Zhuangzi, the great Taoist philosopher, woke up from a dream one day and felt confused because he dreamed of himself as a butterfly. The dream was so vivid that he felt realistically fluttering his wings, flying among flowers, plants, and trees, and enjoying the gentle touch of the evening breezes.
He felt unnatural to wake up as a human, wondering whether he was a butterfly dreaming of a human or a human dreaming of a butterfly. Zhuangzi told this experience to his students, asserting that he was unsure which one was real—whether he was a human or a butterfly.
What do you think? Sometimes we say, “Life is like a dream.” Is our life on earth just a dream? Will we all one day wake up to our reality? The French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said,
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” ~Pierre Teilard de Chardin
If that is true, our human experience is just a dream. If true, all the strife, complaints, and bickering about life become meaningless. Like King Solomon said, “It’s all vanity.” If you can attain that perspective, you will discover that most of life’s problems are but struggling against the storms in a teacup.
You are listening to this message because you believe life is more than a human experience. You feel there’s more to life than swimming in this little stormy teacup of this fallen world. That’s the story of Job. With all his suffering in the awful fate of his life, he was liberated at the end when he realized his experience was but a storm in a tiny teacup compared to God’s grand scheme of things.
We can strive for two things in this world—to maximize our human experience or to magnify our spiritual experience. However, there is a quantum paradox. Jesus said if we maximize our human life, we will lose it, but we will find it when we lose it for his sake. He said,
“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:25).
What does it mean? Putting it in the context of Jesus’ entire teaching, to lose your life for his sake means to seek the kingdom first. He said when you find the kingdom, everything else is given to you as well (Mt 6:33). You actually have both. Your spiritual enlightenment will enrich your human experience.
It’s simple but not easy. You still need to let go and let God. Letting go is the cross we must carry daily because, again, it’s simple but not easy. So, today, we will explore how to find life by losing it based on Jesus’ teaching in this week’s scripture lesson. Let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Matthew 16:21-28. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Mt 16:21–28).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, and as he got closer to Jerusalem, he began to teach his disciples what would happen when they arrived. He foretold them that he would be killed, preparing them to expect the inconceivable event—that their master would be crucified. It says,
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Mt 16:21).
A keyword here is “must.” Jesus MUST die. That means there’s no other option for human salvation. If another option existed, Jesus wouldn’t need to come to earth and go to the cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to God with tears, asking God to let him avoid this bitter cup of suffering on the cross. Like any parent, God would not have sacrificed His Son if there were another option. Why aren’t there other options?
Human sins cause the storms in this fallen world, and we live and die in these storms. We cannot save ourselves by being good because we cannot be good enough to meet God’s standard of perfection. No one is perfect, as the Bible says. Without perfection, we cannot redeem this fallen world.
The father of a friend of mine was a retired judge. My friend tried to convince his father to believe in Christ, but he said, “I can’t believe in Christianity because to become a Christian, I must admit that I am a sinner. I am not a sinner. I am a judge. I judge the sinners.” He thought he was perfect.
Maybe he should asked his children how perfect he was instead of deciding for himself. I remember, at a funeral, I chatted with the surviving children, saying, “Your father was a great man. I’ve never heard him say a curse word as long as I know him all these years.” They laughed, “That’s because you haven’t lived with him.”
Wise men say, “Children will make you a better person.” You cannot hide your sins from them. If you listened to your children, you would know why Jesus must die for you.
After living almost three scores on this earth, I haven’t seen a perfect human except those in denial. The best people I have seen still have some imperfections. I call it the 80-20 rule of human perfection. The best human in this world is only 80% good and 20% bad. That’s already good enough.
I think that is how the two political parties survive. The left will always magnify the 20% bad things the people on the right have done, and vice versa. Each party tries to take advantage of the blindspots of the other. The United States is successful so far because we have a constitution written for sinners to lead the country with checks and balances.
It seems our DNA is damaged, limiting our ability to be perfect. Since we cannot be perfect, we cannot survive the justice of the loving God. The only way out is redemption through God’s love and grace. God can forgive us with his loving grace, but justice must be done because grace without justice is not love. It’ll become cheap grace. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, grace is free but not cheap.
Since we cannot save ourselves, someone must pay the price for our sins to maintain justice. That’s why Jesus must die. And he said that he must go to Jerusalem and be killed.
