Matthew 16:1-28 - Outline of Matthew (Book Notes menu page)
16:1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came,
and tempting
{ie., testing} desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
16:2 He answered and said unto them,
When it is evening, ye say, [It will be] fair weather: for the sky is red.
16:3 And in the morning, [It will be] foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring.
O [ye] hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky;
but can ye not [discern] the signs of the times?
16:4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign;
and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.
And he left them, and departed.
the Pharisees... with the Sadducees... desired... a sign.-
This encounter came shortly after the feeding of the 4,000 (as does the parallel account, in Mark 8:10-14).
     The 'scribes and Pharisees' had made a similar request on a previous occasion (Mat 12:38). At that time, they claimed to seek a miraculous confirmation that He was the Messiah. However, the Pharisees were already conspiring to destroy Him (12:14), and the Sadducees did not believe in miracles or the supernatural (see the Notes at 3:7). From this point onward, the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were enemies in religious matters, joined forces against Jesus.
ye hypocrites... (v.3)- They were just 'pretending' interest in Him. In reality...
  • They were searching for ways to discredit Him, and excuses not to believe in Him. cp. 1Cor 1:21-24
  • They gave more attention to the weather than to the "signs of the times," outlined in God's prophetic Word (Jer 8:7-9).
    Several times, thus far, in Matthew's narrative, we have read that things in the earthly life of Jesus occurred "that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophet..." (eg., Mat 1:22; 2:15,23; 4:14; 8:16,17; 12:17; 13:35). Some of their contemporaries understood who Jesus was (eg., Simeon & Anna, Luk 2:25-38). But these religious rulers were blind leaders of the blind (Mat 15:12-14).
  • They disregarded the signs which they had already been given. eg., Mat 15:29-31, 36-38
a wicked and adulterous generation...-
  • They were wicked {evil}, for they had murder in their hearts. cp. Joh 8:39-45
  • They were spiritual adulterers, because they were unfaithful to God.
    Hundreds of years earlier, Isaiah and Jeremiah had pronounced judgment upon the nation for their spiritual adultery, in turning from the living God, to serve idols of wood and stone (eg., Jer 3:6-15).
       The religious leaders, who confronted Jesus, would claim to be opposed to all idolatry. But rather than serving the Lord, they sought to preserve and enhance their own power. Their hearts were far from the One they professed to represent.
       Their minds were made up. They discounted the testimony of Scripture and of the miraculous works which they had already seen. No matter how clear the signs, they would not allow themselves to receive Jesus as the Messiah.
the sign of the prophet Jonah.- cp. Jesus' answer to the Pharisees' previous request, in Mat 12:38-40.
But they would not believe, even when Jesus arose from the dead (cp. Luk 16:30,31). Following Jesus' resurrection, they invented and circulated the story that His body had been stolen (Mat 28:11-13).
16:5 And when his disciples were come to the other side,
they had forgotten to take bread.
16:6 Then Jesus said unto them,
Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
16:7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying,
[It is] because we have taken no bread.
16:8 [Which] when Jesus perceived, he said unto them,
O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves,
because ye have brought no bread?
16:9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember
the five loaves of the five thousand,
and how many baskets ye took up?
16:10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand,
and how many baskets ye took up?
16:11 How is it that ye do not understand
that I spake [it] not to you concerning bread,
that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
16:12 Then understood they how that he bade [them]
not beware of the leaven of bread,
but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
O ye of little faith...- contrast the disciples' faith with 15:28. cp. Mark 8:15-21
Do ye not yet understand...- cp. Mat 15:16
Their fleshly minds framed His words with fleshly concepts.
They though He spoke about physical bread, but they were not sure of His concern. Was it...
  1. their lack of bread? - They had already forgotten His ability to provide.
    cp. Mark 8:19-21 - The bread, broken by Christ, is sufficient
    for Israel (12 baskets), for all men (7 baskets), and for His disciples
    (2Cor 3:5,6; 1Cor 11:23-26; 2Pet 1:2-4).
  2. the ritual impurity of locally available bread? -
    They had forgotten His focus on matters of the heart.
    He reminded them. ''Then they understood...'' cp. Mat 15:11,15-20
the leaven... {of which Jesus spoke, was} the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.-
'Leaven' is always a principle of evil in Scripture. (See the Notes at 13:33.)
The doctrine {teaching} of these two groups was very different in substance (conservative vs. liberal) but similar in basis. Their teaching was corrupt because it was based on the traditions of men (15:3) and disregarded (or misappropriated) the Scriptures (15:6,9). They could not discern the prophetic significance of (then) current events. Therefore, they were spiritually blind, especially concerning the Person and work of the Christ (v.3,4).
