Matthew 16

Matthew 16:1

The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.

(a) Pharisees and Sadducees; see entry for Matt. 3:7.

(b) A sign from heaven; see entry for Matt. 12:38.

Matthew 16:4

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.

(a) An evil and adulterous generation is one that seeks signs instead of seeking God. See entry for Matt. 12:39.

(b) The sign of Jonah; see entry for Matt. 12:39.

Matthew 16:6

And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

(a) Leaven; see entry for Matt. 16:11.

(b) Pharisees and Sadducees; see entry for Matt. 3:7.

Matthew 16:8

But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?

You men of little faith. Which is to say, they had no faith at all.

On the stormy sea, the disciples had no faith because they were captive to fear (Matt. 8:26). Here the problem was they were walking by sight. They had forgotten how Jesus had miraculously supplied bread to the five thousand and the four thousand (see next verse).

Matthew 16:11

“How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Leaven symbolizes influence. In context, Jesus is referring to the corrupting influence of manmade religion (see next verse). The Pharisees and Sadducees preached a law-based religion of self-improvement that led to pride and hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). Jesus also warned of the leaven of Herod, the corrupting influence of political power (Mark 8:15).

In the parable of the leaven, the leaven represents the transforming influence of the kingdom upon the world (Matt. 13:33).

Matthew 16:16

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

(a) You are the Christ or the Messiah spoken of by the prophets.

Peter had first heard that Jesus was the Messiah from his brother Andrew (John 1:41), but that was second-hand knowledge. By now, Peter understood by the Spirit of God that Jesus was indeed the Christ.

(b) The Son of the living God. Jesus was more than the Messiah, he was God’s Son. Few people outside the disciples had this revelation at the time (Matt. 14:33).

Matthew 16:17

And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

(a) Blessed are you, Simon, not because you figured this out on your own, but because the Holy Spirit spoke and you listened. All spiritual truth dawns by revelation.

(b) Simon Barjona means Simon son of Jonah. Jesus emphasizes his familial connection as if to say “I know your father and you know my Father.”

(c) My Father; see entry for Matthew 5:16.

Matthew 16:18

“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

(a) Peter means rock. Jesus is having fun with words.

(b) Upon this rock of revelation. By the grace of God Peter understood that Jesus was the Son of God (Matt. 16:16). Those who share Peter’s revelation have crossed over from death to new life (John 5:24). This is why Peter emphasized the resurrection in his first sermon (Acts 2:27, 31). Since death had no hold on Jesus, death has no hold on those who have put their faith in him.

(c) Church. The church is the body of believers.

This is the first time the word church appears in the Bible and one of only two times it appears in the Gospels. (The other time is Matt. 18:17). The original word (ekklesia) is translated as church about 100 times in the New Testament and occasionally as congregation (Acts 7:38, Heb. 2:12) or assembly (Acts 19:32, 39, 41, Heb. 12:23).

(d) Hades is the Greek word for Sheol, the Old Testament abode of the dead (see Acts 2:27). Hades or Sheol is described as an underground region (Num. 16:30, Ps. 86:13, Ez. 32:27, Amos 9:2), where the righteous and unrighteous go after death (Gen 37:35, Ps. 9:17, Is. 38:10, Deut. 32:22). Hades/Sheol is a gloomy place of darkness and silence (Job 10:20–22, Ps. 31:17, 115:17). It is a place of forgetfulness and inactivity (Ps. 88:11–12, Ecc. 9:10).

Hades is sometimes translated as the depths or the grave or a pit (Ps. 30:3, Pro. 1:12, 7:27, 9:18, Is. 14:15, 38:18, Eze 31:16, Matt. 11:23), but Hades is not hell. At the end of days, death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).

The King James Version translates Hades as hell which made sense when the KJV was first written, but which is no longer correct. The meanings of words change over time. When the King James was first translated, the Middle English word hell meant to conceal or hide and was synonymous with being buried in the depths or the grave. But in modern English the word hell connotes fiery judgment. See entry for Matt. 5:22.

(e) Will not overpower it. Death has no hold on Jesus or those who are in Christ.

