busloads of Freedom Riders had already encountered firebombing and severe beatings, and the Nashville students determined that the movement, having commenced, should not be allowed to fail.  No one could deny that these students experienced joy during their trials – the notorious Bull Connor complained, “I just couldn’t stand their singing” – but these students were fully mindful for the potential cost as well.   The night before their departure, they had signed their last will and testaments.  Singing hymns after signing one’s will… the cost and joy of discipleship.

So what about Mark and Katharyn Richt?  Perhaps we can’t credit them with suffering for the gospel.  But we can heed their testimony.  As Mark Richt put it, “you know what, I don’t want to pour money into a home like that when I can use it for better things, for eternal things.”  Jesus asked, “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?”




Learn more about the ON Scripture Editorial Board Click here

Learn more about ON Scripture Click here

Like ON Scripture Click here

Follow ON Scripture Click here

ON Scripture is made possible by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment






Advertisement
Comments Post the First Comment »
post a comment

Post a Comment



Previous Posts

Immigration Reform and the Challenges of Generosity (Luke 4:22-30)
By Matthew L. Skinner Charity doesn’t leave us unchanged, which is just one reason why it’s hard to make ourselves do it. To be more specific: when we extend generosity and justice to others, it alters our relationship to them. Especially when those “others” are foreign to us. Hospital

posted 10:17:05am Feb. 04, 2013 | read full post »

The Abortion Debate: We’re All in This Together
By Barbara K Lundblad This is a memorable week: on Monday the inauguration of President Obama on the holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., and on Tuesday the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court. Some people will celebrate all three with thanksgiving. Others will

posted 11:29:13am Jan. 23, 2013 | read full post »

A Vision for America: John 2:1-11
By Reverend Dr. Alvin O'Neal Jackson “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” John 2:10 Occupy the Dream Spurred on by the Occupy Wall Street movement, African-Am

posted 9:02:18am Jan. 17, 2013 | read full post »

Waiting on the Messiah and Presidential Expectations: A Study of Luke
By David A. Sánchez, Ph.D. It is an odd juxtaposition, December 21, 2012 and January 21, 2013. The former date representing the “so-called” Mayan apocalypse where the usual suspects prepared for the end of the world – many of whom were Christians awaiting the second coming of Christ – a

posted 1:03:29pm Jan. 10, 2013 | read full post »

Frankincense, Myrrh and a Toothbrush? Matthew 2:1-12
By Lisa Nichols Hickman In As I Lay Dying, the main character Anse appears self-absorbed when at his wife’s death he says, “God’s will be done. . . . Now I can get them teeth.” His character will certainly not be remembered for altruism. But Anse will be remembered for the physical ef

posted 1:59:16pm Jan. 03, 2013 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.