Jesus Answers the Pharisees (1-4)
Once again, like the proverbial “bad coin,” the Pharisees and the Sadducees show up, “tempting,” that is testing Jesus. You will notice that Jesus rarely gives them a straight answer to their questions, because he was able to discern that these were not genuine questions, but tricks, snares; futile attempts to trap him with his own words. As Christians, we also must be aware of this. If you are witnessing to someone, do not feel obliged to answer every single question that the person has. We have to use wisdom and discernment; in fact the Bible says, “foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.” (2 Timothy 2:23) I am not ashamed to say (particularly with the advent of the internet), I have avoided a few questions in my time, for those very reasons!
We live in times where people still want a sign, they want evidence. But as Paul puts it in Romans 1:19 “…that which may be known of God is manifest…” and “God hath shewed it unto them.”
Here in Matthew 16, Jesus makes an interesting statement. Let’s read verses 2-3 (Read) *Lowring, “cast over, gloomy.” It can also be applied to a person; Tyndale translates Genesis 4:6 as “And the Lord said unto Cain: why art thou angry, and why lourest thou?”
Even a simple man can look at the sky, or the clouds and understand what is going to soon happen. How then, can the Pharisees, learned, intelligent men; men acquainted with the Scriptures, not look at the evidence and understand that the Messiah is come? Matthew Henry says, “The sceptre was departed from Judah, Daniel’s weeks were just expiring, (John Gill has the same, almost word for word) and yet they regarded it not. The miracles Christ wrought, and the gathering of the people to him, were plain indications that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, that this was the day of their visitation.”
Jesus says to them, You want a sign? The only sign you will get is the sign of the prophet Jonah, that just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish/whale for three days, so Jesus would be killed, buried and “be raised again the third day.” (verse 21)
- The sign of the prophet Jonah (i.e., His death and resurrection)
The Leaven of the Pharisees (5-12)
(Read 5-7) Bless ‘em! No, Jesus makes it clear that he is speaking figuratively. He is actually talking about the doctrine of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and their false teaching that spreads like leaven; like yeast. Just a little bit of self-serving, hypocritical, flesh-exalting, Christ-rejecting doctrine, will spread through the whole church, like yeast through bread. Any teaching that says God does not need to change the whole constitution of man’s heart; any teaching that appeals to the comfort and smug arrogance of “I’m a descendant of Abraham,” I’m special, unconditionally elect; is in danger of producing spiritual baby Pharisees! Maybe that is partly why Jesus is so tough on Peter as we’ll see when we get to verse 23.
Now, the Pharisees demanded a sign; had they not had many signs? Was not every miracle a sign that this was no ordinary man? But like many, they preferred a sign of their own choosing.
- The doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees
Peter’s confession of Christ (16)
(Read verse15- 16) How does Jesus respond to Peter? In verse 17 we read (Read) God was able to speak directly to Peter and reveal to him the identity of the Lord Jesus in a way that no man needed to inform him of the fact. Peter’s confession whilst short, is actually very doctrinally and theologically powerful. What he is saying is, as John Gill puts it, “that Jesus is the Christ, the Christ of God, the true Messiah…” Christ means Messiah, the Anointed one. Peter is declaring that the man standing in front of him, is the very one who has been prophesied in the Old Testament; that there is no other and that Jesus alone, is Israel’s hope of consolation.
- "The Christ, the Son of the living God"
What will Jesus build His church on? (18)
(Read verse 18) Peter’s name in Greek is Petros, which means a piece of rock. Perhaps he was so named because of the robust nature of his character, as we see in Acts : 29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Jesus is also called a Rock, as in 1 Corinthians 10:4, and here in Matthew, the second use of the word “rock” is the Greek word “Petra.”
So what Jesus is in fact saying is, You are Petros (a rock) but on this Petra (Christ THE Rock) I will build my church. “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The word “gates” in the Bible refers to authority. Just turn to Proverbs 31: 23 “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.” So the idea is that the authority of hell, or hades, will not overcome Christ’s church. Whether that is a reference to spiritual forces, or death and the grave itsel; we have the promise that the Apostle Paul gives in Romans 8:38-39 “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus promise to Peter (19)
(Read verse 19) Prime verses for the Mormons and the Roman Catholic Church, but what do they mean. I believe that “the keys” are the God given abilities to open and share the great truths of the Gospel, Here termed “the kingdom of heaven.” Peter was the first Apostle to openly preach the Gospel; to the Jews, ( Acts 2:1-47 ) and then to the Gentiles, ( Acts 10:1-48 ) and ( Acts 15:7 ) There is much misunderstanding, particularly in charismatic/Pentecostal circles, of the words “bind” and “loose.” This passage is sometimes mixed with what Jesus says about binding the strong man, but I believe it is a mistaken connection. These words need a little explanation; When the rabbis interpreted scriptural commands, they "bound or prohibited" certain activities and "loosed or allowed" others. Using the alternate meanings, the passage is interpreted thus: Jesus gives Peter and the Apostles the authority to make certain decisions in regard to the life of the church (regarding discipline, circumcision etc.) and these decisions will be honoured by God. Under the New Covenant, decisions will have to be made with regard to situations (such as the mass conversion of the Gentiles) not covered in the existing Scriptures. There is also a sense in the Greek, that the decisions have already been made in heaven and that the Apostles are merely following the guiding of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus predicts His death and resurrection (21)
After these instructions to Peter, Jesus begins to prophesy about His suffering in Jerusalem, His death, and resurrection on the third day. Let’s read that in verse 21 (Read) But then look at Peter’s reaction in verse 22 (Read) No, Lord…that’s not going to happen! How sad that Christ’s commendation should have led to Peter being puffed up with pride and now acting above and beyond what was fitting for him to do. How careful churches must be, when they appoint men to leadership. Always find a humble man…Peter is more, caught off guard I think, although the Lord Jesus does use a very strong rebuke with him, “Get thee behind me Satan.” So named, since he acted in the very role of Christ’s enemy; discouraging Him from going to the cross and obstructing the redemption of mankind.
The Cost of Discipleship (24,26)
Let’s look at verses 24-25 (Read) Now Jesus speaks to the rest of the disciples. Let a man, or woman deny themselves; let them deny their will; let them deny their flesh and its wants. That is the first law of discipleship and I am amazed how many professing Christians won’t even accept that! If you want to be a disciple of Jesus that is the very first thing! “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) The second law of discipleship is “take up (your) cross and follow (Him.)” We must be prepared to deny our own will, in order to do God’s will; however painful that may be; that is what is meant by a “cross.” Anything small, or great in our lives that God is wanting us to take up, at the expense of our flesh and our will. Wesley says, “we should make swift progress in the spiritual life, if we were faithful in this practice.”
After all, as Jesus says in verse 26 “What shall give in exchange for his soul?” If you are minding earthly things, instead of eternal things, then you have the wrong perspective.
Jesus makes a promise (28)
To finish off in verse 28, we have this incredible, prophetic statement by Jesus. (Read 28) Some have suggested that Jesus is referring to the Transfiguration on the mount, where Jesus let a little of His true glory shine forth, but I believe He is talking about the fulfilment of the prophecies that He has been making and will continue to make throughout this gospel. The increase of his church, the kingdom of God coming even upon the Gentiles and finally the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of power of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
Copyright © Paul Jennings.