Death, represented by Hades, will not conquer the Body of Christ (the church). Those who have come to Christ have received eternal life and although they may die physically, will never experience the second death (see entry for Rev. 2:11).

Matthew 16:19

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

(a) The keys of the kingdom. Jesus has given us the keys to the kingdom (Matt. 18:18) and we are called to reign (Rom. 5:17). Christ has made us kings.

God has not called us to live in a peace-fire with sin and death but to rule and reign with Christ. We are not merely priests who comfort the sick; we are kings with authority over the enemy. We reveal the kingdom by preaching and demonstrating the gospel of the kingdom.

When God gave Adam dominion, he said “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). Kings release the blessing of God into places of hurt and lack. Kings bless those who are cursed. Kings command fruitfulness where there is barrenness, health where there is hurt, freedom where there is bondage, and provision where there is lack. Godly-kings don’t focus on the problem; they speak the solution. We declare the reality of kingdom of God. We agree with what God has already said and claim the provision of the cross.

Further reading: “You are a king (so act like one)

(b) The kingdom of heaven; see entry for Matt. 3:2.

Matthew 16:21

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.

(a) The third day; see entry for Matt. 17:23.

(b) The elders. The old and respected men of the ruling council or Sanhedrin (Luke 22:66).

The original elders of Israel were the 70 men who governed with Moses (Ex. 3:16, 24:1). The 70 men who governed Judea during the time of Christ were collectively known as the Sanhedrin. This group consisted of elders (respected community leaders), the chief priests, and the scribes. While the chief priests and scribes were primarily concerned with religious matters, the elders had a broader influence over Judea and governed as judges.

The term elder has several meanings in the New Testament. The elders who conspired with the chief priests to destroy Jesus were members of the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:43). When the traditions of the elders are being discussed, the elders are Jewish teachers who teachings had been orally passed down (see entry for Matt. 15:2). When Paul speaks of the elders who rule well, he is referring to overseers or shepherds in the church (see entry for 1 Tim. 5:17).

(c) The chief priests; see entry for Matt. 2:4.

(d) Scribes; see entry for Matt. 5:20.

Matthew 16:24

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.

(a) If anyone wishes to come. God does not force us but he invites us to come to his banqueting table.

(b) Deny himself. Trust Jesus instead of yourself.

To deny yourself is to say, “I distrust myself. I distrust my knowledge and my understanding. I distrust my abilities, my character, and my desires, but I trust the Lord in all things. I have no confidence in myself or my faith, but I have a great confidence in Jesus. I take no pride in what I have done but I rejoice in what God has done for me and through me. I will not boast in my accomplishments and strengths, but I will boast in the Lord who loves me and gave himself for me.”

To deny yourself means living each day out of the glorious relationship you have with the Lord. It is refusing to fall back to the inferior ways of the flesh that you walked in when you were an unbeliever, but it is standing firm in the freedom of Christ Jesus.

Contrary to what is sometimes taught, denying self does not necessarily mean denying your needs, appetites and desires. Abstaining from food, Facebook, or fun won’t make you righteous and holy. The ancient message of self-denial is nothing more than the asceticism dressed up in religious jargon. It is a message that promotes self-righteousness and DIY religiosity.

(c) Take up his cross. The way to salvation is through the cross of Christ.

The reason most Christians struggle to live the Christian life is they do not know they have died with Christ. Yet Paul says so again and again. “You died with Christ” (Col. 2:20). “We died with Christ” (Rom. 6:8). “We died” (2 Cor. 5:14). “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).

When you were baptized or placed into Christ, you were baptized into his death (see entry for Rom 6:3). In a manner of speaking, his cross became your cross. This may be the single most important thing that ever happened to you, yet many Christians are unaware of it. And since they don’t know that they died with Christ, they are constantly trying to die.

(d) Follow Me. The way to salvation is through Jesus and his cross.

Further reading: “Take up your cross daily

Matthew 16:25

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

(a) Save his life. The original word for life (psuchē) usually refers to soul-life. (The word psychology comes from the word psuchē.) It is the fleshly life we inherit from Adam.

