In Exodus 5, we see Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh. The meeting doesn’t go so well. This is our first glimpse of Pharaoh’s pride and contempt for Israelite’s God. Pharaoh shows the strength of his power by increasing the Israelites’ work load. And this causes the people to doubt God’s word.
Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” (Genesis 6:6-8).
Here we see God’s promise… that “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God.” God will reiterate this promise to his people throughout the Old Testament. They expected a savior, a Messiah, to come and set up his kingdom on earth. Fast forward to today’s reading in Matthew. The disciples, believed Jesus to be the promised savior, the Messiah. Jesus asks them, who do you say that I am.
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
They expected Jesus to overthrow the oppressive Roman government and be ruler of the Earth. They had visions of royalty and earthly glory. The last thing they expected was for Jesus to die. But now that Jesus knows that his disciples understand his identity, he tries to help them understand his mission…
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 (Matthew 16:31).
Peter wants nothing to do with this talk from Jesus. He rebukes him, saying, “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus quickly puts Peter in his place and uses the opportunity to teach the disciples one critical law of His Kingdom…
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” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Both of today’s readings contrast the ways of this world and the ways of God. Pharaoh’s might is nothing compared to the Lord’s power – and man’s desire for power and earthly acclaim is nothing compared to the sacrificial ways of the Savior!