Give Me A Reason - Matthew 16

One of the first questions children learn to ask is “Why?” Picture a small child, asking his or her parent a question, and when the parent replies, the child says, “But why?” And when the parent gives further explanation, again the child says, “But why?”

“Why?” is a driving question behind every discovery; it is foundational for every experiment; it is at the core of every invention. You may have heard a leadership guru say that you need to know your “why.” In other words, you need to know the reason why you do what you do.

 
Give Me A Reason - Matthew 16
 

[Due to technical difficulties we were unable to record the sermon]

And “why?” is also a natural part of interaction between humans and the one true God. We see people asking God “why?” throughout the Scriptures. Moses says to the LORD in Exodus 5, “Why did you ever send me?” In the midst of Job’s suffering, he asks God, “Why did I not die at birth?” The prophet Jeremiah asks God, “Why do the wicked prosper?” And the Psalms are filled with “whys” directed toward God. Psalm 2, “Why do the nations rage?” Psalm 10, “Why...do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 22, “Why have you forsaken me?” And Psalm 115, “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’”

I’m sure you can relate. Obviously, it must be okay to ask God “why?” And we find in the Scriptures that God responds. However, we are not always satisfied with God’s response. In fact, we naturally reject God’s reasons for many things that he does or requires us to do. We naturally feel that we know better than God. There are various arguments regarding the Fall of Man in Genesis 3 as far as what led Adam to break God’s covenant with him. But it was essentially an issue of humble trust. As a result, humble trust in God is our main problem.

But in Jesus Christ, we find One who was able to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves: live a human life of perfect and humble trust in God. And because Jesus lived a life during which he endured great difficulty and injustice in order to obey God, those who would trust in him as Savior and bow to him as Lord should accept the reasons he provides for the often difficult things we must do to glorify God.

But what does Jesus provide reasons for? Well, three of the hardest things to do in life are addressed here in Matthew 16. Perhaps not in the full-fledged way that you and I prefer, because we often seek answers that eliminate the need to trust God and walk by faith, but you can see listed on page 6 and 7 in our worship guide three things for which Jesus provides a reason: believing, suffering, and sacrificing.

Jesus leaves the non-Jewish area where he was and faces the Pharisees and Sadducees again.

Normally, these two religious groups are against one another. But here they team up against Jesus. Both groups have essentially the same problem with Jesus. They don’t recognize who He is. So, they attempt to force him to perform a miracle to prove that he is from God. This happened before. They want him to refuse so they can discredit him.

Seems like a great opportunity for Jesus to win over some people. But Jesus discerns their intentions, and he will not play by their rules. These two religious groups thrived by controlling people. But they cannot control Jesus. Notice his response. He makes an example from the weather. These religious leaders are supposed to be wise and learned. They can correctly evaluate weather conditions, but not the spiritual condition of the world.

This is often the case, that people can be very bright, intelligent, and observant, and yet, in other ways, they are aloof, blind to what is right in front of them. A person may be able to solve difficult problems related to their work, while having no clue how to address problems in their marriage or other relationships. These religious teachers, Jesus says, understand the natural world, but not the spiritual world.

Notice verse [4], Jesus says, An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Ouch. Jesus calls them ‘wicked’ and ‘unfaithful’ because they ask for proof. Jesus spoke about the sign of Jonah previously in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 12. He said, [40] For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish,

so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. [41] The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

The right response to Jesus was not, “Show us a sign.” The right response was, “Show us mercy.”

The wrong request was, “Impress us, Jesus.” The correct response was, “Forgive us, Jesus.” Do you want a reason to believe that Jesus is from God? Jesus says that his resurrection from the dead is a sufficient reason.

However, seeing his resurrected body is not essential. In Acts 2 in the NT, shortly after Jesus returns to heaven, Peter preaches to the crowd of Jews gathered for Pentecost, one of their great religious feasts. They respond with faith, but they do not believe in Jesus because he appears to them after his resurrection; they believe because they are convinced that they are guilty sinners; and that only Jesus, the resurrected lamb of God, could take away their sins; and that Jesus is their king. The Pharisees and Sadducees here have seen and heard enough to know that Jesus is their king, but they are too prideful to accept it. To believe requires repentance; it requires humility.

And so Jesus warns his disciples of thinking this way. They demonstrate hard-heartedness,

even questioning where they will get bread after having seen Jesus provide food for 1000s.

Prideful stubbornness and unwillingness to believe is like leaven. In other words, it is like yeast that works through a whole piece of dough. The false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees - and the pride that supports it - spreads throughout. God has given them sufficient reason to believe. But they want more.

If you struggle to believe in Jesus as Savior and King, or you find refusal within yourself to believe, is it because there is insufficient evidence, or is it because belief demands

that you change? Do you have sufficient evidence for everything you believe? No, you believe many things by faith. Jesus says there is sufficient evidence - there is an argument that is more than adequate for you to step toward Jesus in faith. You are a sinner facing eternal death and misery; one has been raised from death and misery to save you. Believe in him; trust in him.

