Matthew 16


‘The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.’ Matthew 16:1

The Demand For A Sign

Although the Pharisees and Sadducees disagreed with one another in their beliefs, that is, the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, or the afterlife, Matthew 22:23 / Acts 23:8, they came together to test Jesus.

Despite much evidence of Jesus’ power and authority, the Pharisees challenged Him to show a sign from heaven. He refused their request.

They were simply blind to all evidence and no sign would ever be enough to convince them. Mark tells us that Jesus ‘sighed deeply’, Mark 8:11-12, this means He was dismayed at the attitude of the Pharisees.

‘He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.’ Matthew 16:2-4

Jesus tries to reason with both groups by speaking about the well-known fact, that they had the ability to give a forecast of weather conditions based upon the appearance of the skies and clouds. Both groups could easily look to the heavens and see the signs in the sky and make a determination as to what would happen with the weather.

Jesus challenged them to do the same thing in relation to the spiritual nature of the miracles He has performed and preaching He has taught.

If they can determine the outcome of weather by the signs they see, then why can’t they discern that Jesus is the Lord by the signs that He has performed?

The point is that these men know that obvious signs have been given, however, due to the hardness of their hearts they close their eyes to them, Matthew 12:9ff / Mark 3:5. They don’t close their eyes to the signs in the heavens regarding the weather yet ignore the clear signs Jesus has performed.

As their minds were closed to whom Jesus was, they had become a ‘wicked and adulterous generation’, they had separated themselves from God and His will, Jeremiah 3:8-9, they had committed spiritual adultery, Matthew 15:8-9 / Mark 7:6-9.

Jesus says the only sign which will be given is the sign of Jonah, Matthew 12:39-41. Mark records that this greatly grieved Jesus, Mark 8:12.

Just as Jonah came up from the depths of the sea after being in the fish for three days so Jesus will rise from the depths of the dead in a resurrected state. Those who refuse repentance and His kingdom after this have nothing to look forward to but the judgment of the inhabitants of Nineveh.

1. The four Gospels reveal that, repeatedly, the Lord Himself declared in unequivocal terms, that He would be put to death and would rise from the dead ‘on the third day’.

2. He first predicted His resurrection early as John 2:19, ‘destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days,’ in a statement which John admits His disciples only later understood, but later He began to speak about it openly, after Peter had declared Him to be ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’, in Matthew 16:16.

Similar statements are recorded in the Gospels, here are but a few, Matthew 17:23 / Matthew 20:19 / Mark 9:31 / Mark 10:34 / Luke 9:22 / Luke 13:32 / Luke 18:33 / Luke 24:7 / Luke 24:21 / Luke 24:46.

3. What Jesus said was evidently accepted without question by both His apostles and the members of the early church, all of whom subsequently believed that what He had predicted had actually come to pass.

Paul states this in 1 Corinthians15:4, ‘raised on the third day’. The New Testament contains nothing to suggest that the Lord made a prediction that failed.

4. Matthew 27:63-64, tells us that, after the burial of the body of Jesus, the leaders of the Jews came to Pilate with a request.

5. On the morning of the third day, the women came to the tomb, and Luke 24:5-8 records that the heavenly messengers who met them even quoted the Lord’s own words, Luke 24:5-8.

Matthew 28:6 says that one of the angels told the women, ‘He is not here, for He is raised, even as He said. Come; see the place where the Lord lay’.

Jesus then left the Pharisees and the Sadducees and went away, there was simply no point in casting pearls before pigs, Matthew 7:6. There was no point in trying to teach those whose hearts had become so hard.

The Yeast Of The Pharisees And Sadducees

‘When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Matthew 16:5-12

Then Jesus and His disciples began to cross the sea by boat. The disciples were worried because they had forgotten to take enough bread with them for the trip. They had only one loaf of bread left, Mark 8:14. Jesus warned about the leaven of the Pharisees, Matthew 15:12-20, and of Herod, Mark 8:13-26.

