About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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ch. 16:1-4    ch. 16:5-12    ch. 16:13-20    ch. 16:21-28

The Demand For A Sign (ch. 16:1 - 4)


On many occasions the Pharisees would come to Jesus and try to test Him, or trick Him with a question, which is the case here in verse 1.  Jesus was never tricked, but always came back with a clever answer. One thing we should note concerning Jesus’ relationship with the Jewish leadership is that He was not afraid to enter into a dialogue with them, but He would not get bogged down in a long drawn out debate.  He’d make His point in a few statements and that was it.  Either He’d walk away, or the Pharisees would walk away in disgust or embarrassment.


In verse 2 and 3 Jesus uses yet another analogy.  This time it concerns forecasting the weather, which they did by looking at the sky.  Jesus says that in the evening if the sky is red, the next day will be nice.  Yet in the morning if the sky is red and overcast, then you know it’s going to be stormy. 


Then in the last part of verse 3 He says that the Pharisees know how to interpret the sky, but they fail to understand how to interpret “the signs of the times”.  The signs of the times is the day and age in which they were presently living. 


The Old Testament Scriptures are like the sky above.  They tell a story about an ages to come .  One age to come was the age when Jesus was on earth.  There were many signs of the time.  The miracles were one sign of the times.  Jesus’ baptism, and the voice from heaven was surely a clear sign of the time.  The transfiguration was a sign of the times too.  Yet most of all, the cross of Jesus was the number one sign of the time.


In verse 4 Jesus calls the generation of Jews that He ministered among a “wicked and adulterous” generation, and that no sign would be given them except for the sign of Jonah.  What this means is that Jonah was in the belly of a fish for three days. This was prophetic of Jesus being in the grave for three days.  This, as I’ve just said, is the number one sign of the times.


Jesus called the Jews wicked, and He also called them “adulterous”.  I’m sure sexual adultery was a problem among the Jews as it is among any generation and any culture.  But my thinking here is that the adultery that Jesus is talking about here is spiritual adultery.  The Jews had forsaken their God and had married another.  The other that they married was their own traditions.


You will notice the last phrase of this section.  It confirms what I said in the beginning of this section when I said that Jesus would enter into dialogue with the Pharisees, but He wouldn’t get bogged down in a long drawn out discussion. He’d state His point and then leave, and that is exactly what Matthew tells us in verse 4.  After Jesus said what He said, which wasn’t much, “He left and went away”.


The Yeast Of The Pharisees And Sadducees (ch. 16:5 - 17)


As is often the case, Jesus and the disciples cross the lake, which would be the Sea of Galilee , which is both called a lake and a sea.  Matthew mentions that the disciples forgot to bring some bread with them to eat in verse 5.


In verse 6 Jesus uses their forgetfulness for yet another analogy.  You might notice that Jesus is very sensitive to the things around Him.  And what He sees He often uses as an analogy to speak about a certain truth.


So in verse 6 Jesus tells his followers to be “on their guard’ because of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Of course  the yeast is in reference to the bread that the disciples forgot to bring with them.


Jesus is in fact warning His followers concerning the Jewish leadership because they are not to be trusted.  The Roman empire was a secular, non religious dictatorship that Jesus said little about.  But He says much about the Jewish leadership, and what He says is never complementary. 


We see in verse 7 that the disciples didn’t quite understand what Jesus was getting at.  They though that because they forgot to bring bread and Jesus brought the subject up. 


In verse 8 Jesus confronts the disciples, first of all for talking among themselves.  To me this suggests that Jesus would rather have had them simply come to Him with the question instead of them talking among themselves.  This is so often the case.  We talk among ourselves.  We try to figure things out ourselves.  We leave Jesus out of the things He should be involved in. 


He also tells the disciples that they have “little faith”.  This is not the first time He has said this. “Little faith” means “little trust”.  This means that even though the disciples forgot to bring bread, they neglected to trust Jesus to help them in their imperfections, meaning, their forgetfulness, and for that, Jesus says they have little faith, or little trust in Him.  If they had fully trusted Jesus, they would have come to Him directly, told Him that they forgot the bread, and asked Him to help the situation out. 


In verses 9 and 10 Jesus tells the disciples that they “still don’t understand”, even after feeding the five thousand and the four thousand, with all the food that was left over, they can’t trust Jesus to feed the few of them.


This tells me that we can trust Jesus for things that we mess up on .   I’m not sure that Jesus will always bail us out of our problems that we willfully get ourselves into, but He will help us out when we find ourselves in problems due to our own imperfections.


