Matthew 16:25-28 “Four Reasons to Die For”

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 25 Nov. 2012


16:21 From there, Jesus began to show His disciples that it was necessary for Him to go away into Jerusalem and to suffer many things from the elders and high priests and scribes, and to be killed, and to be resurrected during the third day.

16:22 And after taking Him aside, Peter began to reprimand Him, saying, “Mercy on you, Lord; this should never happen to you!”

16:23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Go on behind me, Satan! You’re being [the occasion of] a trap for me, because you’re not thinking about the things of God but rather about the things of men.”

16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If someone wants to come [along] behind me, he must renounce allegiance to himself and take up his cross and keep following me.

16:25 For whoever wants to save his soul will abandon it, but whoever abandons his soul for my sake will find it.

16:26 For what is a man profited if he happened to gain the whole universe, but be penalized his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

16:27 For the Son of Man is about to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then pay back to each man according to his deeds.

16:28 I’m telling y’all the truth, [that] there are some of you standing here who will never taste death until whenever they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”


Thus the title of my sermon: “Four reasons to die for.”


1. Die to self and follow Christ because this is the PATH to salvation (v.25)

16:25 For whoever wants to save his soul will abandon it, but whoever abandons his soul for my sake will find it.

‘ος γαρ [ε]αν θελη την ψυχην αυτου σωσαι απολεσει αυτην, ‘ος δ’ αν απολεση την ψυχην αυτου ενεκεν εμου ‘ευρησει αυτην

1.      Mark 8:35 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save (Lk. 9:24 also has ‘save’ - σωσει) it.”

2.      Luke 17:33 “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (ζωογονησει – “keep it alive”).

1.Whoever is oriented around their personal quality of life, minding their self-interest will lose – or destroy – himself; but whoever abandons their own self-interest and cares about Jesus’ interests will find the good life.

2. Alternately, because the Greek word translated “but” here can also be translated “and,” another way of translating this verse could be, “whoever wants God to save them must lose their life by abandoning allegiance to self, and whoever does this (by taking up their cross and following Christ), will find that their soul is saved.”[4]

Either way you read the first half of the verse – whether as a warning against selfishness or whether as a recipe for salvation, the same unexpected truth comes out: those who deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus will find life instead of miserable death!

2. Die to self and follow Christ because the PRICE of disobedience is too great

16:26 For what is a man profited if he happened to gain the whole universe, but be penalized his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

τί γαρ ωφελειται[5] ανθρωπος εαν τον κοσμον ‘ολον κερδηση την δε ψυχην αυτου ζημιωθη; ὴ τί δωσει ανθρωπος ανταλλαγμα[6] της ψυχης αυτου;

3. Die to self and follow Christ because there is PERIL in God being ashamed of us (Lk. 9:26/Mk. 8:38)

The parallel passage in Luke 9:26 adds a third reason not stated in Matthew: “For whoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words [Mark 8:38 adds in this adulterous and sinful generation] the Son of Man shall be ashamed of him…”

4. Die to self and follow Christ because there is PENDING Judgment (v.27-28)

16:27 For the Son of Man is about to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then pay back to each man according to his deeds.

μελλει γαρ ‘ο Υιος του Ανθρωπου ερχεσθαι εν τη δοξη του Πατρος αυτου μετα των αγγελων αυτου και τοτε αποδωσει εκαστω κατα την πραξιν[7] αυτου


16:28 I’m telling y’all the truth, [that] there are some of you standing here who will never taste death until whenever they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Αμην λεγω ‘υμιν [‘οτι[11]] εισιν τινες των[12] ‘ωδε εστωτων[13] ‘οιτινες ου μη γευσωνται θανατου ‘εως αν ιδωσιν τον Υιον του Ανθρωπου ερχομενον εν τη βασιλεια αυτου







Yes, but only 3 saw it

No, but 9 did not see

Temporarily changed into glorified state

Triumphal entry



Physically entering Jerusalem and adored by crowds

Jesus’ death and resurrection



Into the grave and out with glorified body.

Jesus’ ascension



Into heaven

The coming of the Holy Spirit



Spirit came

Visions of Jesus in heaven, such as Stephen’s or Saul’s

Yes – but one at a time


Already in glory

Destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD

Yes (Phillip, John, ???) – but may not have seen it.

Yes (Judas, both Jameses, Peter, ???)

Earthly judgment on Jerusalem and shift of earthly church center

Secret “coming” or change in Jesus’ heavenly status in modern times.



No clear support from scripture.

2nd coming of Christ to judge mankind, destroy & recreate earth.



Glory and judgment in future coming to earth



So, don’t be afraid of death. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus because:

1.      Christ-directed self-abandonment is the PATH of salvation (v.25) – so don’t fight it like Peter fought against Jesus’ abandonment to death. Losing your self in abandonment to Christ is the only way to be saved.

2.      Your soul is PRICEless, unworthy of throwing away over anything this world has to offer (v.26) – so don’t let the things of this world capture your heart. Give your heart instead to Jesus and you will find life.

3.      The PERIL of God turning His back on you is reason enough to endure any earthly rejection or even death. Jesus’ opinion of you is more important than what anyone else thinks, and so we must act now in light of eternity with or without Him.

4.      Jesus is coming back to judge the world (v.27), and in this PENDING judgment, our behavior and our accomplishments will be evaluated in light of whether we followed Him.


[1], 11/15/2012

[2] Ibid.

