Matthew: Day 16

Jesus Is the Messiah


Today's Text: Matthew 15:1-39, Matthew 16:1-28, Zechariah 12:10, 2 Peter 1:16-18

Scripture Reading: Matthew 15:1-39, Matthew 16:1-28, Zechariah 12:10, 2 Peter 1:16-18

I am very good at proclaiming things:

I’m going to run a marathon!
I’m going to take music lessons!
I’m going to write one poem a day!

But these are things that are easier said than done; therefore, I say them, but do not really do them. I ran a half marathon, not a full. I took voice lessons for a few weeks, then quit. I wrote about six poems—over the course of an entire year.

Declarations are good, but in order to follow through with them we must understand their implications.

In Matthew 16, Jesus asks His followers, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter has the right answer: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” he declares (vv. 15-16).

But just a few verses later, we see that Peter doesn’t fully understand the implications of his declaration. When Jesus explains to His disciples what will eventually happen to Him in Jerusalem, that He will suffer on the cross, Peter is upset. “Oh no, Lord!” he says, “This will never happen to you!” (v. 22).

As my IVP Bible Background Commentary notes, “Peter had divulged Jesus’ secret identity yet had retained a faulty concept of what that identity entailed.” In other words, it’s one thing to say Jesus is the Messiah; it’s another to understand the implications this has on our lives.

Jesus proceeds to very clearly explain what it means to believe He is the Messiah, saying, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (v. 24). Three things: deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Jesus. For those of you who’ve been on this Christian journey for a while, you might be thinking what I’m thinking: Easier said than done.

All three of these commands are incredibly counterintuitive to our sin nature. “Deny yourself” implies denying your selfish desires, ambitions, and needs. “Take up your cross” implies being prepared for the ridicule and scorn of others, even being prepared for death itself. “Follow me” implies allowing Jesus to be Lord of your life, laying down your control, and giving it to Him.

I can declare that Jesus is the Messiah all day long, but do my actions reflect that I truly believe this? Have I denied myself today? Am I more concerned with what others think than I am with openly being a Christ follower? Am I allowing Jesus to control my life, or am I still gripping the wheel?

Backing up a little in this passage we see that Jesus first asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (v. 13). He wanted to know what the disciples had observed others were saying about Him. Then He asks, “But you… who do you say that I am?” (v. 15). To me, it feels like the emphasis is on that second question. Jesus is more concerned with who His followers believe Him to be than what other men are saying about Him.

Who we, as Christ followers, proclaim Jesus to be is critical for the world that is looking on. And how we act—much more than what we say—reflects whether or not we believe Jesus is the Messiah.

We can say and not do, proclaiming Jesus is the Messiah but never denying ourselves, never actually following Him. Or, through the power of Christ in us, we can proclaim and do, showing those around us who Jesus is. Pointing them to Him with our lives. Pointing them to the true Messiah.


  • Help me Jesus to deny myself and carry my cross.

  • Lindsey Bailey

    This tension between flesh and heart is a reoccurring theme and rears its head in every area of our lives. Our default is to look at the flesh. We want to take in with our eyes the tangible. The physical. But, Jesus keeps steering us deeper. It’s something in which only Jesus can give us vision. Our mission is heart yet our tendency is to stop at what we can measure. We will always sell ourselves short if we don’t shift our eyes from flesh and fix our eyes on Jesus.

  • What a beautiful reminder that it’s about grace & truth, but also words & actions. We need both.
    Christ give me strength.

  • We can say and not do, proclaiming Jesus is the Messiah but never denying ourselves, never actually following Him. Or, through the power of Christ in us, we can proclaim and do, showing those around us who Jesus is. Pointing them to Him with our lives. Pointing them to the true Messiah.

  • Just as Peter proclaimed who Christ was, but didn’t quite fully realize the implications of what that meant, the Pharisees (and many church-going people today) were all about proclaiming Christ and the letter of the law while forgetting the true spirit of the law. This is what you see in Matthew 15. John Eldredge puts it this way in his book Beautiful Outlaw: “The issues are first and foremost internal, before they are ever external….Letter, and spirit. All those external ‘rules of men’ do nothing to promote genuine holiness. But they do make people Pharisees. By the truckload.”

  • Sarah Tolhurst

    One thing that stood out to me in this passage was when the disciples wondered where they were going to get food for the crowd, despite the fact Jesus had fed the crowd with five loaves and two fish only a short time ago! I was thinking ‘really? You still doubted Jesus would provide?’ Then of course I realised that’s what I do so often myself! I doubt Jesus will do something again that he has already done. So much still to practice and develop on this journey of faith ❤️

  • Courtney Osborne

    As I embark this month into starting a new job, I have to trust that this is God’s plan. I pray I can lay my fears and anxieties at the cross and let HIM take control, and let go of the wheel myself. Amen.