At this point (between v.12 and 13), Mark inserts the account of the healing of a blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26).
In spite of the blindness of religious leaders, there is hope for anyone who sincerely comes to Christ. As the blind man asked the Lord Jesus to open his eyes, and began to follow Him, confessing his limited and distorted perception, the Lord enabled him, not only to see, but to see clearly. Compared to the religious rulers, the disciples understood much more concerning Christ, but their spiritual vision was not yet clear. cp. 2Pet 3:17,18
Two important questions- (v.13-20; cp. Mark 8:27-30; Luk 9:18-21)
Question #1-
16:13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi,
he asked his disciples, saying,
Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
16:14 And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist:
some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
Then, as now, most people consider Jesus to be someone important...
a great teacher, the founder of a major religion, a good man, a famous man...
But men are confused about Him, and are not in agreement with each other. cp. Mat 21:10; Joh 12:34
Question #2-
16:15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Whom do you say that I am?- This is the critical question for every man. cp. Joh 20:31
Thou art... (also see Peter's answer in Joh 6:67-69)
- - the Christ.- ie., the Anointed One, the Messiah, the King.
- - the Son of the Living God.- cp. Isa 9:6,7; Isa 43:10,11
Peter answered well, though he did not yet fully understand what these things meant.
16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona:
for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Fleshly wisdom will not lead you to Christ.
It is the Holy Spirit who must make Christ known to any man. cp. Joh 6:63-65; 16:13-15; 1Joh 5:9-12
16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church;
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
upon this rock...- Who or what is the rock?
  1. Is it Peter? The grammar implies that Peter and the rock are distinct.
    Peter - GK=petros (masculine gender), a stone, an easily movable rock.
       At this point in time, Peter was firm, but unsure and unstable.
    Rock - GK=petra (feminine gender), a massive rock, an immovable foundation.
       (See this word for 'rock' in Mat 7:24,25; 1Cor 10:4; Rom 9:33)
  2. Is it Peter's confession? (''Thou art the Christ...'' v.16) The grammar allows this. However,
    the truth of Christ's identity did not depend on whether Peter confessed it or not.
    Peter's confession served only to place him upon the Rock.
  3. The Rock is Christ Himself (as Peter himself testified later, 1Pet 2:4-9).
    Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church and of the individual believer's life.
       cp. Eph 2:20-22; 1Cor 3:11
    Only the God-Man could fulfill Deu 32:3,4; 2Sam 22:47; 23:3; Psa 18:31,46-50; Psa 62:1,2.
I say unto thee... I will build... I will give...- His purposes and work rest upon Him alone.
I will build my church {GK=ekklesia, assembly of called out ones}-
  • The word 'ekklesia' can be used of any gathering, secular (Acts 19:41, a civic assembly) or spiritual (Acts 7:38, referring to the congregation of Israel).
  • Christ's Church consists of all who have been called out,
    from their former bondage to sin and death among Adam's fallen race,
    to trust wholly in Christ's Person and work,
    and have therefore been born anew of God's Spirit and joined in vital union with Him.
    cp. Joh 1:11-13; 3:5,6; 1Cor 12:12,13; Eph 2:1-9; 2Pet 1:4; Heb 12:22-24
  • Christ builds His church...
    1. numerically, Acts 2:47
    2. organically, Eph 4:4-7,11-16
    3. individually- He is transforming each believer into His likeness, and fitting him (or her) for His purpose. So, like Peter, everyone who rests on the Rock becomes a living stone in the 'house' which Christ is building. 1Pet 2:4,5
the gates of hell {GK=hades, the grave} shall not prevail {ie., be strong} against it.-
  1. This is not a promise that the Church will take dominion over the powers of darkness.
    Note that -
    • The church does not press against the gates of hell, as if to gain entrance.
    • Hell (GK=hades) is not Satan's headquarters, but the place of the dead.
      Satan has been 'cast out into the earth' (cp. Rev 12:7-9), where he is presently active as 'the god of this world' (2Cor 4:4) and the 'prince of the power of the air' (Eph 2:2). Demonic influence is said to be 'of hell' {GK=gehenna, the place of burning} (Jam 3:6), since Satan and his fallen angels are destined for the Lake of Fire (Mat 25:41; Rev 19:20, 20:10). Demons will arise from 'the pit' {the abyss} to torment men during the Tribulation (Rev 9:1-11). These demons will come up from the place where they are presently imprisoned pending the final judgment (2Pet 2:4, where 'hell' is GK=tartarus).
  2. This is a promise of victory over sin and death (through Christ's death and resurrection).
    The gates of hades (the grave) through which we all pass in death...
Caesarea Philippi... the gates of hell... (v.13,18) - A powerful illustation:
Why did Jesus choose this location to reveal His identity, and His promise to build His church?