In verse 11 Jesus specifically tells the disciple that Hew was not talking to them about the bread they forgot.  He was simply using the bread, which was most likely the topic at hand, as an illustration for teaching.  This kind of teaching is something I call “natural teaching”.  We often think of teaching as a class-room situation, but there’s more to teaching that can be found in a class-room.  Jesus taught people in numerous ways, but one of the most visible ways was through normal conversation.  This is a very effective way to teach.  The class-room style teaching might well be down the list in effectiveness.


The last half of verse 11 is the intent of what Jesus was saying.  It was all about the yeast of the Jewish leadership.


The disciples finally catch on in verse  12. They finally understood that the “yeast of the Pharisees” represented the “teaching of the Pharisees”.  As yeast causes bread to rise, so the teaching of the Pharisees causes the pride of men to rise.  Their teaching was all about promoting one’s self, and not the things of God or the things of others as Jesus taught.


It is way too easy for pride to rise within men who stand behind a pulpit and speak to crowds of people.  This takes place in the church all of the time, but Jesus tells us that such things should not be.


Peter’s Confession Of Christ (ch. 16:13 - 20)


This section of Scripture is one of the most talked about, most discussed, and most misunderstood Scriptures in the Bible, at least from a Protestant point of view, but not to Catholics.


Verse 13 says that Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi, which was on the Mediterranean coast, quite a distance from the Sea of Galilee .


While in Caesarea , He asked His disciples, “who do people say the Son of Man is”?  We need to note that He didn’t ask, “who do people say I am’?  Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, which was a Messianic term.  By asking the question this way, it gave the disciples a clue to the right answer.  


I’m sure Jesus knew what people thought of Him.  I believe the question was meant to stimulate a discussion and a time of teaching with His close followers.  Once again, it is interesting to note how Jesus went about teaching people.  In this case, it was with the aid of a question. 


The disciples come back with and answer.  They though some people considered Jesus to be John the Baptist who came back alive.  You might remember the Herod thought that.  Some thought He was Elijah.  The Jews thought that Elijah would return to usher in the Messiah and His Kingdom.  Then other thought He was Jeremiah or some other Old Testament prophet.


In verse 15 Jesus presents the disciples with another question.  In contrast to the last question concerning who people in general thought of Him, Jesus asks, “but what about you?  Who do you say I am”?  Now that they had a chance to think what others thought about Jesus, Jesus asks them directly what they thought, and this was the important question.  The first question was only to get them thinking about who He really was.  This is the fundamental question that all human beings need to answer for themselves.  This is the most important question that can be asked of anyone.


Verse 16 is one of the most well known verses in the New Testament.  It was Peter who first offered an answer to Jesus’ question.  Some people might think that Peter answered first because He normally did answer first.  Peter seemed to be the first to do anything, but I think there’s more to this than that.


Peter’s answer was exactly right.  Peter answers by saying, “you are the Christ, the Son of  living God”.  There’s two parts to Peter’s answer.  The first part is that Jesus is the Messiah.  This means that He is the long awaited for Saviour of Israel.  What this meant to most people in Israel is different than what it meant to Jesus.        


Israelis in those days understood their Messiah to be a man, like King David of old.  This Messiah would free them from Roman domination.  At this point in Israeli history there were many men, zealots, who claimed to be the Jewish Messiah.  To many Jews, Jesus was just another zealot.  Also, Jews did not understand the Messiah to be deity, that is, the Son of God, that was the second part of Peter's response. 


Peter then says that Jesus is the Son of God.  This is vital to the correct answer.  Jesus is the Son of the God. By this we understand that Jesus Himself is God in human flesh.  Any departure from this teaching is heresy.  This is the fundamental Christian teaching that all other teaching stems



In verse 17 Jesus called Peter “blessed” because of the answer that he gave. Jesus also said that no man told Peter the right answer.  It was Jesus’ Father in heaven who was the one who inspired Peter.  This is why I think Peter didn’t answer this question because he was normally the first one to speak.  I think He was inspired by God to answer this question specifically.  It was God's will for him to answer the question. 


Verse 18 separates the Catholics from the Protestants. Jesus says, “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church”.  The whole question around the controversy is, “what does the rock refer to?  Catholics believe it refers to Peter, and they say that Peter was the first pope.  The majority opinion among Protestants is that the rock was not Peter, but his confession that Jesus is both the Christ and the Son of God.  My position is niether, although it is close to the majority Protestant view. 


It is clear that the church is built on the truth that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God.  There’s no doubt about that, but that doesn’t answer the question what Jesus was really talking about here.  If Jesus was speaking of Peter, which I don't think He wasn, it still wouldn’t be all that hard to believe. The church began on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, and it was Peter who preached the first gospel message.  From that day forward the church grew.  You could easily interpret Jesus’ words in this light.  But to say that Peter was the first pope takes a lot of leaps of logic to come up with that conclusion. 


