Jesus Sets the Highest Standards for His Students
The Gospel of Matthew
Sermon by Rick Crandall
(Prepared September 7, 2022)
*In Matthew chapters 14-16, Jesus Christ continued to prove that He is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
With both His works and His words, Jesus proved that He was the Son of God, sent to be the Savior of the world.
*In Matthew 14 Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 men, plus thousands more women and children.
Then He walked on water 3 or 4 miles out to His disciples on the Sea of Galilee.
After that, Jesus healed a great multitude of people.
In Matthew 15 Jesus healed a demon-possessed girl and miraculously fed 4,000 more people.
In Matthew 16 Jesus warned against having wicked, unbelieving hearts.
He also warned against following any teachings that deny Him as the Christ.
*Then in Matthew 16:13-16 Jesus got to the heart of the matter:
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?''
So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.''
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?''
And Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.''
*Jesus is the crucified and risen "Christ, -- the Son of the living God.''
And in Acts 1:8 our Risen Savior tells His followers to be His witnesses "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.''
*If Jesus were speaking here today, He would say, "Be my witnesses from West Monroe to the ends of the earth."
But here in Matthew 16:20 Jesus said just the opposite: "Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ."
*That sounds pretty confusing to us.
But J. Vernon McGee estimated that the Lord was only six months away from the cross.
And William MacDonald explained that "because of Israel's unbelief, no good could come from proclaiming the news, and great harm might come from a popular movement to crown Jesus as King, since that move would be horribly crushed by Roman soldiers.
*Verse 21 says, "From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day."
*As Jesus focused on the cross here, He was speaking to His 12 disciples, and Jesus set the highest standards for His disciples.
But we must understand that the word "disciple" means "student," "learner," "follower," imitator."
And in the bigger sense, every Christian, every true believer in Jesus Christ, is also called to be a disciple of the Lord.
*Yes, we are citizens of Heaven, children of God, friends of God, and much, much more.
But we are also called to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
And the same standards that Jesus gave to the twelve, apply to all of us today.
Please think about this truth as we read Matthew 16:20-25.
*I read about a little boy who was trying to memorize some Scripture, and he accidentally got two verses jumbled together.
It came out this way: "A lie is an abomination unto the Lord. . .
-- And a very present help in trouble."
*Some people live like that's a real verse from the Bible.
But Jesus always tells the truth.
And in this Scripture where the Lord calls us to be His disciples, He doesn't sugar-coat it.
Jesus wants us to know the truth about being one of His disciples.
He wants all of us to count the cost, so in vs. 24 the Lord tells us three things we must do as His disciples.
1. FIRST, WE MUST SAY "NO" TO OUR SELFISHNESS.
*In vs. 24, Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself."
Why does the Lord ask us to deny ourselves?
One of the main reasons why is because we have a self to deny.
It's the part of us that gets grumpy, grouchy, gripey and whiny.
*It's the part that only cares about me, and has to get its own way.
It's the part that has to get the last word, and is so quick to criticize others.
Worst of all, it's the part of us that pulls away from the things of God, and gets in the way of what the Lord is trying to do.
Paul was talking about this selfish, sinful nature in Romans 7:18 when he said, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing."
*We all have a self to deny.
And self was part of the reason why Peter began to argue with the Lord in vs. 22: "Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!'''
*Of course, Peter cared about Jesus, and did not want the Lord to suffer.
But Peter didn't want Peter to suffer either!
These disciples wanted to throw the Romans out and rule Israel with Jesus.
*Peter needed to deny himself.
And He did not realize that he was actually opposing God's plan for His Kingdom.
That's why Jesus gave Peter such a strong rebuke in vs. 23: "Get behind Me, Satan!
You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."
-- Not what we want to hear the Lord calling us, Amen?
That's why every one of us who believes in Jesus needs to deny our self.
We must say "no" to our selfishness.
*Nell Mohney found this out years ago on an airplane flight to Jackson.
Nell was flying to Jackson, Tennessee, to give a lecture at Lambuth College.
She thought it was odd that no one was at the airport to meet her.
*Nell then went to a phone booth to call the college and found that there was no Lambuth College in the book.
When she called the operator to ask for the college, the operator asked, "Where do you think you are?"
*"Jackson, Tennessee," she replied, and the operator answered, "No! -- You are in Jackson, Mississippi."
*The airline had made the mistake, and five others were in the same situation.
Delta provided a small plane and flew them to Jackson, Tennessee.
It was a terribly hot day.
The plane was bumpy.
Sweat was pouring down everybody's face.
We can imagine how aggravated those five people were.
But Nell couldn't help but notice that the young woman sitting next to her was crying.
She looked like she had a terrible problem.
*Nell was a good counselor, but at that moment, she was tired, sick-at-her-stomach, and frustrated.
She turned to the window and whispered a prayer: "No, Lord, I'm sick.
I just can't get involved."
But Nell couldn't get any peace about it, so she whispered again: "Okay, Lord, I'll talk to her."
*She turned and asked the young woman, "Is there something wrong?
Can I help?"
The young woman then poured out a pathetic story.
Everything was wrong.
She ended her story by saying, "There is no hope."
*"That's where you are all wrong," Nell replied.
"God loves you, Christ loves you, and I love you.
There is hope!
God can straighten anything out, if you let Him."
*Then Nell asked, "Can you turn yourself, your life, your problems over to Him now?"
By the grace of God, she did!
And everyone on that plane could tell that something had happened to her.
*As they approached the right airport, Nell followed up by giving the woman the address and phone number of someone in town who could encourage and help her.
Then, as they were getting ready to leave the plane, the young woman turned to Nell and said, "I want to show you something."
*She opened her purse and showed Nell a gun and a suicide note.
(This was long before airports had security like they do today.)
And the woman said, "I was going to a motel and kill myself.