Matthew 16:13-28 Part 13

Here is the context – the heart of the Gospel.  Jesus said that it was necessary that He go into Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders and priests and Scribes, and to be killed.  And on the third day to be raised.

It was necessary that He go into the belly of the harlot and receive the indignation of the world, to suffer scorn and humiliation, to be condemned to death by judaizers, endure disgrace and shame, and be put to death in a vile and vulgar display of reproach.  And then to be raised on the third day from that profane and accursed dominion called death – Hades!

But the disciple Peter opposed the Gospel!  And he called upon God the Father to oppose it!  And, in doing so, he lined up on the side of Satan – minding the things of men rather than the things of God.  This was an attempt to snatch away the Kingdom and thwart the Divine Providence of God to save the world; and Jesus commanded this authoritative interference to halt and retreat!  His course was set:  He was going into Jerusalem to suffer and be killed and be raised.

And he then turned to His disciples and said,


“If anyone wills to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and be following Me… for whoever wishes to save his life shall ruin it, but whoever shall ruin his life for My sake shall find it.  For how shall a man be benefited if he should gain the whole world but forfeit his life?  Or what compensation shall a man give for his life?”


I’m going to suffer, and die, and be raised.  You renounce your self and attach yourself to Me exclusively and suffer with Me and die with Me and be raised with Me!  Do not “mind” the things of men, but “negate” your self and take up your cross as I am going to do before the world “court”.  Suffer the debasement and infamy of being attached to Me.  Follow Me.  Stand with Me.  Abandon your self and your attachment to the world and suffer with Me.  Be nailed to your cross with Me in uncompromising faithfulness, regardless of the fear or the pressure to do otherwise.

Three things:  Deny your self, take up your cross, and be following Me.  “Surrender” doesn’t give us much understanding of what Jesus says; “commitment” is woefully inadequate; and “letting go” is vain and empty of meaning.  What Jesus says is active and specific that something has to be done to your self.  Deny your self.  There must be a renouncing and abandonment of your self – an abandonment and negation of your self, which includes self-interests; it has to do with “minding” the things of men; it desires to “fit in”.  Jesus said that self-interest and self-esteem are to be abandoned; Fleshly lusts are to be negated; The “security” and “comfort” which the world offers feeds self-interest.

But these things are simply extensions and demonstrations of the more basic issue which is exhibited best by the question “Who is pre-eminent?”  You see, it is a religious issue – not one which is to be accomplished in a vacuum.  One doesn’t “deny” self when there’s no one of superiority to be put in our place!  Self-interest is always “correlative”.  It is always in relation to God!  Our first mother and father were overcome by temptation to “self-interest” when they turned the meaning and purpose of creation from God to themselves!  Self-interest is always in relation to God.  So the “original” affirmation of “self” was with relation to God; as it must be with all humanity – for all time.  So, as with Adam and eve, there is an “ought to be” but is not.  The point and focus of the created universe ought to be the Living and Triune God; but, with men, it is not.  It is “self”.

So when Jesus says, “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me”, it is a command to abandon what is – in favor of what ought to be!  It is a requirement to reverse what came to be – that is, the “self’” being the focus and purpose of creation.  And that “negation” of “self” is in relation to Christ, God the Son!  In other words, there must be a “turning away from”, or “abandonment” of personal “eminence”, and an “attachment” (Jesus said “follow Me”), an attachment to – an embracing – of Christ Jesus as the Pre-eminent focus of all reality!

This is exactly Paul’s argument in the very first chapter of his letter to the Church at Colossae, when he says, concerning Jesus Christ the Son of God;


“…Who is the image of the invisible God, the First-born of every creature; for by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.  And He is the head of the body, the Church; Who is the beginning, the First-born from the dead; that in all, He might have the pre-eminence; for it pleased (the Father) that in Him should all fullness dwell.”


So, with men it is the eminent “self”.  But Christ says that He is pre-eminent, for it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell!  And that attachment and focus of self-pre-eminence has to be negated and abandoned in favor of an exclusive attachment to Christ as Pre-eminent!  The focus of life; the bent of mind; the direction of heart; the flow of affection – the fulcrum of interest – places man in the seat of Pre-eminence.  But Jesus says, “take up your cross and follow Me.”  For He is the One in Whom all fullness dwells – He is the Pre-eminent One.  Taking up our cross and following Him is attaching ourselves to Him in denial of self.