It is the nature of yeast to spread throughout the bread, and so, it would be with the teachings and influence of the Pharisees whose hearts were far from God, Matthew 15:1-9 / Mark 7:1-9.

Immediately, the disciples imagined that He was criticising them for having forgotten the bread. Jesus knew what they were saying to each other and rebuked their hard-heartedness.

After all, He had twice produced enough food to feed thousands with abundant leftovers, Matthew 14:16-21 / Matthew 15:32-38. Jesus in this small section asked nine questions to help them remember.

They should have known that He could handle problems with insufficient food. His warning wasn’t about the leaven of bread, but about the false teaching and hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Herod, Matthew 15:1-9 / Mark 7:1-9 / Luke 12:1.

Bad attitudes spread like leaven and He was worried that the disciples might be contaminated by them. Leaven breaks things up, it doesn’t unite anything, Acts 15:10.

Peter Declares That Jesus Is The Messiah

‘When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.’ Matthew 16:13-20

Caesarea Philippi

Situated 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and at the base of Mount Hermon, Caesarea Philippi is the location of one of the largest springs feeding the Jordan River.

This abundant water supply has made the area very fertile and attractive for religious worship. Numerous temples were built in this city in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Known as Baal Hermon and Baal Gad in the Old Testament period, this site later was named Panias after the Greek god Pan who was worshipped here.

There is no record of Jesus entering the city, but the great confession and the transfiguration both occurred in the vicinity of the city, Matthew 16:13, then known as Caesarea Philippi.

Jesus asked what the public thought about Him, and the disciples reported varying opinions, including John the Baptist, Elijah, etc. One disciple pointed out that many believed Jesus was John the Baptist reincarnated, Mark 8:27-30 / Luke 9:18-21.

They believed that John had come back from the grave to continue his ministry of announcing the Messiah while criticising the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, Matthew 14:1-3.

Another disciple shared the fact that many people believed Jesus was Elijah, Matthew 17:10 / 2 Kings 1:1-12 / Mark 6:15, considered by some Jews to be the supreme Old Testament prophet.

If you remember the Book of Malachi, Malachi 4:5 says, ‘See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.’ And so, some thought this Jesus was Elijah, fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi.

And even today, in modern Jewish Passover celebrations, there is an empty chair reserved at the table for Elijah, in the hope of his one day coming to announce the Messiah’s arrival.

Another disciple shared that some people said Jesus was Jeremiah but why would they think He was Jeremiah? Well, they held this opinion because according to 2 Maccabees legend, Jeremiah had taken the Ark of the covenant and the altar of incense out of the temple and hidden them both somewhere on Mount Nebo in order to preserve them from desecration and destruction by the Babylonians.

Some Jews thought that before the Messiah returned to establish His kingdom, Jeremiah would return to earth and restore the Ark and the altar to their proper places in the temple.

So, the people who said these things were paying Jesus wonderful compliments by comparing Him to some of the greatest prophets and teachers God had ever sent.

They were giving Jesus high praise, but not enough high praise because, in their minds, none of these three prophets were the Messiah.

They were just one of the Messiah’s forerunners who had come back to life with God-given miraculous powers. When Jesus asked their own opinion, Peter boldly responded, ‘you are the Messiah’. It was a brilliant insight.

When Jesus calmed the stormy seas of Galilee in Matthew 8, the disciples proclaim, ‘what kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’ Matthew 8:27.

When Jesus walked upon the waters of the Sea of Galilee the disciples proclaim, ‘truly you are the Son of God’, Matthew 14:33. Now, Peter proclaims the deity of Christ.

Jesus tells Simon, son of Jonah, John 1:42 / John 21:15-17, that he is blessed, the word ‘blessed’ in Greek is the word, ‘makarios’, which is used in the beatitudes at Matthew 5:3-10, and it means happy. Peter’s name, ‘Petros’ is a Greek word that is masculine in gender, the word means a stone or rock, John 1:42.