Now in the next verses, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

“Son of Man” is the title of the eternal king in the vision of the OT prophet Daniel. Daniel saw what he calls a Son of Man appearing from the clouds, coming to earth as judge. Daniel’s vision begins with four beasts, who we understand to represent four kingdoms. These were the great empires of that period of history leading up to the life of Jesus. Their leaders were like beasts compared to the true king, who was a Son of Man, a king made in the image of the living God. “Son of Man” was a Messianic reference for Jews. Jesus used the title to describe himself.

Contrary to what many say, Jesus was more than just a moral teacher. He claimed to be from God, and to be eternal. Notice verse [14] And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” [15] He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Jesus had been called worse than these names. Some said he was from Satan. But notice verse [16] Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter acknowledges Jesus is the “Christ,” in other words, the anointed King from God. The long-awaited king.

Peter was the spokesman of the apostles. He was not above his peers, but he spoke on behalf of the group. And this confession of Jesus as the eternal king is the bedrock of the church. This is why Jesus says that he will build his church on this bedrock. Belief in Jesus as eternal king and Savior is the entry point into his kingdom. So the apostles would have this responsibility under the authority of Jesus, that those who believe are let into the church, and those who do not are kept out.

For someone to become a member here at Good Shepherd, the person sits down with a couple of our elders and shares with us their testimony of faith in Jesus. Our goal is to discern if the person is a Christian based on the Scriptures, largely written by the apostles. In that way, they still hold the keys to the kingdom. Secondarily, the leaders of the church hold the keys. We don’t save people or absolve their guilt, but we keep the gate of entry.

But look at verse [20] Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Why would Jesus do that? Well, these next verses reveal their understanding is lacking, because when Jesus tells them that he must suffer and die, Peter, their spokesman, rebukes Jesus. He sharply corrects him. And verse [23] Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” From the apostles’ point of view, there is no good reason for the eternal king to suffer.

But Jesus provides a reason for suffering. Suffering is God’s plan for the life of Jesus. Suffering would produce what could not happen without it.

Twentieth century journalist Malcolm Muggeridge was an agnostic. He believed there was not enough evidence to know if there was a God or not. But Muggeridge came to believe and trust in Jesus. And he wrote this regarding the reason for suffering: “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful...I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained...This of course is what the cross signifies. And it is the cross, more than anything else, that has called me inexorably to Christ.”

Do you feel that suffering has no purpose? Jesus disagrees. We must set our minds on the things of God. The cross shows us that suffering is purposeful.

Now, in these last verses, Jesus pivots from suffering to self-denial, to self-sacrifice. Although, these things do go hand-in-hand. Verse [24] Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Question for you: For what good reason should the eternal king sacrifice, and should his disciples sacrifice, and should you and I sacrifice? For what good reason should we lay down our lives, so to speak? Verse [25] For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Do you want to save your life? Lay it down. Do you want to live? Deny yourself.

We prize self-preservation in our society, don’t we? We do, but we also prize worldly gain.

Verse [26] For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?

Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Here’s a good reason from Jesus for living a life of self-denial: averting eternal death, rather than finding yourself in opposition to the living God, because self-preservation according to worldly standards puts you in the path of God’s wrath against sin.

Notice the Daniel 7 reference again in verse [27] For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. When I was a kid, I loved a baseball player named Frank Thomas. Thomas is a HOFer.

And his nickname was the Big Hurt. Not only could he drive the ball out of the park,

but if rounded third base, and tried to cross home plate with the catcher holding the ball,

he was going to inflict some pain on that catcher to knock him over and jar the ball loose.

That catcher was going to feel the wrath of the Big Hurt.

Why believe humbly Jesus? Why suffer honorably in his name? Why sacrifice selflessly to follow him? Because when he comes again to judge the world, anyone in his path who has not agreed to his terms will endure his wrath. Deny yourself, follow Jesus, and remove yourself from harm’s way. His kingdom is coming, and in fact, it is already here. Notice verse [28] Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” The kingdom has come and also the kingdom is coming. The kingdom will come in full on the last day, but with the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, followed by the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the kingdom is present now.

The kingdom of Jesus has come in the hearts of those who believe and have surrendered all to him. And as we surrender more and more to Jesus, the kingdom comes more and more in our lives. This is why we pray for others and tell them about Jesus. That the kingdom may come to them! That they may enter in! Jesus means here that his disciples would see him die, rise again, ascend, and send the Spirit upon them.And they would lay the foundation for belief, suffering, and sacrifice for the glory of God.

In the final analysis, the reason Jesus gives for believing, suffering, and sacrificing is himself.

If you would know him, and have him as your king each day of your life, you must obey him in these three things. You don’t negotiate terms with a king. You accept the terms he gives. And while we do not see the whole picture in this life, we must humbly trust. After all, you’re going to trust in something, aren’t you? You’re trusting in something right now. But turn from sin, and turn to the King. Trust in Jesus.

Let’s pray together.