"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."
There are four steps contained here for being a true disciple of Jesus:
In order to genuinely serve God, one must be willing to make Him his first priority in all aspects of life (cf. Matt. 6:33). One's own needs and wants must become secondary to the will of the Lord (cf. Gal. 2:20; I Cor. 6:19,20).
One must count the cost of discipleship and continually bear the burdens that accompany faithfulness (cf. Gal. 6:5; II Tim. 3:12).
If one has the desire and is willing to deny himself, if he has counted the cost and is willing to suffer, then he is prepared to truly follow the Lord. He is ready to obey God in all ways and imitate Christ (cf. I Cor. 11:1). It is impossible to genuinely follow Jesus if one hasn't met the other three requirements first.
It would have been interesting to see Peter's reaction to Jesus' words here. After all, Peter had rejected the idea of Jesus suffering and dying. At that moment, Jesus had not only rebuked him but had proceeded to state that those who would be His disciples must suffer with Him! True followers of Christ must make the sacrifice of self-denial and bear the burdens that come with faithfulness. As Jesus was willing to lose His life for man, so man must be willing to lose his life for Him.
"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (cf. Matt. 10:39). One who uses his life for himself--refusing to follow Jesus' instructions--will lose his life spiritually, but one who gives his life for Jesus--willing to live and die to serve Him--will find spiritual life (cf. Phil. 1:21). There isn't enough power in the world to kill a true follower of Jesus. The worst they can do is temporarily sever his spirit from his body, but even then his spirit lives on!
"For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26). Even if Peter and the Jews gained the physical kingdom they were expecting, yet lost their souls, what would it really benefit them? Jesus is emphasizing the worthlessness of an earthly kingdom in comparison with a heavenly one. Even one soul is more valuable than all the things of this world. Thus, to sell one's soul at any price--even for the whole world--is foolish. We need to understand what is truly valuable and have the same attitude as Moses (cf. Heb. 11:24-26).
Our Lord taught in Matthew 16:27 that each one would be rewarded or punished according to the way he had lived, when Jesus came again (cf. Rom. 2:6; II Cor. 5:10).
The chapter closes with Jesus' declaration in Matthew 16:28 - "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." Jesus had just been talking about His coming in final judgment, but His listeners were still thinking about an earthly kingdom with an earthly Messiah. Thus, He gave them the assurance here that He would not fail in establishing His kingdom even though He had foretold His death. He reassured them that some of them would not die until they saw "the kingdom of God present with power" (Mark 9:1).
Some today claim that the kingdom of God is not yet established, but, in order to maintain that position, they must believe there are some on Earth who are still alive after 2000 years! Surely, such is not the case. The kingdom was established with power in the first century. Acts 1:8 teaches that the apostles would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. The Holy Spirit did come upon them with power on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1ff). Therefore, the kingdom came on that day of Pentecost. The church is that kingdom and 3000 souls were added to it (cf. Acts 2:41).