The Mission of the King Matthew 10:1-16:12, cont’d.
Matthew 16:1-4-The Pharisees want a sign for proof of Who Jesus claims to be. He rebukes them for demanding a sign…saying that (1) it is evil. There are several reasons why Jesus may have said this. It could be that it was evil because they just wanted to see something miraculous for the sake of entertainment. Or, it could be evil because they are trying to find an excuse to refuse to believe Who He is. They are requiring another, and another, and another sign to authenticate Who He is. Or, He could be saying that there are “signs of the times” all around them and because they are evil they cannot discern them. What makes them think they would discern the truth of Who He is if He performed another sign? Jesus also says that they their request (2) is adulterous…like a man who leaves his wife when he loses interest in her…though they may initially accept it they will soon turn away and leave Him.
The “sign of Jonah”…His death, burial and resurrection…would be the ultimate, conclusive sign that would reveal Who He is. There would be no other sign that would be as comprehensive and irrefutable as that.
Matthew 16:5-12-The disciples are not spiritually attuned to Jesus and they misunderstand His comment about the Pharisees. They are still only seeing Him from a human, earthly perspective. Jesus chastises the disciples for not remembering the two previous miracles that He had performed…feeding the 5,000 and the 4,000…their is no transference of faith from one moment to the next…from one circumstance to another. Their faith is “little”…limited. This is not speaking of the quantity of their faith, but the quality of their faith. Their faith is restrained to by the boundaries of each particular miraculous incident. What they have learned on one occasion is not applied to the next occasion. It’s like they have to start all over again each time. Notice the words “understand” and “remember” in verses 9,11,12. To have faith means to understand how it operates in our lives and to not be forgetful about it. Then, apply what they learned previously to the current situation.
The incident with the Pharisees looking for a sign and Jesus’ comments about them are not separate incidents. It was a teachable moment. An opportunity for Jesus to teach the disciples something about themselves and about how faith in Him should operate in their lives.
How guilty I am of doing the same thing. I constantly want God to replenish my faith. I want another demonstration to remember that He is there. And I often trust Him in one area of my life…but something else comes along and I begin to complain as if I never knew Him.
The Teaching of the King Matthew 16:13-20:34
Matthew 16:13-20-Caesarea Philippi was in Herod Philip’s tetrarchy (the area assigned for him to govern and control), about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.
Apparently 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 worshiped 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 (Matt 16:13), then known as Caesarea Philippi.
The spring emerged from the large cave which became the center of pagan worship. Beginning in the 3rd century B.C., sacrifices were cast into the cave as offerings to the god Pan.
Pan, the half-man half-goat god of fright (thus “panic”), is often depicted playing the flute. This city known as Panias has been corrupted in the Arabic language to its modern name of Banias.
It is possible that Jesus and the disciples were passing by this area of pagan worship. Their discussion turned towards the identity and origin of Pan. As they looked at the cave and the other objects associated with worship to Pan, Jesus turned to His disciples and asked, “Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?” Their responses were typical of the people. But then He asks them specifically who they thought He was. Simon’s confession was representative of the thinking of all of the disciples (to some degree, or another). The content, or elements of this confession are the rock that the church is built upon (Ephesians 2:19-22). Verse 20 makes this even clearer…because Jesus associates the content of the confession with the content of prophecy…that being the identify of Who Jesus is…He is the Christ, the Messiah. Historically, there has been some confusion over this passage. Some have understood Jesus to say that He was building His church on Peter. But a closer look at the language that Jesus used and other New Testament references shows this to not be true. In verse 18, Jesus makes a statement about the character of Peter when He says, “you are Peter”…meaning that he is a “rock-man”, strong, stable. The word is masculine. Then, in the next phrase, Jesus says “upon this rock”…this word is feminine. He is making a play on words. Jesus is not saying, “upon you, Peter,” or, “upon your successors,” I will build My church. But, He is saying that “upon this rock”…upon this divine truth, revelation…that He is the Messiah (the content of the confession of Peter; what Peter had said, not Peter himself)…He was going to build His church. The church is built on Jesus…and no one else.
Matthew 16:21-23-Did Peter get the bighead? After Jesus gave this glowing report about Peter…did Peter suddenly think that he was now in a position to dictate to Jesus what He was going to do? The word “rebuke” means to “criticize or reprimand sharply”, “to express emphatic disapproval of someone, to rebuke, denounce”. This is a strong word…not just a suggestion…but more of a command. Peter had taken Jesus aside from the other disciples to do this. In the NASV, Peter says, “God forbid it, Lord. This shall never happen to You”. The word “God” is not actually in the text…though as this commentator shows, it is used in reference to God in the New Testament usage.
