Scripture: Matthew 16:21-28
Key verses: (24-25) “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Reflection: For many, faith is summed up by Jesus’ words in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but have eternal life.” Some say that summarizes the entire Christian gospel. When I was a kid, Rollen Stewart, better known as “The Rainbow Guy,” would travel around the nation and get great seats at sporting events wearing a rainbow wig and a t-shirt with “John 3:16” on it, promoting this one verse as the heart of the gospel. So this one verse is what the world often saw.
While I love the story of Jesus and Nicodemus that contains John 3:16, I wonder if it’s the best summary of the gospel. Surely it communicates God’s love for the world and Jesus’ sacrifice made in love. That’s a beautiful thing. But it has a way of reducing faith to simply believing an intellectual proposition. We can believe Jesus died for us and that we have eternal life in his name, and that can have absolutely no material impact on how we live.
I wonder why we never see “Matthew 16:24” on t-shirts and signs at sporting events? Or, “Luke 9:23,” or “Mark 8:34;” they say the same thing. In all these passages, Jesus says, “If any would become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.” That’s a bit more demanding, isn’t it? Yet Jesus summarizes what it means to be a disciple in these simple words. I wonder if we haven’t spent too much time making believers and not enough time making followers. That’s a lot more challenging.
How would you summarize the gospel? Perhaps John 3:16 is a start, but to move from believer to disciple, we must move from belief to following. According to Jesus, that’s when we experience the kingdom of God before we taste death. That’s when we begin to discover the life that really is life.
Prayer: Give me faith today, O Lord; to let go of what I need to let go of, to take up what I need to take up, and to follow you on the way that is the truth about life. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].