     From Bethsaida (on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee), He led His disciples on foot 30 miles to the north, to this site at the foot of Mt. Hermon (Mark 8:22-30).
     Caesarea Philippi, was named, in 4 AD, by Philip the Tetrarch (a son of Herod the Great), in honor of Tiberius Caesar, with the addition of his own name to distinguish it from the coastal city of Caesarea. Very near the town, was a site of striking geological features which had been a center of pagan worship from the time of the Canaanites. The location was known at various times as Baal-Hermon (Judg 3:1-8; 1Chr 5:23-26), and Paneus (or Baneus), for the worship of the pagan god Pan. Pan, depicted as half human and half goat, was worshipped in perverse sexual rites which included beastiality. These hideous religious practices, were still active in this place, when Jesus asked: "Who do ye say that I am?" Confronted with the specter of worship to false gods, Peter responded: "Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God."
     In 19 BC (about 50 years earlier), Herod the Great built the Augusteum, a temple in honor of Caesar Augustus in front of the Cave of Pan. This cave was also referred to as "the gates of hades." Just inside the mouth of the cave, a chasm in the floor opened to a great depth, which appeared to be full of still water. Beneath the still surface, an underground river flowed, to emerge, a short distance from the cave, from springs which are one of three major sources of the Jordan River. Sacrificial animals cast into this pit were quickly swallowed by the current. Whatever fell into the "gates of hades" would not return to the land of the living. The pagan worshippers also believed "the gate of hades" was a passageway from the netherworld for Pan and other demonic entities.
     This location would serve to illustrate Jesus' lesson to His disciples. Peter and the other disciples were small stones, like those used in the construction of the temples which stood there in Jesus' day (and still visible there, today, in their ruins). In contrast, Jesus was a massive immovable Rock, like the rock cliff which overshadowed the pagan temples.
     The church, consisting of small living stones, which He would build upon Himself, would be victorious over the gates of hades, because Jesus would destroy the dominion of Satan and his angels (the spirits from the pit which energize false religion), and deliver men from the grip of sin and death (Heb 2:14,15).
     The victory of Christ's church {GK=ekklesia, called out ones}, which He is gathering to Himself from the darkest corners of the earth, is symbolized by the present condition of this site. Due to a severe earthquake in 363 AD, the pagan temples lie in ruins, the demonic practices have ceased, the chasm in the cave floor is filled with debris.
     Christ would defeat the Devil and deliver His people, through His own death and resurrection (v.21). He would descend into the grave (the gate of hades), and He would arise from there, victorious over sin and death. Therefore, any influence rising to divert Him from His purpose, would be doing the work of Satan (eg., v.22,23).
16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven:
and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven:
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
16:20 Then charged he his disciples
that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
the keys of the kingdom of heaven.-
A key is symbolic of authority and responsibility. eg., Isa 22:22; Rev 3:7; cp. Mark 13:34
  • The authority given to Peter, here, is not authority to rule over the true Church,
    but rather, authority relating to 'the kingdom of heaven' (ie., the realm of profession of faith in Christ. See Notes at Mat 13:11.)
  • According to ch.13, entrance into the Kingdom is granted to those who receive the seed, the Word of God.
    Therefore, the keys relate to the preaching of the Word.
    The Gospel of Christ is the key which opens the way of escape, from Satan's dominion, into the Kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13,14).
    Peter was given the opportunity to open the door to faith in Christ...
    • by being the first to preach the Gospel to the Jews (Acts 2:38-42), and
    • by being the first to preach the Gospel to the gentiles (Acts 10:34-48).
  • Peter did not claim any special authority over the Church.
    cp. Acts 15:7-21; Gal 2:11-14; 1Pet 1:1; 5:1
whatsover thou shalt bind... loose...-
  • These terms are related to forgiveness of sins. See Joh 20:22,23.
    (Note that Christ gave this responsibility to all of His disciples, not just to Peter.)
  • Sins are forgiven, not on the authority of Peter or of the Church, but through faith in Christ.
    See Acts 10:43 (Peter speaking); Acts 13:37-39 (Paul speaking).
    Thus, as Christ's servants exercise their responsibility in preaching the Gospel, all who believe will have their sins forgiven.
tell no man that he was... the Christ {the Messiah}.-
The Gospel of the Kingdom had been offered to the Jewish nation.
But, in their hearts, they had rejected their Messiah and King. Therefore, the offer was withdrawn.
Jesus now begins to move, not to the throne, but to the cross. v.21
After His work of salvation was accomplished, the disciples would again proclaim Him as the Christ. cp. Acts 2:36-38
16:21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples,
how that he must go unto Jerusalem,
and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes,
and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
16:22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying,
Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
16:23 But he turned, and said unto Peter,
Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me:
for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
from that time forth...- As noted above, this is a major turning point in Jesus' ministry.