We’ll come back to this when we put it all together later; but now I want to follow the thought out through verses twenty-five and twenty-six.  In verse twenty-five Jesus says,

“for whoever wills to save his life shall ruin it; but whoever has ruined his life for my sake shall find it.”


Now, as you can see, this verse is a continuation of the former one, verse twenty-four, because Jesus says, “for”….  So what He says here in verse twenty-five is closely related to twenty-four.  “…for whoever wills to save his life shall ruin it….”  So, the phrase about “saving one’s life and ruining it” is the opposite of “denying oneself, taking up his cross and following after Jesus”!

Psuche is the word for “life” here.  It is usually translated “soul” in the translations, but no place in Scripture is there distinction made between “soul” and “life”.  The word psuche means “life”.  It is life as a whole.

And anyone who wills to save his life will ruin it!  In other words, whoever minds the things of men and will not deny himself, take up his cross and follow Christ – whoever wills to save himself from that – will destroy himself, or “ruin” himself.  You see, the word “to save” means to deliver – to provide escape.  So whoever would “deliver” himself from the pre-eminence of Christ – whoever would provide an escape for his life from an exclusive attachment to Christ (and all that entails) shall ruin it.

The word “to ruin” is the same word that we use in Matthew five, verses eighteen and nineteen, where Jesus says,


“Do not think that I came to abrogate the Law and the prophets.  I did not come to abrogate but to fulfill.” 


The word, in the same context, means “to destroy”.

So whoever wills to provide a deliverance for himself from the pre-eminence of Christ shall abrogate his life!  That’s the same as saying, “whoever wishes to retain his own pre-eminence ruins his life”.  Whoever will not deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me, destroys his life!

But, he goes on: 


“but whoever has ruined his life, for My sake, shall find it.” 


But whoever abrogatesdestroys – his life, for my sake, shall find it.  Whoever negates himself and follows after Me shall find his life!  Whoever destroys his own pre-eminence in favor of the pre-eminence of Christ shall discover his life!

In Hebrew the word “to save” means to deliver from a tight place of oppression.  And there’s nothing more oppressive than the confinement of personal eminence – self-glory.  But the denial of that eminence sets one free into the liberty of Christ!  The world wills to be free of the rule and pre-eminence of Christ, and, in so doing, it delivers itself into the pre-eminence of the self – and destroys itself!  Jesus says, “whoever wills to save his life shall ruin it; but whoever has ruined his life, for My sake, shall find it.”  Whoever destroys his “self”, and takes up his cross, and attaches himself to Me exclusively – as the pre-eminent fullness of all things – shall discover his life!

Verse twenty-six is another continuation of the same thought process, isn’t it?


“For… what shall a man be profited if he should acquire the whole world but forfeit his life?  Or what shall a man pay as compensation for his life?”


The word profit comes to life for us as we see it used in other contexts.  James (chapter two) asks “What does it profit to say and not do?”  Paul (First Corinthians thirteen) asks, “What advantage is it to fight wild animals if there is no resurrection?”  Job (fifteen, verse three) asks, “Should a man reason with unprofitable talk?”  What benefit – what profit – is there?

What profit is there in comparison to the loss suffered?  The word “forfeit” is the dis-advantage.  This word is a “loss” in mathematical proportion to the previous gain.  “What does it profit a man to gain everything if he should suffer the loss of his “being” – his life?  What compensation shall a man give for his life?

The word “compensation” is the equivalent exchange – the purchase money!  What is a man’s “psuche” worth?  Is it worth his own pre-eminence over the whole world?  I mean, does he give his very life in order to maintain his self-pre-eminence?  This is clearly a rhetorical question from Jesus – because of the infinite seriousness of the Divine judgment which takes from man his very life and being; and, therefore, absolutely everything – so that any exchange is impossible!

Do you see the rhetorical reasoning here?  What will a man pay to retain his own eminent “self” while denying the pre-eminence of Christ?  It is of no profit to him whatsoever, because Divine judgment will strip him of his life – and no exchange is possible!