In short, there are three ways in which people have interpreted who or what the rock is.  The rock is either Peter, his confession, or Jesus Himself.  When the English text uses the word "this" as in "this rock", it suggests that Jesus is speaking of something other than Peter.  I think this is what confuses us over this matter.  As I've said, I don't believe Peter is the rock.  I've always believed his confession was the "rock" because of the word "this”.  That being said, the confession points to "Jesus the Christ", and for this simple reason, I believe Jesus is the "rock" spoken of here.  He is the cornerstone that the church is built on as Paul states in Ephesians 2:20.    


Beyond what I've already said, there is a more convincing argument to defend my position.  Jesus directed his comment to Peter by saying, "You are Peter."  The Greek word translated as Peter is "petros".  This is a Greek masculine noun.  Jesus then tells Peter that 'upon this rock I will build my church."  The Greek word translated into English as rock here is not petors, as in the last phrase.  It's " petra ", a feminine noun meaning rock.  So, Peter is masculine and rock is feminine.  Because of this discrepancy the rock cannot refer to Peter.


Further to this, I don't believe a human confession, even though it is inspired by God, is a solid rock to build the church on.  That being said, the One Peter confessed, meaning, Jesus the Son of God, is quite capable of building His own church.  I conclude that Jesus Himself is the rock, not Peter's confession or Peter himself.          


We need to address the word church here.  The word comes from the Greek word “ecclesia”, which simply means a “gathering of people”.  I’m convinced that when Jesus used this word, He did not think in terms of how we view church in the 21st century, especially in the western world. What Jesus meant here was that He’d put together His own special group of people that would be devoted to Him and follow Him and His teaching. Jesus was not thinking in terms of the ecclesiastical organization as we know it today.


We need to address the word church here.  The word comes from the Greek word “ecclesia”, which simply means a “gathering of people”.  I’m convinced that when Jesus used this word, He did not think in terms of how we view church in the 21st century, especially in the western world. What Jesus meant here was that He’d put together His own special group of people that would be devoted to Him and follow Him and His teaching. Jesus was not thinking in terms of the ecclesiastical organization as we know it today.


Jesus also said that the “gates of hell would not overcome it” the church.  This means that the devil and his kingdom would not win the battle with Jesus that was fought over the church.  This battle would finally be won by Jesus when He returns to earth the second time, and not before, as some teach.


In verse 19 Jesus says,  “I will give you the keys of the kingdom”..  Whether “you” refers to Peter or the disciples in general, and I do believe that all disciples have the keys to the kingdom, we possess through the Holy Spirit the ability to unlock the Kingdom of God for the world to see.  This is our duty as Christians.


In verse 19 Jesus says that “whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven”.  Jesus doesn’t go into an explanation of this, but elsewhere He uses the same words in connection with human relationships.  Many people think that Jesus is speaking of loosing and binding people from demons, that there’s no hint of that in the context. 


Through real forgiveness and repentance people are loosed, and without these two things, people are bound, both on earth and in Heaven.  If we as believers forgive sin, or cancel someone’s sin, their sins are cancelled in Heaven. God has given us the responsibility to cancel sin upon repentance for Him.  This is part of the authority He has given us.  This is one of the “keys to the Kingdom” that He has also given to us.


Jesus Predicts His Death (ch. 16:21 - 28)


The event with Peter and his confession that Jesus was both Messiah and Son of God seems to be a defining point in the life and ministry of Jesus. In verse 21 we learn that from this moment onward, Jesus began to speak more about His death.  It seems that before He spoke to His close followers seriously about His death, He wanted them to know for sure who He really was, and it is clear, in Peter’s case, the Holy Spirit had a lot to do with this.


Also in verse 21 we see further explanation about the things leading to Jesus’ death.  Jesus would suffer many things at the hands of the Jewish leadership.  Jesus doesn’t mention anything about the Gentile world that actually hung Him on the cross.  The important thing to note here is that it was the Jews who brought Jesus to the Roman authorities to be killed, because they had no legal right to execute anyone.  So the main culprits on earth were the Jews.  This being said, it is clear from Scripture, and especially Isa. 53, that the one who was really behind the killing of Jesus was neither the Jews or the Gentiles, but God Himself.


Matthew relates that Jesus said that he  “must” be killed.  The execution of Jesus wasn’t happenstance.  It was something that had to be done, and would be done, and nothing could prevent it, because it was God’s will for Jesus to die. 


