Let us pray: Heavenly Father: send us your Holy Spirit to open our ears to hear your preached Word. Comfort us by your Word. Help us to learn the stories in your Word and to tell them to others. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Let’s briefly recap the steps for Biblical storytelling that we’ve heard these last few weeks:
Step 1: Learn a Bible story. We learn a story by reading it a few times and practicing it. Finding the structure can help. Here is a structure for our story today:
- Time marker: ‘From that time on…’
- Jesus explains: must go to Jerusalem, suffer, be killed, rise.
- Conversation between Peter and Jesus: Never! Get behind me!
- Jesus preaches: pick up your cross, gain the whole world.
Step 2: Introduce the story. “Hey, can I tell you a story from the Bible. It helps explain what I believe. Afterwards we can talk about it.”
Step 3: Tell the story. Use simple language, but keep it accurate and make it memorable e.g. gestures and expressions.
Step 4: Talk about the story together.
- What stood out to you? (Open-ended, non-threatening).
- Do you have any questions? (Again open-ended).
- What is the main point? (Stories communicate points without explicitly stating them).
- What does this story teach about people/you and God?
- If this story is true, how will you live differently?
Let’s hear the story again. (Read aloud Matthew 16:21–28 again).
(a) What stood out to you? (Pause to think about what stood out to you, or if you are with others, talk with them). What stood out to me were Jesus’ words to Peter. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block.” These are harsh words to his friend! Jesus has just called Peter “the rock” on which he will build the church. But now Jesus calls Peter “Satan,” and a rock blocking his path, potentially causing him to stumble. Peter goes from getting it so right, to getting it so wrong. This stood out to me because it shows me the dual nature of God’s church on earth. Peter, representing the ministry of the church on earth, is God’s instrument of peace, the way God proclaims forgiveness, the rock of salvation. Yet, at the same time, the church can be a stumbling block. Like Peter, members and leaders in the church can get it wrong. I know some of you who have been hurt by the church. I know some of you that have been hurt by me. I am sorry. So I pray that as you hear God’s word of forgiveness to you, you may also forgive as you are forgiven.
(b) Do you have any questions? I had one question about the first verse (v21): ‘Jesus told them he must go to Jerusalem. There he must suffer. … He must be killed.’ Why must Jesus go to Jerusalem, suffer, and be killed? The only answer that seemed to fit was that this is the Father’s will. Isaiah writes in chapter 53: ‘[The LORD’s servant] was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. … It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer. … [But] after he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.’ (Isaiah 53:5,10,11). So why must this happen? Because Jesus’ suffering and death is the will of God to save you. In fact, after Jesus enters Jerusalem and after the Last Supper, Jesus prays on the Mount of Olives: “Father, take this cup [of suffering] from me. Yet not my will but your will be done.” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus acknowledges that his heavenly Father is in the driver’s seat. God knows what is best, even if the road is rocky and painful. As Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer: “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” “Father, not my will, but your will be done in my life.”
(c) What’s the main point? In the preceding story that we heard last week, Jesus is declared as the Christ, the King. Now we’re told what type of King Jesus actually is. Jesus is the suffering and crucified Christ, he is the Servant King. He has not come to be served, but to serve us. He has come to suffer and die for you. He was pierced for your rebellion, crushed for your sins. And yet after he suffered, Jesus was raised to new life. He has seen and become the light of life.
(d) What does this story teach about people/you? What does this story teach about God?
By default, we want life to be easy and full of glory. We want to drive the easy road. We want a straight highway full of glory, fame, and honour. I mean, wouldn’t it be easy to convince others if Jesus was physically present with us and we could put our fingers into his nail scared hands?! Wouldn’t it be easy to share our faith if Jesus performed some miracle in our life?! Wouldn’t it be great if he healed us or a sick family member?! Or he clicked his fingers to make all the pain go away, make everything better?! But that’s not who Jesus is. We’re not in the driver’s seat. We’re not in control. We don’t get to decide how things are done.
While at times frustrating, in one sense, this is a relief. This takes the pressure of us. See, the Gospel is always freeing, not binding. Yes, we have our part to play. We are called to live a life of faith. We are called to tell people the good news, perhaps through by Biblical storytelling. We will carry our particular crosses. But ultimately God is in control. The responsibility rests on His shoulders. God the Father laid everything on Jesus’ as he carried the cross to Calvary. But some people want the easy road to glory, not the rocky road of suffering leading to the cross. So the cross is an offence, a scandal, a stumbling block for them.
(e) If this story is true, how will you live differently?
This story I think affects our lives in at least two ways. Firstly, Jesus encourages us to deny ourselves, to say no to self. “If anyone wants to follow me, they must say no to themselves. They must pick up their cross and follow me. If they wants to save their life, they will lose it. But if they lose their life for me, they will find it.” A self-centred person may succeed in this life, but what about the next? Jesus is saying that if our whole existence is about what I want, what I can get, my happiness, my success, my reputation, then we will actually lose eternal life. But on the flipside, when we say no to ourselves, when we pick up our cross, when we let God sit in the driver’s seat, when we lose our life, then we will find eternal life in the crucified Christ. This has practical implications: it might mean biting our tongue, offering an olive branch when it’s not deserved, forgiving, letting go, being patient, putting the needs of others first.
Secondly, this story affects our prayer life. It’s so easy for our prayers to become self-centred. “Lord, I need x, y, and z. Help me with such and such. Take this issue away from me.” But when God is in control, when he’s in the driver’s seat, this means that we can rest. Our prayer time becomes a place to receive rest, we receive with empty hands everything the Lord sends to us, even the crosses that we must bear. “Lord, I need x, y, and z, but not my will but yours be done. Take this issue away, but if this is a cross I must carry, then comfort me as we walk together. Take this issue away from me, but your will be done in me as in heaven.”
I pray this faith sharing tool can be helpful to you. You may not use these particular stories (the Canannite woman, Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ, or our story today). Here are few other stories you could learn: the birth of Jesus (Luke 2, Matthew 2), Jesus healing the paralysed man lowered through the roof (Mark 2), Jesus in the storm with his disciples (Mark 4), one or two of the parables, the resurrection account (Mark 16, Luke 24).
May you rest in the back seat as Jesus sits up front. As you follow him, carrying your particular cross, know that Jesus travels with you. And when the Son of Man comes into his Father’s glory, he will repay everyone in keeping with what has been done. Amen.