  • Kwanaiya Marshall

    This was a very powerful lesson. And honestly it makes me as a christian woman question myself as a follower of Christ. I know the things that i need to work on to make life reflex that of My Lord and savior Jesus the Christ.

  • Kristen Hembree

    Amy, thank you for that insight!! It is so helpful in understanding this passage.

  • Sarah Mille

    Melanie thank you for your transparency! You’re not alone!

  • Sarah Mille

    Amy Kuo thank you for this explanation!!!

  • Graciela R

    Our actions do speak louder than our words……May I deny myself more so He can be exalted as the one and Only Messiah.

  • I’m currently reading a book about this subject— “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” by Don Whitney. Kindle edition On sale on Amazon right now for $1.99.

  • Amen! Such a convicting and deeply needed scripture reading and devotion! I deal with so much fear and anxiety after years of being mistreated (ongoing) and it has made me a person I barely recognise…and that I hate, but clearly not enough to *die* to self-which I desperately need to do.

    Instead of trusting Him, I cling tightly to my human schemes of self protection, because I feel no one else is protecting me. And honestly, all it has done is led to so much sin in my life. Mountains of sin, moreso than what was/is done to me. I actually am diasgnosed with mental illnesses (bipolar 2…that is just like major depressive disorder…and borerline personality disorder) and I know in my heart that I gave these “illnesses” to myself through bitterness and unforgiveness (I am not saying all mental illness is false or from sin, but I KNOW mine is).

    Inspite of that truth, here I still stand, grasping at my schemes of self protection (which do not work, btw) and trying to grasp at Jesus, but oh! my faith is beyond weak. It has gone from passionate to a mere mental assent, and when things I fear the most happen, I usually fall into a deep pit of sin and despair. It feels like I am in a prison, self imposed, but created by the person who hurts me (sorry, I don’t want to go into too many details about the other person….).

    I want to die to self REALLY and my whole life be an act of worship….and my life is not glamorous, but just serving the family He gave me, to do it with joy. Not wasting my time being afraid, selfish, checking out, etc. I feel useless, though. I don’t feel I have anything to offer anyone and I literally have no friends, except my mom and husband. We as a family hae no friends because our life is so messed up and it has gotton so small as fear gets larger.

    So. So rambly. If anyone reads this, will you please pray that I can die to self, give up clinging to my schemes (even typing that makes me feel sick), and serve God without fear? I want the gift of strong faith! What could be better? Thank you…

    • Juliet

      Yes! Praying over you and your family right now! Sounds like the Lord is revealing so much to you through the pain…he loves you SO! And there is no condemnation, he came to give us abundant life and freedom when we submit our life to Him. Hope you feel His love and peace this week!

      • Desiree

        Thank you for your grace Juliet – I need to hear it. The day got rougher as my 14 year old revealed to me she doesn’t feel loved and wants to move to her dads. Praise God though He gave me courage and words to repent to her and deal with things His way. Our relationship can now be stronger…so very painful day, but also with much healing. The Lord is so good.

    • Pam

      Praying for you right now.

  • Andrea Lopez

    There is a lot of work that needs to be done in my life when it comes to ‘denying myself, taking up my cross and following Him’. It’s easy to believe with my tongue but the Lord is teaching me how I need to follow thru with my whole life – a much needed, often needed, painful lesson. Thank you for these words today!

  • Jo Gistand

    Oh man, the Lord is teaching me something today I listened to a podcast this morning about how Christians should deal with anger. How do I reflect Jesus when I am angry? Or… do I still reflect him when I am angry? Do I deny my sinful desire to clap back? I can declare that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, but my actions have to reflect my belief!

    So good ❤️

  • Josie Smith

    I struggled to understand the interaction between Jesus and the Canaanite woman. My only guess is that Jesus was testing her faith, but why would he treat her thus? It seems to be out of character for the Christ who moves with compassion. Does anyone have any insight into this?

    • Emily

      David Guzik has an awesome commentary. Whenever I’m stumped on something, it usually answers my questions. Here’s the link for Matthew 15. Just scroll down to the section for verses 21-28. I think it gives a good explanation.

    • Alexis

      I think he was testing her faith to see if she would continue asking even after he ignored and denied her. It’s hard to read that section and see Christ that way. But as she persists, he answers her prayers.

