Life Comes After Death

In the last decade or more, the call for discipleship has become the norm for many Christian congregations. This has become the trend in the hope of increasing their numbers, which they believe is the byproduct of successful discipleship program.

The Bible spoke of the disciples of John the Baptist (Matthew 9:14), the disciples of the Pharisees (Matthew 22:15-16), some claims to be disciples of Moses (John 9:28), but in our modern context, it is about being a disciple of Jesus Christ, which rightly should be, for that is the call of the Bible.

The Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defined “disciple” to be a learner, one who follows one’s teaching. Though a disciple was not only a pupil but an adherent, hence they are spoken of an imitators of their teacher – see John 8:31-32.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

See also John 15:7-8.

If you abide in Me [Jesus Christ], and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified [that is, if you abide by Jesus Christ and His words], that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.

In other words, a disciple of Jesus is someone who adheres to the Words of Christ; that is, to live by the teachings and Words of the Lord, which, make no mistake, should be the proper understanding and application of discipleship. So there is a cost or discipline in discipleship; see Matthew 16:24-28.

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.”

Jesus Christ clearly demands full surrender to Him. Anyone wanting to follow Him or be His disciple, see verse 24: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”

Confronted by Matthew 16:24, I often hear people ask this question: “What does it mean to deny oneself and carry his cross, then follow Jesus?”

To answer that question, we must first consider what it meant for Jesus to carry His cross. He spoke of His impending death – see Matthew 16:21-23 – which was the background for Matthew 16:24.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But He 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.” (Matthew 16:21-23)

Matthew 16:24-28 therefore was a teaching of Christ for the disciples to emulate, contrasting the attempt of Peter wanting to prevent the impending death of Jesus via crucifixion. So we see Jesus in Matthew 16:25 saying “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Of course, Jesus wasn’t asking His disciples to commit themselves to death for no reason. Rather, Jesus was teaching them to emulate Him; He was obedient to the will of God the Father even to the point of death. See Philippians 2:5-8; the apostle Paul said:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 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.

Hence, Jesus went on telling His disciples to be obedient to the will of God, contradicting the words of Peter. See Matthew 16:22And Peter took Him [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.‘”

See also Matthew 16:26-28.

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. (Matthew 16:26-28)

Peter actually meant well, not wanting Jesus to die, yet it was not the will of Jesus but of the Father that by His death and resurrection those who believe in Him might have eternal life; see John 3:16.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

In Matthew 16:27, Jesus spoke about His Return and coming judgment that would occur within the lifetime of His disciples; see Matthew 16:28Truly, 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.”

Hence, it make no sense for any of them to preserve their life at the cost of losing eternity with Jesus Christ, see Matthew 16:25-26.

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.

Now having understood Jesus’ words to the disciple, we come right back to His opening statement to His disciples; see Matthew 16:24.

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.

Jesus called the twelve disciples for a specific mission; see Matthew 10:1-7, 16-23.

And He [Jesus] called to Him His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for My sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

The twelve disciples were to witness about Jesus Christ and tell people about the coming kingdom of heaven. And once again, Jesus assured His disciples that His Return would be in their lifetime. So in spite of the impending dangers to their lives, they ought to continue and be obedient to their call. So once again, see Matthew 16:21-28.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But He 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.” 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.”

Since the twelve disciples were no longer around, then Jesus Christ must have already returned contrary to the traditional believe and teaching. If not, then Jesus failed in His promise, and the disciples were taken for a ride, which of course I do not agree. So how are we to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus?

See 1 Peter 4:1-2.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

To be a disciple of Jesus then is to live henceforth according to the will of God, no longer according to the former ways of human passions. The apostle Paul teaching the same explained in Romans 6:3-4.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

The Christian baptism is not for membership of a local congregation; rather it’s a declaration of death – dying to our old self, therefore, having a transformed life. And it’s not simply a declaration but a reality that the Christian person must live by, for Jesus Christ died a real death. For only then may we truly experience the resurrected life of the Risen Lord and have an eternal life with Him. So Paul, in Romans 6:5-11, continued on saying:

For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The Christian walk is never easy, so often said, but there is no Christian to speak of unless he/she have been transformed – just like the butterfly coming out of its cocoon. The caterpillar stops eating, hangs upside down from a twig or leaf, and spins itself a silky cocoon or molts into a shiny chrysalis, looking like it has dried up and died. Yet, within its protective casing, the caterpillar radically transforms its body, eventually emerging as a butterfly.

Scripture said, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe we will also live with Him.” That is the very essence of discipleship – living a life of faith in Christ Jesus and adhering to His teaching and Words. Indeed, just as Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me (Matthew 16:24),” hence, we too, wanting to be disciples of Jesus Christ, ought to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and die to our former passions, then follow Him.

Now, if we have truly died to our former passions, following Jesus would no longer be burdensome but a joyful journey, always thankful to God for His unmerited and bountiful grace, living a life of faith in Christ alone.

A blessed New Year to everyone! Thanking God for my first blog of the year. Let us continue our walk with the Lord, by unlearning tradition and relearning Scripture. To better understand our visitation, you may want to read my previous blogs “The Dilemma of Tradition” and “Scripture vs. Tradition”.

Shalom!

If you want to follow our journey of unlearning tradition and relearning Scripture, you can stay updated by liking our Facebook page. You can also head to our Home page and subscribe directly to receive notifications in your inbox.

Published by Eric

I am a pastor. In the course of leading Bible studies, I have noticed inconsistencies in the traditional Christian beliefs and teachings. So now I am on a journey of in-depth study of the Scripture. By the grace of God, having been liberated by the truths of the Word of God, now I am doing the ministry independently, teaching the Word of God.

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