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Friday, June 6, 2014

The Most Important Question

This week, we'll look at Matthew 16:13-28.

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Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do you say I am?" The most important question for Christians.

Who is Jesus?

For Christians, our answer to this question dictates what kind of beliefs we value most and what kind of people we are. Which of Jesus' characteristics do we emphasize? What misconceptions do we have, negatively affecting our connection with God and the world? (Because we're all wrong about a lot of things.)

On one level, I believe Jesus is all about love. Sacrificial love. And we should be like him.

And he is always with us. He loves every person.

And I believe that, sort of. But God also feels far away from me. He's far enough removed from this world to allow tragedies to happen.

Maybe I can't trust God, and I have to take care of myself.

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Also in this passage: Jesus tells the disciples he's going to suffer and die, and that his followers must "deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."

And man, I don't know how to do that. I guess I should pray for God to help me do it.

While reading this passage, I was thinking, "I don't have time to do stuff to help and love others sacrificially. I just go to work and then when I have days off, I need to rest and be alone." But then I realized, it's not supposed to be an extra thing that I need to find time for. "Take up your cross and follow me" should be the way we live our lives, doing the things we're already doing- like going to work.

Or at least, that's a place to start, and we should keep our hearts open and maybe we'll be inspired to do more. Not out of guilt, but because it's something that really matters to us.

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Well, those are my two main points from this passage: "who is Jesus" and "take up your cross." But of course I have a bunch of questions I'll leave here:

Peter said "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." It would be really interesting to know what that meant in the context of their culture.

Also what is this business about "the keys to the kingdom of heaven" and "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven" yada yada? I don't get that.

Jesus said, "Get behind me, satan!" Is he calling Peter "satan"? Dear goodness why? Even if Peter's idea is a horrible temptation sort of thing, you still shouldn't talk to people that way, Jesus!

"For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done." Salvation by works, says Jesus.

And the last bit about "some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." I've heard that refers to the transfiguration (coming up in the next chapter). Well, does it? Why?

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This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous post: Legalism is Easier (Matthew 16:5-12)

Next post: Jesus Got All Shiny (Matthew 17:1-13)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.

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