The previous use of this phrase marked an important milestone, early in His ministry, as He began to proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom, due to the presence of the King (Mat 4:17).
     At this juncture, the rejected King begins to instruct His disciples concerning the direction of His ministry...
Jesus began to show... His disciples...-
The disciples were slow to comprehend this message. cp. Mark 8:31-33; Luk 9:22,44,45
He gives this lesson 5x before the crucifixion: v.21; Mat 17:12; 17:22,23; 20:18,19; 20:28
how he must go... and suffer... and be killed... and be raised again the third day.-
This is the Gospel message. cp. 1Cor 15:1-4
To be saved, you must know and believe two things:
  1. Who Jesus is. v.16
  2. What He did for you. v.21; cp. Rom 10:9
Peter began to rebuke Him... this shall not be unto thee.-
Peter had just confessed Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God (v.16).
He was expecting that, soon, the Messiah would become the King. cp. Isa 9:7
How then could He speak of going to the cross?
Get thee behind me, Satan...
Peter's fleshly misunderstanding was also satanic. It denied the only means of salvation. If Jesus would not suffer and die and be raised again, Satan would prevail, and all men would remain in bondage to sin and death.
     Peter, who had been given responsibility to open the Kingdom to others (v.19), stood in opposition to the only Way of access to God. Tragically today, many pastors and religious leaders proclaim a satanic false gospel which cannot save. cp. Gal 1:6-9; Php 3:18,19; 2Pet 2:1
Later, after the Holy Spirit gave him understanding, Peter's message, concerning Christ's work on the cross, was clear. 1Pet 2:24
16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me,
let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it:
and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
16:26 For what is a man profited,
if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
{cp. Luk 12:20,21; Mat 4:8-10}
16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels;
and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
16:28 Verily I say unto you,
There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death,
till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
Warning: The cost of discipleship may be high. cp. Mark 8:34-38; Luk 9:23-26
Salvation is a free gift. But, like their Lord, those, who are saved, are not accepted by "a sinful and adulterous generation." Jesus applied this phrase to pretenders of true religion (v.4) and also to practioners of paganism (Mark 8:38, in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi).
     The world is in confusion concerning the Rock upon whom the Church is built. Rejecting Him, they build upon the shifting sands of human wisdom. In the end, they will come to ruin (Mat 7:24-27). You may pay a high price to be identified with Christ in this present evil age, but it will be worth it all, to be found in Him, at His second coming.
if any man will come after me...-
  1. let him deny {ie., disown} himself {GK=heauton, oneself; cp. word in Luk 23:2; Acts 25:4}.-
    To deny one's 'self,' is to renounce all claim to one's person.
    The Lord is not suggesting that I merely abstain from some luxury.
    Rather, He states unequivocally, that to follow Him, I must lose my life in His. v.25
    cp. Gal 2:20; 2Tim 3:12; Heb 11:24-26; 1Pet 4:1,2
  2. {let him} take up his cross.- He offers me my own cross...
    The cross means death. My cross means my death...
    1. Death to self - the calling of all believers.
      cp. Rom 6:1-7; 8:13; Col 3:5 ('mortify' means 'put to death')
    2. Death of the body - the price many believers will pay for following Christ.
      Mat 10:17,18,28; 24:9; Joh 15:18-20; 2Cor 4:8-11
  3. {let him} follow me.- GK=akoloutheo, follow, lit., 'to be joined with another on a road.'
    Once, I was in bondage to sin and unable to serve God.
    But by His cross, Christ has opened to me a new path of life and service, in company with Him.
    cp. Mat 11:29,30; Joh 8:12; 10:4,5,27; 12:26; Rom 6:11-13
...whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.- cp. Php 1:21; 3:7-11
"He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."
[missionary Nate Saint, martyred while seeking to reach the Auca indians for Christ]
the Son of man shall come... then he shall reward every man...-
The believer is not to expect reward in this temporal life. Rather, he looks to the future,
when the Lord Jesus will return, and will establish His Kingdom. Mat 19:28-30; Col 3:1-5
reward... according to his works- Rewards are for faithful service.
Do not confuse 'rewards' with 'salvation' (which cannot be earned, but is received by faith apart from works).
cp. Eph 2:8-10 (re: salvation), and 1Cor 3:11-15 (re: rewards).
some... shall not taste of death, til they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.-
This refers to the preview of His kingdom glory, which some of the disciples were given, when He was ''transfigured before them.'' (The account is recorded in the next chapter, Mat 17:1-12.)

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