[3] I Knew Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ed. Wolf-Dieter Zimmermann and Ronald Gregor Smith, trans. by Kathe Gregor Smith (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 232.

[4] Throughout scripture, we see many examples of people who sought their life and lost it: Cain (Gen. 4:1-8), Ahab (1 Kings 21), Haman (Esther 3:5 and 5:9-14), Herod the Great (Matt. 2:3 & 16), Judas Iscariot (Matt. 26:14-16; Luke 22:47-48). Likewise, other examples abound of people who abandoned their life for Christ’s sake and found life: Ruth the Moabitess, King David’s friend Jonathan (1 Sam. 18-20), the Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable (Luke 10:29-37), the Apostle Paul (Rom. 9:3; Gal 4:19-20 and 6:14), and his fellow minister Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30).

[5] This is the reading of the Majority, Byzantine, and Textus Receptus editions of the Greek N.T. There are a significant number of ancient manuscripts, however, that render this verb in the Future tense (א, Β, Θ, L, f1, and f13 read ωφεληθησεται). However, since it is not a statement about an action in history but is instead a statement of a spiritual principle, the tense doesn’t change the meaning.

[6] Found in the Septuagint in Ruth 4:7; 1Kings 21:2, and Job 28:15.

[7] According to Nestle-Aland’s critical apparatus, א, f1, and 28 diverge from the majority of manuscripts by following the Septuagint wording of Ps. 62:12 and Prov. 24:12, which use the synonym τὰ ἔργα. However, the Septuagint wording is not to be found in their Critical edition, nor in any of the traditional editions of the Greek New Testament.

[8] Job 34:10-11 (Brenton) Wherefore hear me, ye that are wise in heart: far be it from me to sin before the Lord, and to pervert righteousness before the almighty. Yea, he renders to a man accordingly as each of them does, and in a man's path he will find him. (LXX …ἀποδιδοῖ ἀνθρώπῳ καθὰ ποιεῖ ἕκαστος αὐτῶν)

Psalm 62:12 (Brenton) and mercy is thine, O Lord; for thou wilt recompense every one according to his works. (LXX ἀποδώσεις ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ)

Proverbs 24:12 (Brenton) …know that the Lord knows the hearts of all; and he that formed breath for all, he knows all things, who renders to every man according to his works. (LXX …ἀποδίδωσιν ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ)

[9] See also Rev 22:12 "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (᾿Ιδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ, καὶ ὁ μισθός μου μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ, ἀποδοῦναι ἑκάστῳ ὡς τὸ ἔργον ἔσται αὐτοῦ.)

[10]2 Tim. 4:8 “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing… 14) Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.” (NASB)

[11] Not in the Majority, Byzantine, or T.R. editions, or in the Vulgate, but in Critical editions of the GNT, following אΒΘL, f13. The context already anticipates direct discourse to follow, so the explicit use of this word to indicate direct discourse does not change the meaning.

[12] While in the Critical, Byzantine, and Textus Receptus editions of the GNT, the “the” is not found in the majority of Greek manuscripts. Nestle-Aland’s edition only cites its absence in W and Γ.

[13] This is the reading of the Critical editions, following א, Β, Θ, C, D, L, f1, and f13, and agrees with the Textus Receptus, which uses an alternate spelling of the same Genitive participle (εστηκοτων, following K). The genitive case would attach it to the definite article (των), but the majority of manuscripts do not have that definite article, and so for them the participle is spelled in the Nominative case, referring to the subject “some/tines” – thus the Byzantine edition (εστωτες). Since the tines and the twn are referring to the same thing, there is no difference in meaning between the manuscripts and editions. By the way, Histemi does not appear to have a Present tense spelling for its participle form, so it uses the Perfect spelling for the Present meaning.

[14] There are two other passages which use this phrase “taste death” (John 8:52 and Hebrews 2:9), in which the phrase means to experience the second death = hell, but I rule out that meaning for the phrase in Matt. 16 because of the word “until,” which indicates the natural death which even believers in Jesus experience.

[15] Matthew 6:10 (|| Luke 11:2) “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” (NASB)

[16] Luke 17:20-33 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst." ... But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot… on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (NASB) Cf. Luke 22:18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." (NASB) and Luke 23:42 And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" (NASB)

[17] For further reference, here are quotes from two more commentators I like:
“At the end of time, he shall come in his Father’s glory’ but now, in the fullness 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 [when] he tried on 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… here was the son of man coming in his kingdom.” ~Matthew Henry

“We do not know, only that Jesus was certain of his final victory which would be typified and symbolized in various ways. The apocalyptic eschatological symbolism [is] employed… to picture the triumph of the kingdom, not to set forth the full teaching about it. The kingdom of God was already in he hearts of men. There would be climaxes and consummations.” ~A.T. Robertson

[18] ‘You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes’ (Mt. 10:23) ‘there are some standing here who will not taste death… before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom’ (Mt. 16:28) ‘Truly, I say unto you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place’ (Mk. 13:30)

[19] ‘the end is not yet’ (Mk. 13:7) ‘the gospel must first be preached to all nations’ (Mk. 13:10) ‘you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you will not see it’ (Lk. 17:22) Parables of the wise and foolish virgins (Mt. 25:5) and of the talents (Mt. 25:19)

[20] ‘Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come’ (Mk. 13:33) ‘Therefore, you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect’ (Mt. 24:44) ‘Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour’ (Mt. 25:13)

[21] Ladd, George Eldon, A Theology of the New Testament, Pp. 207-211

[22], 11/15/2012