    • Amy Kuo

      I read an excellent explanation of this passage by Timothy Keller’s book Jesus the King about this passage from the book of Mark. I also cross-checked with Matthew Henry’s commentary to make sure I was giving the best answer I could. Jesus’ mission was first to the nation of Israel, the people of God. Because this woman was a Canaanite, she was outside those who first needed to hear Jesus’ message. Israel is who He is referring to when He talks about the children at the table. (We forget that Jesus’ international mission truly began on the cross and at His acension in Matthew 28/acts 1, where He then tells His disciples to go into all the world; though of course He loved on other cultures many times throughout the Gospels as well, His focus was on reaching Israel until His work on the cross had been accomplished). Jesus likely was also testing her faith by giving her a distant answer at first. But this woman was determined and had such incredible faith to say “I know what you’re saying is true but surely there must be enough overflow of grace to spare some for me” and Jesus honors her faith and heals her daughter.

      • Glenda Alonzo

        amen! Ty for this insight. I get it now. I too didn’t quite understand!

    • Katie Morrison

      Jesus seems to be proving a point here, the disciples wanted to turn her away. Jesus was trying to point out their narrow mindedness—they were acting as if Jesus only came to help the Jews, not everyone. Mirroring their behavior exemplified that they were not acting as Christ. I think that is why it’s so shocking to us in reading this—it doesn’t sound like Jesus to refuse someone… He seems to be highlighting the ridiculousness of the disciples’ haughtiness—I’m sure they were surprised Jesus didn’t heal her daughter right away. I believe they must have felt shame as they realized He was teaching them a lesson. He came for all and loves all. It’s ironic that the disciples acted this way shortly after Jesus pointed out the Pharisees’ hypocrisy.

    • Grace Broadbent

      Wow, thanks so much, Amy! I appreciate you doing the background work to help us all understand those verses so much more!

    • Cori S.

      I was confused by this dialogue as well. Thank you, Amy!

  • Deny myself , take up my cross, and follow Him. Thank you Andrea for a wonderful devotion this morning and the reminder as I need it daily.

  • Kelly Chataine

    “Peter had divulged Jesus’ secret identity yet had retained a faulty concept of what that identity entailed.”
    True for me, as well. When first I was a young Christian, I knew the facts of Christ’s identity but did not understand who Jesus really was/is, His true characteristics. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, I have been given the blessing of understanding much more. However, it seems the more I know, I then realize how little I know. Thanks be to God for the journey! There is joy in the journey!

  • But what I really need, want, desire is to know and love Jesus more and more deeply because then taking up my cross will be a desired delight, not a guilty must have to that is a burden. My prayer is for the Spirit to work in my heart and grow this love to overflowing.

  • This morning our roads are snow covered and slushy and so driving on them is a little questionable. My eldest daughter, who attends college but lives at home now and is a month shy of 20, just started driving last Summer, so the idea of driving in this had her anxious. Last night, she asked if I would mind driving her, explaining that she just wasn’t confident with her ability. This morning we headed out at 6am and made our way to campus. Multiple times she thanked me, even texting me when I got home. She’s really good about asking for help from the elders in her life, about looking for wisdom where she may be lacking. She loves to drive but she trusted me more this morning with her life than herself. How I wish I was that quick to realize my need for Christ’s leading. Too many times I march through my days insisting on the driver’s seat. I’ve got to start remembering the view from the passenger side is pretty darn awesome and the peace I feel in the lack of control, astounding. Making my way today not only declaring Jesus is Lord over my life but working to actively walk it out, after all, “shotgun” isn’t just a seat the kids fight over, it’s the best seat for the ride! :)

  • I believe we give our lives to Him and take up our cross by giving our lives sacrificially to other people. That comes through giving our time, our money, our service, and our talents so other people experience the love of the Father through us. When we learn to live this way, we bear fruit. It is a process I strive for but have not yet learned. Andrea hit it on the head when she said this is how we show the world who Jesus is – how we “act” is so much more powerful than what we say.

  • ‘Then He asks, “But you… who do you say that I am?” (v. 15). To me, it feels like the emphasis is on that second question. Jesus is more concerned with who His followers believe Him to be than what other men are saying about Him’

    I believe this is the central question every believer must ask themself time and time again. What is central to our faith is ultimately based on who we believe Jesus to be. May we reevaluate who we believe Him to be and how that informs our daily living.

  • Melanie Bisson

    So timely for me to read this today! My annual sales meeting for work began last night and while many know of my journey to Christ a little over a year ago, it’s still easy for my old self to make an appearance – some cussing, some distasteful comments about others, etc while partaking in group activities.

    Lord, be with me this week as I keep my eye on you and not worry how others perceive the new me. Allow those relationships to shed where they need to and for me to SURRENDER (my 2018 word) to you with open arms.