Merciful (Adjective, and Verb, to Be), Mercy (Noun, and Verb, to Have, Etc.):
“propitious, merciful” (akin to B, No. 3), was used in profane Greek just as in the case of the verb (which see). There is nothing of this in the use of the word in Scripture. The quality expressed by it there essentially appertains to God, though man is undeserving of it. It is used only of God, Hbr 8:12; in Mat 16:22, “Be it far from Thee” (Peter’s word to Christ) may have the meaning given in the RV marg., “(God) have mercy on Thee,” lit., “propitious to Thee” (AV marg., “Pity Thyself”).
(Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2436&t=NASB)
Other versions translate it: “Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee.”; (KJV); “Never, Lord! He said. This shall never happen to you!” (NIV); “Heaven forbid, Lord, he said. “This will never happen to you!” (NLT); “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You.” (Holman); “Impossible, Master! That can never be.” (Message).
Jesus certainly did not take Peter’s rebuke lightly…because as commending as His first report about Peter had been, this one is now equally condemning. He isn’t saying that Peter is literally Satan…but that by trying to stop Him from doing what the Father intended, he was acting like Satan. What was there about Peter’s behavior that was like the behavior of Satan? The entire goal and stratagem of Satan is to disrupt the plan of God for Jesus to pay the price for the sins of man (salvation)…this being His sinless life, His substitutionary death, and His glorious resurrection. Satan seeks to interrupt or stop Him at every point in this process. He will use any and all methods available. So, here is Peter, most assuredly speaking from a heart of love and devotion for Jesus, but without yet being fully aware of the mission of Jesus, he would bring it to a grinding halt before it ever reaches its necessary conclusion. Nothing, absolutely nothing, even something done with the best of intentions…must be allowed to impede Jesus from fulfilling His mission. Perhaps the reason why Jesus reprimanded Peter so strongly was because it was Peter. This was not some unknown, insignificant individual. This was Peter. One of Jesus’ chosen followers, and closest friends. If this kind of “take control” attitude existed in Peter…it could spread to others…and they too would seek to keep Him from fulfilling the Father’s will. Humanly speaking, it was going to be hard enough for Jesus to fulfill His mission (cf. Matthew 36:38-42; Lk. 22:44). He certainly did not need His closest companions to be a hindrance to Him. So, with a demonstrative declaration…Jesus made it clear that this kind of thinking had no place among them. He must fulfill His mission…and if they are going to follow Him…they must support Him, 100 percent.
This leads to the next verses and an additional thought. It could be that Peter’s statement was not as altruistic as it initially sounds…and Jesus was well aware of it. Peter could have been aware, maybe on a subconscious level, that what happened to Jesus would happen to them. If Jesus went through the things He had mentioned…then certainly, the next in line for similar treatment would be His followers. So, Peter decides to take steps to prevent it from ever happening to any of them. This is why Jesus then turns to all of His disciples and gives the following demand of discipleship.
Matthew 16:24-26-Jesus quickly rejoined the disciples and gave them instruction…that basically says that in order to follow Him, you don’t tell Him what to do…you deny yourself and follow Him. The word “deny” means to “disassociate yourself from something”. Here, it means that you must deliberately, intentionally make the decision to sever ties with your own will (“himself”)…crucify, put to death yourself, your goals, your methods…and follow Him. The word “follow” is a contraction of two words…”alpha” (the first letter of the Greek alphabet…Jesus is the alpha to indicate that he is the beginning, the only one leading) and “keleuthos” (road). It gives us the picture of Jesus walking down a road with His disciples in line behind Him. There is only one leader for the whole group…Jesus. This entire verse is structured as a command. Verse 25 gives us the result of obedience to this command. The word “lose” means “to destroy, to render useless”. If we combine verses 25 and 26 into one thought it might read, “Whoever tries to find life through what the world has to offer will ultimately lose it…because there is more to life than what this world can provide. But, whoever gives his life to Me will ultimately receive it back…because only I can provide the true meaning of life.”
Matthew 16:27-Jesus says that every one of us must make a decision about our life…and who it belongs to…because one day we must stand before Him and give an account for what we have done. He will do this because He will reign as king in the “glory of His Father”.
Is there ever a time when I try to weaken, or moderate Who Jesus is and what He said…in order to make my own life easier. If I can make Jesus appear to be more palatable, more acceptable to the world…then maybe I can follow Him and it will not cause me any personal grief. If I can just make the world more comfortable with Jesus…then maybe they will be more comfortable with me, as one of His followers. “Get behind me, Satan! If I am to follow Him…it is a cross I must bear…and crosses are never comfortable.”
Matthew 16:28-Some say that this was fulfilled at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8)…that was a preview of the Lord appearing in His glory (Daniel 7:9-14). Only Peter, James, and John were with Him when this occurred. Others say this is referring to the resurrection (a continuation of what Jesus had said in verse 21)…at which time His reign would begin. Some of those standing there would be present at the “coming” (beginning, inauguration) of His reign; but not all of them, He knew that Judas would not be there.
Prayer: Lord, please give me faith in You that will extend across the entire breadth of my life. Keep me from constantly returning to the place where I have to be convinced and convicted all over again in order to have faith.