From The Gospel of Matthew, by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, commenting on Matthew 16:21-27
In the preceding episode Jesus spoke for the first time about his suffering and death. Now he says that disciples are expected to follow him down this road. Where he goes, his disciples must also go. Jesus will surrender his life for them. Will they be willing to surrender their lives for him?
Jesus first insists that every disciple must take up his cross and follow his Messiah. Our familiarity with this language dulls us to its meaning. Few of us have ever witnessed anything so barbaric as the crucifixion of a human person. The Romans perfected this technique of execution, yet Roman citizens thought it inappropriate to mention it in public conversation.
Jesus, however, invites us to think of the Christian life in precisely these terms. He demands a commitment of faith that is ready to embrace the will of God wherever it leads, even unto death (as in 26:39). The call is backed by a promise that everyone who loses his life for the sake of Jesus will find it in the end (see commentary on 10:38–39).
Incentive for embracing this radical commitment is the prospect of final judgment. Jesus will eventually return as the Son of Man, accompanied by the angels of heaven, and will render his verdict on the lives of everyone. He will be the world’s final judge, the one who determines the eternal destiny of all.
The basis on which we will be judged will be our conduct (see Ps 62:12; Rom 2:6). From the perspective of Matthew’s Gospel, this will entail a judgment of our words (12:36–37), our thoughts (5:28–30), our actions (7:21), our willingness to forgive others (6:14–15; 18:35), and our commitment to works of mercy (25:31–46).