On what we don’t hear…

Posted by on Apr 3, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

crop faceless multiethnic interviewer and job seeker going through interview

I’m due to preach from Matthew 16:21 where Jesus announces his suffering and death. Often that’s how we summarise that verse (the heading in my Bible is “Jesus predicts his death”), but actually if you look at it more closely you will spot that it also predicts Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. I wonder why his disciples reacted so strongly to the announcement of the bad news that he must suffer and die, but then appear to have paid no attention to the astonishing good news that immediately followed, that on the third day he would be raised from the dead. Do we sometimes only listen partially, and what do the parts that we hear tell us about ourself, but also what do the parts we gloss over have to teach us?

To be clear, Matt 16:21 is not an isolated verse which the more sceptical can dismiss with a “well, he probably didn’t say exactly that”, because Matt 17:22-23 records Jesus repeating the prediction: “‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.’ And his disciples were filled with grief.”

Interesting that his disciples were filled with grief… Why? Because he was going to be raised to life on the third day? Obviously not. Their focus was on the first statement, “They will kill him” – but that isn’t all that was said. Why didn’t they pay any attention to “and on the third day he will be raised to life”?

Also remember that between Matthew 16:21 and Matt 17:22-23 we find Matthew 17:1-13 the account of the transfiguration of Jesus where, with Peter, James and John watching on, Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus. Now true, within the flow of Matthew’s gospel this helps to establish Jesus’ identity as the long awaited Messiah, but it should also have proved to those present that both Moses and Elijah were alive and that life beyond the grave is therefore a reality.

In short, the disciples were given a fair few clues that traumatic though Jesus’ crucifixion was going to be, it would not be the last word. The time of excruciating agony was to be followed by the bliss of resurrection. The joy that followed was so great that we now refer to Jesus’ crucifixion day as Good Friday – and I still remember a man at an English class our church was running hearing that name and immediately replying, “Not good Friday – bad, bad Friday. Why you call it good?” Without the resurrection, he would have been right.

Back to Matthew 16:21 and the verses that follow. Verses 24-25 are challenging as Jesus informs us that following Him will require us to take up our own cross. He goes further – if we seek to save our life we will lose it, but if we lose it for Jesus’ sake we will most truely find it. These are verses we must hear and believe. They aren’t just padding. They point to a critical reality of being a follower of Jesus. There is a genuine cost, but there is an even deeper gain – finding our life.

We often ask God ‘why?’ when difficult things happen. Perhaps sometimes the answer is that this is the way Jesus wants us to carry the cross. Maybe that should be enough.

At a time when we are urged to fully discover who we are, let’s also hear Jesus’ insistent reminder that it is in losing our life for Him that we find our deepest and most transforming identity – for our deepest identity is child of God and follower of Jesus. And let’s make sure we hear that clearly…

As always, nice chatting…

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