The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.
Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.
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.”
To put this verse into context, Jesus had just told His disciples to deny worldly impulses:
Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[g] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 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? 27 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.
John MacArthur explains Christian self denial:
Think of it this way. When you are neglected, unforgiven, or when you are purposely set at naught and you sting and you hurt with the insult of that oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, that is dying to self. When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed and your advice is disregarded and your opinions are ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself, you take it all patiently in loving silence, you’re dying to self.
And when you lovingly and patiently bear any disgrace, any regularity, any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with folly and extravagance and spiritual insensitivity, and endure it as Jesus did, that is dying to self. When you are content with any food, any money, any clothing, any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God, that is dying to self. And when you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or record your own good works, or itch after commendation from others, and when you truly love to be unknown, that is dying to self. When you see your brother prosper and have his needs wondrously met, and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy and never question God, though your needs are greater and still unmet, that is dying to self. And when you can receive correction, and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and humbly admit inwardly as well as outwardly that he’s right and find no resentment and no rebellion in your heart, that is dying to self.
Self-denial is a tall order. It cannot be done without divine grace.
About taking up one’s cross, MacArthur tells us:
It is the willingness to endure persecution, rejection, reproach, shame, suffering, even martyrdom for His sake. That’s all.
He reminds us that the disciples would not have known Jesus was going to die on a cross. They understood His words in historical context, no less horrific:
A hundred men had been crucified in that area, not much earlier than this very event. Something about 120 years before. Antiochus Epiphanes had crucified many Jews during the reign of the Greeks in the intertestamental period. And from a revolt following the death of Herod the Great, the Roman pro‑consul Varus crucified 2,000 Jews. Crucifixion was somewhat common in the Roman Empire, somewhat common in middle Asia, somewhat common in Egypt, somewhat common in Italy. They had seen crucifixions a lot. One historian estimates 30,000 crucifixions occurred around the time of Jesus Christ.
Now when He said, “Take up your cross,” you know what they saw? They saw these poor sad condemned souls marching along the road with at least the cross beam of their own instrument of death strapped to their backs. That’s what they thought of. To them the cross meant you’re walking to death, you’re moving toward your martyrdom. That’s what it meant. And that’s what the Lord is saying. You must perceive following Me as putting on the instrument of your own execution. Because the world is going to cut you off. Not all of you will die, not all of the twelve died, but many of them did, as martyrs. But you will bear reproach and you will be ridiculed if you live for Christ. That’s what 2 Timothy 3 means, you’ll suffer persecution. So that’s what He’s saying.
Jesus then spoke of His Second Coming and Judgement Day. Matthew Henry’s advice holds true as much today as it did in the 17th century (emphases mine):
In that day, the treachery of backsliders will be punished with eternal destruction, and the constancy of faithful souls recompensed with a crown of life … The best preparative for that day is to deny ourselves, and take up our cross, and follow Christ for so we shall make the Judge our Friend, and these things will then pass well in the account.
If today’s verse (Matthew 16:28) sounds familiar, the same was said of Simeon when the infant Jesus was presented at the temple 40 days after His birth (Luke 2:26):
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Henry analysed it this way:
As Simeon was assured that he should not see death till he had seen the Lord’s Christ come in the flesh so some here are assured that they shall not taste death (death is a sensible thing, its terrors are seen, its bitterness is tasted) till they had seen the Lord’s Christ coming in his kingdom. At the end of time, he shall come in his Father’s glory but now, in the fulness of time, he was to come in his own kingdom, his mediatorial kingdom. Some little specimen was given of his glory a few days after this, in his transfiguration (Matthew 17:1) then he tried his robes. But this points at Christ’s coming by the pouring out of his Spirit, the planting of the gospel church, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the taking away of the place and nation of the Jews, who were the most bitter enemies to Christianity. Here was the Son of man coming in his kingdom. Many then present lived to see it, particularly John, who lived till after the destruction of Jerusalem, and saw Christianity planted in the world …
Observe, Christ saith, Some shall live to see those glorious days, not all some shall enter into the promised land, but others shall fall in the wilderness. He does not tell them who shall live to see this kingdom, lest if they had known, they should have put off the thoughts of dying, but some of them shall …
Peter, James and John also lived to see the glory of Jesus. MacArthur says:
They saw it and they knew they saw it and Peter writes in his epistle, “I was an eye‑witness of His majesty.” He saw it.
Indeed, the next event — Matthew 17:1-9 — was the Transfiguration:
17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
Forbidden Bible Verses will resume after Easter and will discuss what Jesus said to the three apostles afterwards.
Next time: Matthew 17:10-13