Although we note that Peter was inspired by our heavenly Father to present Jesus with the right confession as seen in the last section, in verse 22 he was not so inspired.  Upon hearing from Jesus that Jesus would be killed, Peter pulled Jesus aside and told Him that would never happen.  What Peter was saying here was that Jesus didn’t have to worry, he and the others would not allow such a thing to happen.  Peter was obviously not being led by the Spirit with these words. I’m sure Peter had good intentions, but just imagine this.  Here we have a human being in Peter pulling aside the Son of God, and telling Him what He said would not come about because he could protect Him.  It made sense to Peter, but doesn’t make sense to us in hind sight.


Peter could not prevent Jesus’ death.  We know that it was God’s will for Jesus to die in order to bring reconciliation between God and man.


Once again we have a stark contrast with Peter between this section and the last.  In the last section Peter had the right answer and Jesus recognized that, but in this section Peter is in the wrong and Jesus points that out. 


In verse 23 Jesus says, “Peter get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block…”   Jesus tells Peter to get behind Him, but doesn’t speak to him but speaks to satan instead.  It’s a little confusing.  You might think that since Jesus told Peter to get behind Him, Jesus would address his remarks to Peter.  But what Jesus does is He addresses His remarks to satan who is influencing Peter’s thinking.  


Whatever is the case, and whoever was the one to get behind Jesus, we do know that Jesus addresses satan here, and tells him that he is a stumbling block because he is only concerned with the things of men.  There’s a couple of points here to think about.


First of all satan, as he seemed to speak through Peter is a stumbling block to Jesus.  This would suggest that satan is trying to trip Jesus at this point by the suggestion that the disciples might possibly be able to protect Jesus and prevent His death.  We do know that Jesus struggled over dying as seen in the garden just before His death.  This thus appears to be a form of temptation for Jesus.


We should also note that satan is interested in the things of men. You might think that he’d be interested in his own things, the things of the satanic world. What this tells me, and which I’ve seen before, that the things of men and the things of satan are all one in the same. 


Some people suggest that there are the things of God, the things of men, and the things of satan.  Yet in my thinking, it appears to me that the way Jesus views this is that there is only two things, and that is, the things of God and the things of men and satan, where men and satan are combined into one.  It is thus clear that satan is a real part of all of the affairs of men. 


Still in responding to what Peter said, Jesus tells those listening that any of them that really want to follow Him must deny Himself, take up his cross and follow Him wherever He leads.  Why did Jesus ay this at this time?  It’s simple.  Jesus’ death was the ultimate in self denial, and He expected His followers to follow Him in this self denial, and what Peter was suggesting was more of self preservation, not self denial.


Verse 25 gives us in very simple words the basic way in which Christians should live their lives, and the words are straight from the mouth of Jesus.  He simply says that if you try to save you life you’ll end up losing it.  But if you lose your life for me, you’ll save your life in the end.


If you have a hard time understanding this, here’s what that means.  Saving our lives simply means putting yourself first, and living for your own self gratitude.  Losing your life for Jesus means, giving up control of your life and handing it over to Jesus.  That’s dying to yourself.  That’s taking up your cross. 


There is a certain segment of the church that believes this life is all about getting as much we can because we are “Kids of the King” and He’s promised an abundant life for us.  I don’t see it that way.  I think this present life, in this present age is all about what Jesus is talking about here.  The abundance come in the next life, and if there is abundance now, it is in the spiritual realm.   


Jesus gives further explanation in verse 26.  He says,  “what good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his own soul”.  This tells us how Jesus views the things of the world in relation to our souls.  There’s more to life and what we see on earth.  There’s an eternal aspect to our existence. 


Jesus continues by saying, “what shall a man exchange for his soul”.  The point here is that we have a choice.  We can choose to live for the eternal things in life, or we can “exchange” these eternal things for the things of the present.  In the exchange we lose our souls.   


Verse 27 isn’t changing the subject when Jesus speaks of coming in His Father’s glory and with the angels of Heaven to reward everyone for what they’ve done.  Jesus has been speaking of eternal issues here, and at some later time in history He will return to earth to reward everyone for what they’ve done.


Our eternal destiny is not determined on Judgment Day.  We decide our destiny by either giving our lives to Jesus or not.  Our destiny is decided here in this life.  The things we do will be rewarded for when Jesus returns. Those who are saved will be rewarded for the good things they have done.  Those who are not saved will be negatively rewarded for the bad things they have done.  It is clear from Scripture that there are both levels of blessings to the believers, and level and punishment for the unbelievers, depending on what we’ve done in this life.


This chapter ends with verse 28 where Jesus tells His disciples that some of them will not taste of death until the Kingdom of God comes in power.  Jesus could not have been speaking of the end of the age, because none of these people are alive today nor will be at the end of the age.  He is speaking of the Kingdom of God coming in power that took place in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost.

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