Why Jerusalem? Because it’s to fulfill the prophecy. It was God’s plan for redemption from the foundation of the world. The omniscient Creator knew we might fall. God had a plan B from the very beginning. God created us with His love and planned to redeem us with His love. But Jesus’ death is not the end.
It seems that the disciples didn’t hear the last phrase, “on the third day be raised.”—the happy ending. Maybe it was difficult for them to believe in the resurrection. Or, perhaps the preceding crucifixion was more traumatic to hear than the miracle of resurrection. So, their spokesperson, Peter, stepped up to protest,
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” (Mt 16:22).
It was an honest statement. Right before this moment, Peter confessed that Jesus is the Messiah. How could the mighty Messiah be killed by the evil forces? He is the symbol of victory against all evil. Just as they couldn’t believe Jesus would be killed, they must be equally stunned to hear what Jesus said next,
But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (Mt 16:23).
Oh, dear! Jesus called Peter, “Satan!” Just a moment ago, Jesus praised him for his spiritual intelligence, called him “the Rock,” and promised to give him “the keys to the kingdom.” Now, all of a sudden, he became “Satan” and “a stumbling block” to his master.
The Hebrew word “Satan (Saataan)” is a verb used as a noun or gerund, meaning “to oppose, to entice, or to be adversarial.” So, it’s more of an action word rather than a creature. An opposing mindset, especially against God’s will, is satanic. The term “the devil’s advocate” describes it closely. So, when someone says, “Let me play the devil’s advocate,” they are “sataning” or being Satan.
Jesus explained, “for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Peter’s problem was that his mind had turned the other way around, thinking that “we are human beings having a spiritual experience” rather than “we are spiritual beings having human experience.”
In other words, Peter was concerned about the storms in the teacup rather than God’s grand scheme of things. His concerns about the shameful death of his boss set him up against God’s plan for redemption. What’s more important: the Messiah’s dignity or human redemption?
Jesus previously encountered Satan when fasting for forty days in the wilderness. He was tempted to satisfy his ego rather than God’s grand scheme of things. Now, Peter is doing the same thing as Satan did. We can relate to Peter’s fear and shame of imagining his boss’s death. From the spiritual perspective, he was feeding Jesus’ ego.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mt 16:24).
There’s no room for ego in Jesus’ community. To participate in Jesus’ redemptive mission, we must crucify our ego. Simply put, it’s about humility—Thy will be done.
In Luke’s version, it says, “Take up their cross DAILY and follow me.” It’s not a one-time deal but a daily commitment to nail our ego on the cross because our ego is not physical. You cannot kill it, but you can tame it. Self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit. It means ego-control. Then Jesus said,
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. (Mt 16:25).
It’s important for us to focus on the outcome. We don’t crucify our ego to endure suffering. It doesn’t end there. We find life by losing our ego. Just like the resurrection, the happy ending is on the other side of crucifixion. If we have the end in mind, the journey becomes easier. Then Jesus said,
For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? (Mt 16:26).
This verse must be interpreted in light of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Jesus is saying Peter’s intention was like that of Satan, wanting Jesus to be worldly successful—turning stones into loaves, like the Midas touch; becoming famous by showing off his power by jumping down from the pinnacle of the temple; and gaining the whole world by selling his soul to Satan, the opposing spirit against God’s plan.
Pursuing success in a teacup is vanity because there’s an entire universe outside of this teacup. Jesus wants us to have a greater purpose, just like him—to save humanity rather than his own life. He wants us to follow him, fulfilling a divine dream instead of satisfying our ego. His dream is for human redemption.
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Mt 16:27–28).
According to the Bible, about five hundred people had the chance to see the risen Christ. God’s kingdom is not bound by time and space. It’s from eternity past to eternity future. That means it’s also right here at this moment. That means we can also see him in the present. How? Jesus said,
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mat 5:8).
A pure heart is a heart without ego. It’s like the heart of an infant. Children see God. That’s why Jesus wants us to become children. Seeing God is finding life and being able to truly and fully live. Jesus came to give us life. He said that he came so that we would have life and have it abundantly. The requirement is to crucify our ego.
Let’s receive the life he offers us and live abundantly!
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.