You may have school-aged children or drive by a school at the beginning or end of the school day and reminisce about your own days at that age. Most of us would not want to go back to that age--way too much insecurity masked by the bravado. If you're a man, you may remember the flying fists, and you ladies may recollect the "cattiness" of fellow females, as one young lady recalled her school days.
We'd like to sit down the kiddos and give them advice, like what we'd do if we could go back and do it all over again. Of course, we'd do exactly what we did back in those days. That's because we're still made of the same stuff and still too easily forget the important things in life. Women can still be catty, and we grown men still strut and show off.
Matthew 16 is a very important chapter in that Gospel. It begins with religious leaders asking Jesus for special signs to show His real self, and Jesus warns the disciples against the leaders. Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the Christ which wins praise from Jesus, but then Peter offers Jesus an alternative to God's plan of salvation, which draws a rebuke from Jesus. In almost the same breath, Peter shows pure genius and utter stupidity. The chapter ends with Jesus telling His disciples that if anyone would be His disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Him.
Our own Christian lives mirror Chapter 16. When in our prideful youth, we demand signs for proof, thinking that proves us intellectual. Some never grow out of that stage. As believers return to the faith after years of knocking their heads against the wall, they can identify Jesus as Savior but are still fairly clueless of what that means. Many still treat Jesus as if He's an accessory or a cheerleader, there to encourage us as they do whatever they want to do. Some stall in that stage.
But maybe you have experienced the joy of talking with believers at the end of their lives. Sometimes, we hear regret for past bravados or cattiness, but often we see a peace that only God can give through the gospel brought and bought by His Son and the faith given to us by the Holy Spirit. In the end, it is only Jesus Christ that has really mattered.
We'd like to chat with the child at school about that all-important fact of life--Jesus the Christ.
He's unknown by most children today because their parents were brought to believe that their lives belonged to themselves, that other people and things could fill their hearts. Not knowing Jesus makes the cross look like an assignment or task instead of the prediction Jesus presented as the life of the believer and the victory over eternal death His cross brought and bought.
The believer is to drop his dukes or her pretense of royalty. Denying yourself lowers the fist, removes the imaginary crown of self-importance. You will finally have peace and one day will be lifted to royalty in the eternal. Real peace comes with knowing that you, believer, with all His family will be at His throne worshipping the One who really matters. Gloria Deo--Glory to God.
Rev. Timothy Matthew is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Kennett.