What does Matthew 16:25 mean?
ESV: For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
NIV: For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
NASB: For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
CSB: For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it.
NLT: If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
KJV: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
NKJV: For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
Verse Commentary:
The idea that following Jesus shared anything with crucifixion—the tortuous, humiliating, violating death on a cross—would have shocked the disciples. Still, He has said anyone who would follow Him must deny himself and take up his cross (Matthew 16:24). Jesus had not yet revealed that He would die on a cross, though He will include that later in His teaching (John 12:32–34). Instead, He presented this as the most vivid of metaphors. Those who followed Him would have to willingly die to every bit of their own agenda, their own identity, their own approach.

Now Jesus becomes even more clear that He is describing the death of self: whoever would save his or her life will lose it. However, those who willingly lose their lives for His sake will find true life. In saying this, Jesus changed the stakes. Death to self is required to follow Him, yes, but it is also required to find the life that is truly life. In other words, Jesus says that following Him comes at the terrible cost of losing oneself, but the alternative is to permanently lose one's life.

Jesus will make clear in the following verses that this loss of life for those who do not take the hard path of following Him will come at the judgment by Jesus and His angels (Matthew 16:27).
Verse Context:
Matthew 16:21–28 describes the disciples' reaction when Jesus reveals He must be killed by religious leaders and raised on the third day. Peter, recently praised for His faith (Matthew 16:17), chastises Jesus for saying such things. Jesus responds with a devastating rebuke of His own, saying "Get behind me, Satan!" Peter's insistence that Messiah could not be killed is based in his own assumptions, not truth. Christ warns that those who follow Him must be willing to give up all else in the world, and to take on hardship and persecution, as needed. He adds that some standing there will not die before seeing Him coming in His kingdom; this prediction is fulfilled in the next passage (Matthew 17:1–2).
Chapter Summary:
A group of Pharisees and Sadducees demand a miracle from Jesus, though He has already performed many. Jesus refuses and warns the disciples to beware of the teachings of these religious leaders. Jesus asks the disciples who the people say He is, as well as their own opinion. Peter says Jesus is the Christ, and is commended for that statement. Jesus begins to reveal that He must suffer and be killed before being raised on the third day. Peter's attempt to scold Jesus results in a devastating rebuke. Jesus then says all who would follow Him must take up crosses of self-denial.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 16 finds Jesus returned from the Gentile regions, only to be immediately confronted by another group of Jewish religious leaders. Yet again, these men prove they are insincere: no amount of evidence will ever be enough for them. After a dramatic discussion about Jesus' role as Messiah, Jesus indicates that those who would come after Him must take up their crosses and follow Him. His references to some seeing the Son of Man coming in His kingdom will be fulfilled at the beginning of chapter 17, in an event known as the transfiguration.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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