Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 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? 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. 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.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
Let’s be sure and place this in context Peter has confessed Jesus is the Christ. Then Peter rebukes Jesus for teaching He was going to suffer. As a result, Jesus calls Peter Satan. This is a continuation of Jesus’ teaching that He was going to suffer and die.
He then expanded that all who follow Him must deny themselves. Peter was like today’s prosperity gospel. Peter believed only bad or evil people suffered on the cross. Good people did not suffer. Suffering was punishment.
Jesus explained about bearing the cross. Jesus did not limit His comments to the twelve. This was, “If anyone…” This applied to all who follow Christ. We are to deny ourselves. This is like what Jesus said in Matthew 10:37-39
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Christ was refuting Peter’s views. Not only must the Christ suffer, but all who would follow Him must also deny themselves. There is a common expression. Take care of number one. The problem with that is it assumes we are number one. Here Christ said we must not consider ourselves number one, or number two, or number three. We must not consider ourselves at all. We muse deny ourselves.
We are to imitate Christ.
“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
This self-denial means we are to give up our natural inclinations. We are to abandon all affections of the flesh. We are to allow ourselves to be nothing and allow God to reign in us.
Your reaction to that may be “That is extreme!” And you would be right.
Christ is not addressing our daily struggles. Christ said to take up your cross. The cross was not normal. It was not something everyone carried. The saying, “We all have our crosses to bear,” trivializes what Christ was saying. Christ lays before us a great burden. Nonetheless, Christ tells us to pick it up. Luke adds the word daily. Christ’s meaning is, that there will be no end to our struggle until we leave this world.
Discipleship demands complete abandonment of natural desires. We are to deny ourselves comfort, fame, and power. This reminds me of a saying we had in the Marine Corps. The more you sweat in peace the less you bleed in battle. Here Jesus is saying something similar. A little suffering now cannot be compared to the great reward in the world to come. Fulfilling your natural desire now costs. It cost misery for eternity.
Those who suffer death for Christ’s sake get life. That is paradoxical. There is a contrast intended here between temporal and eternal death. Christ said those who defended their life will find disappointment. They will lose it. Those who disregard their life will not suffer loss. They will recover it.
There is a dichotomy. Our reward is life something we are not to desire. To have life we must not seek it. We must not try to hold on to it. We must not desire it. Then what are we to desire? We are to desire Christ. Our goal, our purpose is not life but Christ.
Christ reminded His disciples that man’s soul was not created to enjoy the world for a few days. God created men for immortality in heaven. It is stupidity that we are so attached to this world. It is pure stupidity. We are so occupied with its affairs we do not think about why we were born. God gave us an immortal soul so that after our life on earth, we might live eternally in heaven. The world fascinates us. It allures us. We must not forget the value of our soul.
To re-enforce what He had said, Christ pointed to His coming in judgment. Christ will come in the glory of the Father. Christ will repay each person for what they have done. This is not a reference to the physical return of Christ. If so the time frame Christ gave was incorrect. And if Christ was wrong, He was not sinless. If He was not sinless He could not atone for our sins. So this must be an incorrect understanding.
Some have tried to claim this referred to the mount of transfiguration. There, Peter, James, and John saw Christ in His glory along with Moses and Elisha. This understanding is also incorrect. It answers only part of the prophecy. Christ in His glory. Christ said, “some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (v28b) This implies some would die. And the event was only a few weeks away. We should reject this as well.
This is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. This answers all the questions and issues. But we must correct several misconceptions. First, this is not a reference to a physical return of Christ. Second God’s glory is a fearful and awesome thing. Those who think we can bask in God’s glory do not understand how glorious God is and how sinful we are. We stand in His glory not in awe but in fear. Third, we do not understand the history. We do not study the destruction of Jerusalem. So we do not realize how horrific the destruction of Jerusalem was. Millions of people died. Hilter was a boy scout compared to Titus. People died through starvation, fire, and slaughter. There are stories of mothers eating their own babies. There was a total slaughter of people inside the city. Soldiers had to literally march on top of bodies to go out to battle. People we so hungry they would chew on anything even leather on their shields. Fire rained down from the sky as the Romans launched fireballs into the city. The city burned to the ground. The Jews retreated to the Temple. And the Romans burned them alive. There was the utter destruction of the Temple. There were no trees left in the countryside. As the Romans cut them all down for firewood and to make their battering rams. The Romans left a barren wasteland. Images of a nuclear holocaust would best describe the area.
God reigned judgment on the city. The fall of Jerusalem was in 70 AD. And some of those there lived long enough to see God’s glory and judgment.