    • Emily

      I love your honesty and vulnerability. So few would admit their struggle with this, yet all of us in the workplace fall into this trap sometimes. Praying for you today that God will strengthen your heart and mind!

    • Ruth Lorentz

      Prayers for your journey Melanie

      • Deborah Craytor

        Can someone help me with what I feel is a stupid question but which I honestly want to understand the answer to? We frequently say our prayers are with someone, or that we are praying for someone, but what does that mean in actual practice? Do I just say a prayer right then, or am I “supposed” to or committing to repeated prayers for that person? If the latter, how long do I keep praying for that person, and how do I keep track of all the people I’ve said I’m praying for?

        • Laura

          As we develop a posture of humility and service, we become more aware and burdened for others. Follow the Spirit’s leading. If God keeps bringing someone to your mind or putting them on your heart, say a little prayer or scripture each time, lifting them back up to God. Sometimes you pray for someone once and feel peace about the situation. Maybe that’s all God is asking of you in that case. Other times, I might pray for someone each morning, writing their name down in my journal as I pray (not as a list, or something to be checked off, but offering up each person to the Lord each day). Later, I can come back and see how God has moved in those peoples’ lives. I guess there is no right or wrong answer. . . just follow the Spirit’s prompting in each situation.

    • Lauren Ward

      Praying for you, Melanie!!

  • EarlyBird

    “Am I allowing Jesus to control my life, or am I still gripping the wheel?” When I allow Him to steer, He has proven over and over again that His plan is perfect. So why do I so oftentimes grab the wheel back, tightening my grip?! Perhaps like the disciples who kept asking, “Who is this man who does these things?!” as they walked with Him. So am I a slow learner. Again and again I must remind myself that He is my shepherd; I am a sheep in His pasture. I am NOT in charge. May I be more willing to let go of the wheel, more discerning of His voice as He leads me.

  • Barbara Menefee

    As I struggle through some intense work issues, this devo hit home. It’s all about Him. It’s not about me, my work or even my family. How do I serve Him—today. In the midst of life and worries of life, I must deny myself, take up my cross and follow Him. I need to repeat this mantra over and over.

    • Bonnie Maw

      You nailed it. It is so easy to allow the things of this world to over shadow Him. I am with you…How do I serve Him today? Just today, tomorrow will take care of itself.

  • Wow! That was the message I needed to hear. Let the way I live my life, point them to you Lord. Amen

  • Anna BuchananStroud

    Andrea always writes really powerful devotions: thank you!! Very convicting words as I reflect on my tendency to proclaim without following thru by living a life that is about me more than Jesus. I say, “Jesus is Messiah!” And still so much of my life is centered on me trying to gain control and comfort. Oh Father, help me to truly lay down my life.

  • Alexis Maycock

    I think this is a great reminder for me at the start of 2018. Showing who Jesus is by my actions not just my declaration!

  • Churchmouse

    The accounts of martyrdom I read yesterday haunted me all day. What did the Lord want to tell me through those accounts? Today, through Andrea’s devotion, I have the answer. Deny yourself. Take up your cross. Follow Jesus. Doing these three things looks very different in the USA versus other parts of the world. He has placed me here in this country, in this state, in this city, in this family for His good reason and purpose. So… How am I doing with His commissioning here? I confess I don’t deny myself all that much. I don’t proclaim His wonder and glory as often as I should. I sometimes follow Jesus meekly instead of confidently. I’m not persecuted for my faith. Ridiculed occasionally but not persecuted. The command remains, however. It is so easy to become lukewarm and complacent. But Jesus’ challenge is far from that. It requires a holy boldness grounded in faith and commitment – right here, right now. I’m grateful that He has given me this ‘comeuppance’ to look more honestly in the mirror. To say “I’m sorry, Lord. Forgive me.” To renew my commitment. To stoke the fire He first lit. Yes. Today. I throw on more kindling. Set my soul on fire. Amen

    • Brandi

      So good! Yes and Amen!

    • valerie

      YES Churchmouse!

      “take up his cross” back then meant imminent death – crucifixion.

      Might I also add these notes from my study bible…..

      “Following Jesus therefore meant true commitment, the risk of death and no turning back.
      Real discipleship implies real commitment – pledging our whole existence to his service. If we try to save our physical life from death, pain or discomfort, we may risk losing our true eternal life. If we protect ourselves from pain we begin to die spiritually and emotionally. Our lives turn inward and we lose our intended purpose. When we give our lives in service to Christ, however we discover the real purpose of living.”

      As you said, I do not want to become lukewarm, complacent and comfortable!
      Lord, help us to live out our faith the way You intended

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