How did Peter know that Jesus was the Christ? Peter had witnessed all the Lord’s miracles and heard His teaching and preaching, John 3:2 / John 5:36 / John 10:37-38 / John 14:11 / John 20:30-31.

When anyone proclaims deity and then backs that claim up with sure miracles there is no denying it, Matthew 15:21-28. Peter and the apostles believed that he was the Christ due to divine revelation.

Peter had answered the Lord’s question by stating that he was the ‘Christ, the Son of the living God’, Matthew 14:33 / John 6:69 / John 11:27. Jesus now responds to Peter’s confession by saying that ‘upon this rock, I will build my church’.

The gender of this Greek word, ‘petra’ is feminine, and so, doesn’t refer to Peter whose name is masculine. The rock here is the fact that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God.

The rock or foundation that the church will be built upon will be the fact that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God, 1 Corinthians 3:11 / Ephesians 2:20.

Note that Jesus said, ‘I will build my church’, indicating that it had not been built or established at the point of this conversation. This is the first mention of the word ‘church’, which is ‘ekklesia’ in the New Testament. The Greek word means an assembly of the citizens regularly summoned, to call an assembly.

When the Lord’s church was built Jesus said that ‘the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’ Daniel 2:44 / Daniel 7:13-14. The gates of ancient cities were the most vulnerable part of the city and so, when a city was attacked by an enemy, the enemy attacked the gates. If the gates fell, the city fell. The word ‘gates’ became a metaphor meaning power or strength. Hades is the unseen abode of the dead.

There is power in sin and that is death, Genesis 2:17 / 1 Corinthians 15:55-56. This power, however, couldn’t hold Jesus when He was resurrected from the dead.

When Jesus rose from the grave he went on to establish His church that all others may have power over sin and death through his blood sacrifice.

The Lord proclaims to Peter, ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven’. The word ‘keys’ is the Greek word, ‘kleis’ which means that which serves for closing, a bar or bolt.

Notice that Jesus says keys not key, Peter used one of those keys to open up the way to heaven to the Jews in Acts 2 and He used the other key to open up the way to heaven for the Gentiles in Acts 10.

Keys are sometimes used as a metaphor which refers to privilege or authority, Isaiah 22:22 / Luke 11:52 / Revelation 1:18 / Revelation 3:7 / Revelation 9:1. The word ‘bind’ means to bind, tie, to put in bonds and the word, ‘loosed’ means to loosen, unbind, unfasten.

In other words, the apostles would be given the Gospel message of repentance and forgiveness of sins through the blood sacrifice of Jesus. Those who received this message would be loosed from the bondage of sins, yet those who rejected the message and would not repent remained bound in chains to their sin and destined for an eternity of torment. The ‘keys’ given to Peter and the apostles are clearly the Gospel message.

Jesus tells His disciples not to tell anyone at this time that He was the Christ, Matthew 8:4 / Matthew 17:9 / Luke 9:21 because it was not his time to die yet, John 10:17-18. Jesus still had much work to do, therefore He didn’t want any unnecessary hindrance from those who tried to kill Him.

Notice that Jesus teaching to His disciples up to this point was mainly about His identity but here in Mark 8:31 Jesus’ teaching ministry changes. He focuses on His upcoming death, burial and resurrection.

Jesus Predicts His Death

‘From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:21-23

After Peter’s great confession Jesus now turns His face to Jerusalem, and He goes on to warn His disciples about how He was going to be rejected and crucified, Matthew 17:9 / Matthew 17:12 / Matthew 17:22ff / Matthew 20:18-19 / Matthew 27:63.

Peter was horrified, he couldn’t imagine the Lord being killed, he began to correct Jesus telling Him that this would never happen! Mark 8:31-37 / Luke 9:22-25.