What has he acquired?  What is the acquisition – the gain?  Is “self-pre-eminence” over the whole world a gain if he forfeits his life?  In a beautiful contrast, the apostle Paul uses this word “to acquire” in Philippians chapter three.  Listen”


“But what things were gain to me, I counted loss for Christ….”  (There’s our word “forfeited”)… “but what things were gain, or acquisition, to me I counted loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless; and I count all things forfeited for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:  for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them dung, that I may acquire Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness… but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God through faith – that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead.”


This is a wondrous contrast.  Jesus speaks of the one who would forfeit his life to compensate for the acquisition of his own eminence in the world – he would lose his life, and, thereby, no exchange is even possible!

But the apostle Paul would die to all of it, to gain Christ!  To live is Christ, so death to it all!  The natural descendancy, divine ordination, a seat on the Sanhedrin, national acclaim and rule, moral superiority, blamelessness, descent, achievement, praise and status.  “Yea doubtless, and I count them loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them dung (the Greek colloquial for barnyard fecal material).

Why?  “So that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death….”  Sound familiar?  “Deny your self, take up your cross, and be following Me.”  Know Him, instead:  participate in His sufferings, be conformed to His death!

In another place (Romans eight, twenty-nine) Paul states


“for whom He did foreknow, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren….”


And since we are destined to be conformed to Christ, we must expect to be conformed in self-denial and in taking up our cross, because it’s only right that the course which God apportioned to Christ the First-born should continue with His elect children!  If we expect to be conformed to Christ in His heavenly glory, then it should come as no surprise that God allots us the same hard way of entering into His glory!  If our Lord’s obedience had to be tested and proved in suffering, we should expect our own obedience to be so tested!

There is a conformity to the image of Christ in a sharing of suffering.  In the words of Calvin, there is a configuring to Christ of His people in the persecution, shame and humiliation of being exclusively attached to Him.  Calvin says that Christ is a mirror of sanctity in His submission to suffering and death – an example we are to imitate!  We are to deny our selves, take up our crosses and follow Him.  No matter the opposition; no matter the shame; no matter the persecution; no matter the contempt and ridicule of others.  The Lord Jesus Christ was humiliated and ridiculed – all that way to the cross; and the persecution and suffering that we receive because of our attachment to Him conforms us to His image!

Now, just let me say quickly, before anyone gets the idea that our lives are to be a sort of continuing suffering and death, that Christ’s people are also being conformed to Christ in His glory.  Calvin says “that Christ did not ascend to Heaven in a private capacity to dwell there alone, but rather that it might be the common inheritance of all the godly, and that, in this way, the Head might be united to His members.”  In other words, our being configured to Christ not only takes place in situations of suffering for His sake, but we also share in the pattern of His glory in the heavens.  I just wanted to say that in case any might get the wrong idea.

But back to the statement of Christ in verse twenty-four:  “if anyone wills to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and be following Me….”  As we bring all of this together, let’s remember that there is only one way to be conformed to Christ – one way to find life – and that is to share in His life and His death and His resurrection.  Our “self” must be renounced in favor of His honor and glory.  He must be Pre-eminent rather than us.

So the old man has to be mortified, and the new man in Christ must arise.  Fleshly desires and lusts for self-gratification have to be killed.  This is an inward denial of self.  At the same time, the suffering of the cross must be borne – as the reproach of the world is flung at us because of our exclusive faithfulness to Christ.  And, as He did, we must bear that in patient submission.

If anyone wishes to avoid – to shrink away – from these things, saving his life – he shall destroy, or abrogate, his life.  And there is no compensation.  On the other hand, he who would deny his “self”, following Christ exclusively, bearing the suffering and persecution which comes from faithing in Him, shall find his life.

There are two world-views.  Affirmation of self – or negation of self.  Conformed to the image of Christ – or conformed to the world.  Gaining self-eminence in the world and ruining one’s life – or suffering the loss of all things to gain life in Christ.  Minding the things of men – or minding the things of God.  Self-denial – or Christ-denial. 


“If anyone wills to come after Me (to suffer and to die and to be raised) let him deny him self, take up his cross (of shame and persecution) and be following Me.”