Matthew 16:24–28: The Cross and the Kingdom
In the previous section, Jesus had insisted upon the necessity of his own sufferings. While this bitter message immediately met with opposition among Jesus’ disciples, Jesus now has an even more painful message. Not only will Jesus suffer, but his disciples must suffer as well. In fact, there is no alternative path or opportunity to find a clever escape from the suffering that they must face, because Jesus insists that his disciples must suffer with him if they would desire any share in his kingdom. Here, Jesus offers the foolish message on which the whole gospel message hinges: we enter Jesus’ kingdom through Jesus’ cross.
1. How is this section connected with the previous section in Matthew 16:21–23 (“then”; v. 24)? How does Jesus connect the necessity of his own suffering (Matt. 16:21) with the necessity of his disciples’ suffering (v. 24)? What does it mean for someone to “deny himself”? To “take up his cross”? To “follow” Jesus? What is the first explanation as to why our suffering is necessary as disciples of Jesus (“for”; v. 25)?
2. What will it profit you if you were to gain the whole world but forfeit your soul (v. 26)? If this is true, why are the alluring desires of this world so compelling to our hearts? Where do you struggle to believe that you will profit something from this world at the expense of your everlasting soul? How does Jesus’ second reason for taking up our cross to follow him cut away at the seeming attractiveness of that desire?
3. Why do you think that Jesus uses such elevated language to describe his future judgment (v. 27)? How does this underscore the seriousness and severity of that judgment? How much has that judgment weighed on your mind and heart this week? If that judgment weighed heavily, why? Is there something from which you need to repent? If this judgment did not weigh heavily, why? Have you been careless toward the coming of Christ’s kingdom?
4. What do you think that Jesus meant about “the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” in v. 28? How might that coming of Christ’s kingdom include the resurrection, ascension, outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, session (i.e., sitting enthroned) at the right hand of his Father, and Second Coming? How might all of that be connected to Christ’s transfiguration in the next section (Matt. 17:1–13)?