(b) Will lose it. Live for the appetites of the flesh and you will lose your true self. Run after the inferior pleasures of the world and you will lose your soul. What profit is that (see next verse)?

(c) Loses his life for My sake. There are two ways to lose your life. The first is to be consumed by your own appetites until your life is little more than eating and drinking and running after fleeting pleasures. The second is to turn your back on that inferior life because you have found something better by far.

(d) Will find it. Real life – the kind Jesus offers – is found in fellowship with God.

The bottom-line hasn’t changed. God is inviting us to a love-relationship based on trust. He wants us to look to him as our Source (Matt. 6:25). See entry for New Life.

Matthew 16:26

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

(a) Gain the whole world. The natural mind desires the things of this world. Its concerns are, “What do I want, how can I get it, and how will it make me look?” But if we got what we craved, we would find no lasting peace and joy.

(b) Forfeit his soul? The selfish life is a dead-end street that ultimately leads to self-destruction (Rom. 8:6).

The pursuit of self-gratification can incur a terrible cost. In our quest for success we may put life on hold, mortgage our families, and sell our souls. We claw and fight and grab and hold and the result is often conflict and dissension (Gal. 5:15). And if we make it to the top, we find nothing there because life is so much more than accomplishments and the accumulation of stuff (Luke 12:15).

Running after the hollow pleasures of this world is like building with sand. Any success will be fleeting and forgotten, buried by the passage of time. The end result of this way of life is disconnection, destruction, and death (Rom. 8:6, Gal. 6:8, Php. 3:18-19).

(c) The soul. Your soul is you. It is that part of you that contains your personality, memories, and intentions. Metaphorically, it is your heart and mind. The Greek word for soul, psuche, is related to the word psychology, which has to do with the mind. We might say the soul resides in your mind – or perhaps your mind resides in your soul – and it is that part of you that thinks, feels, and remembers. Your soul can be contrasted with your body (see entry for Matt. 10:28) and your spirit (see entry for Luke 1:46–47).

Matthew 16:27

“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.

(a) Come with His angels. The final return of King Jesus to earth.

At least five different comings of the Son of Man are mentioned by Matthew (see next verse). Whenever the Son of Man is coming with his angels, it is a reference to his final and glorious return to earth (Matt. 25:31).

Repay every man. Jesus is quoting the psalms. “Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done” (Ps. 62:12).

Psalm 62 is a psalm of rest, not labor. “Truly my soul finds rest in God… Yes, my soul, find rest in God” (Ps. 62: 1, 5). Underline the doing words in this psalm and you will see that it is exhorting us to trust the Lord: “Truly he is my rock and my salvation…Trust in him at all times, you people” (Ps. 62:6). According to David, what do we need to do to be rewarded by God? Answer: trust him, rest in him, find refuge in him.

But Jesus is also quoting Jeremiah, who was also quoting God: “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve” (Jer. 17:10). What are the activities that are rewarded? “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him” (Jer. 17:7).

Put them together and you will see that the prophet and the psalm-writer both say we are rewarded for trusting the Lord. Resting is the work that is rewarded.

Further reading: “Rewarded for what we have done

Matthew 16:28

“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

(a) Will not taste death. All of the disciples, except Judas, were alive to see the Son of Man ascending into heaven and coming into his kingdom. Peter saw it and later wrote, “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16).

Further reading: “They will not taste death

(b) Coming in His kingdom. The ascension and exaltation of Jesus, an event which happened mere weeks after his resurrection.

Matthew refers many times to the different comings of Jesus. On no less than sixteen occasions he specifically refers to the coming of the Son of Man. With so many comings and goings, it’s easy to get confused. But it’s not confusing but when you understand the different destinations. Matthew refers to the Lord’s coming to earth (e.g., Matt. 18:11), his coming to the temple (see entry for Matt. 21:23), his coming to heaven (see entry for Matt. 24:30), his coming via the Holy Spirit (e.g., Matt. 3:11), and his final coming to earth (see entry for Matt. 24:37).

Further reading: “The Five Comings of Jesus

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