Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (August 31): Take up your cross daily and follow Jesus Christ

Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:21-27

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you." 23 But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men." 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? 27 For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done

Meditation: What is the way to glory and victory in the kingdom of God? Jesus told his disciples that he must first suffer rejection, be crucified, and then rise again on the third day. In so many words he explained that there could be no victory and no glory without the cross. Jesus' prediction of his suffering and death on the cross caused his disciples great dismay and disbelief. Peter, who was often the first to react to whatever Jesus had to say, wanted to protect Jesus from any threat or harm. That is why he rebuked the very thought of Jesus having to face rejection, condemnation, and crucifixion.

"My way or God's way"?
Why did Jesus use the word "Satan" when he addressed Peter? When Jesus went out into the wilderness to prepare for his public ministry, Satan came to tempt him to follow a different path than the one chosen by the Father in heaven. Now Jesus recognizes in Peter's response another temptation to seek a different and less costly path for accomplishing his mission than the way of the cross. The word "Satan" literally means "adversary" - one who stands in opposition. Jesus reminds Peter that his role is not to be an adversary but a disciple - one who gets behind his Master to follow with trust and obedience. 

Victory and glory through the cross
Jesus knew that the cross was the only way he could ransom us from slavery to sin with the price of his blood which was shed for our freedom. Through his sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus defeated Satan who held us in bondage to sin and condemnation. And Jesus defeated the power of death and overcame the grave through his resurrection. Through his obedience to his heavenly Father's will, Jesus reversed the curse of Adam's disobedience. His death on the cross won pardon for the guilty, freedom for the oppressed, healing for the afflicted, and new life for those condemned to death. His death makes possible our freedom to live as the adopted sons and daughters of the merciful Father in heaven.

The paradox of God's economy
Jesus told his disciples that they, too, must be willing to lay down their lives in order to gain new everlasting life with the Father in his kingdom. There's a certain paradox in God's economy. We lose what we gain, and we gain what we lose. When we try to run our life our own way, we end up losing it to futility. Only God can free us from our ignorant and sinful ways. When we surrender our lives to God, he gives us new life in his Spirit and the pledge of eternal life. God wants us to be spiritually fit and ready to do his will at all times. When the human body is very weak or ill, we make every effort to nurse it back to health. How much more effort and attention should we give to the spiritual health of our hearts and minds!

The great exchange
What will you give to God in exchange for freedom and eternal life? Are you ready to part with anything that might keep you from following the Lord Jesus and his perfect plan for your life? Jesus poses these questions to challenge our assumptions about what is most profitable and worthwhile in life. In every decision of life we are making ourselves a certain kind of person. It is possible that some can gain all the things they have set their heart on, only to wake up suddenly and discover that they missed the most important thing of all. Of what value are material things if they don't help you gain what truly lasts for eternity. Neither money nor possessions can buy heaven, mend a broken heart, or cheer a lonely person.

Losing all to gain all with Jesus Christ
A true disciple gladly gives up all that he or she has in exchange for an unending life of joy and happiness with God. God gives without measure. The joy he offers no sadness or loss can diminish. The cross of Jesus Christ leads to victory and freedom from sin and death. What is the cross which Jesus Christ commands me to take up each day? When my will crosses with his will, then his will must be done. Are you ready to lose all for Jesus Christ in order to gain all with Jesus Christ?

"Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will, all that I have and possess.  You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them; all things are yours, dispose of them according to your will.  Give me your love and your grace, for this is enough for me." (Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556)

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: This shall never happen to you, by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)

"Peter was examining the issue by human and earthly reasoning. He thought it disgraceful to Jesus as something unworthy of him. Jesus responded sharply, in effect saying, 'My suffering is not an unseemly matter. You are making this judgment with a carnal mind. If you had listened to my teachings in a godly way, tearing yourself away from carnal understanding, you would know that this of all things most becomes me. You seem to suppose that to suffer is unworthy of me. But I say to you that for me not to suffer is of the devil's mind.' So he repressed Peter's alarm by contrary arguments. Remember that John, accounting it unworthy of Christ to be baptized by him, was persuaded by Christ to baptize him, saying, 'Let it be so now' (Matthew 3:15). So we find Peter as well, forbidding Christ to wash his feet. He is met by the words, 'If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.' Here too Jesus restrained him by the mention of the opposite, and by the severity of the reproof he repressed his fear of suffering." (excerpt from the  THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 54.6)


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author Don Schwager 2014 Servants of the Word

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.  

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