‘Peter took him aside’ means Peter literally grabbed Jesus, trying to protect Him and then Jesus sternly rebuked Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

It’s interesting to note that Jesus doesn’t rebuke Peter but Satan, it’s obvious that Satan was trying to use Peter to distract Jesus from His mission, Genesis 3:15. Peter was tempting Him not to suffer, temptations are often strongest when they come through people we are close to. So, Jesus flatly rejected Peter’s advice.

Isn’t it strange that one-minute Peter proclaimed Jesus to be Christ, the next he was calling Him aside to inform Him that He was mistaken! If Jesus was truly the Christ, Peter had no business arguing with Him, nor do we.

‘‘Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Matthew 16:24-28

After speaking about His own future sufferings, Christ now informs the disciples of their upcoming suffering, Matthew 10:38. Jesus plainly explained what was required to become His disciple.

He said that you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him. These requirements are demanding, a person doesn’t naturally deny himself, rather, he usually does what he wants.

Death to self is painful, but that is exactly the meaning of taking up one’s cross. The cross was an instrument of death, to take it up would be to die to oneself and one’s own desires in order to serve Christ.

There is no profit in gaining the entire world, only to lose one’s soul in the transaction, Luke 12:20-21. It’s worth everything to submit to God’s stringent requirements for discipleship.

Jesus highlighted the requirements for being a disciple because it’s so easy to imagine that you are a follower of Jesus when, in fact, you aren’t. Discipleship isn’t mere church membership or moral living, it’s total devotion to Jesus Christ. It’s to die to self and live 100% for the Lord. Am I really Jesus’ disciple? Romans 6:16-17.

The confession that Jesus demands isn’t a simple statement with our mouths that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. It’s a confession that we make with our whole life that is totally committed to Him, Galatians 2:20.

Everyone who would seek to be a disciple of Jesus must commit himself to follow Jesus above all things of this world, Matthew 6:24 / Matthew 10:32-33 / Romans 1:16. Becoming a follower of Christ means you will receive persecution of some kind, 2 Timothy 3:12 / 1 Peter 2:21 / 1 Peter 4:16.

Jesus says, He, the Son of Man is going to come, in His Father’s glory, with His angels and reward people according to what they have done, Romans 2:6 / Romans 14:12 / 2 Corinthians 5:10 / Ephesians 6:8. This is obviously speaking about the final judgment.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘He will come in glory the glory of his Father the majesty with which God is accustomed to appearing, and which befits God. He will be attended by angels. He will judge all people. The word ‘reward’ means recompense. He will deal with them according to their character. The righteous he will reward in heaven with glory and happiness. The wicked he will send to hell, as a reward or recompense for their evil works. This fact, that he will come to judgment, he gives as a reason why we should be willing to deny ourselves and follow him. Even though it should be now attended with contempt and suffering, then he will reward his followers for all their shame and sorrow, and receive them to his kingdom. He adds Mark 8:38, that if we are ashamed of him here, he will be ashamed of us there. That is, if we reject and disown him here, he will reject and disown us there.’

Some of Jesus’ immediate disciples would be alive when the kingdom reign of Jesus would be manifested from heaven, Mark 9:1 / Luke 9:27 / Acts 7:54-56.

After His resurrection, Jesus would ascend to the throne of David in heaven, Daniel 2:44 / Daniel 7:13-14 / Luke 1:31-33. He would sit down at the right hand of the Father and rule over all things, Ephesians 1:20-22 / Philippians 2:8-11 / 1 Peter 3:22.

It was a spiritual kingdom in the sense that men responded on earth in their hearts to the fact that He was Lord and Christ, Acts 2:36-37. The manifestation of Jesus’ reign in heaven was made known by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-4 / Luke 24:49 / Acts 1:8 / Acts 2:1-4.

The presence of the kingdom’s reign in heaven would be manifested on earth by the obedience of men and women who submitted to His reign.

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