Matthew 16

Thursday Evening Bible Study

January 11, 2007


Jesus’ ministry is growing and the crowds that follow after Him are huge. But just as the crowds are growing, so is the opposition to Jesus from the religious leaders of the day.

In the last chapter, Jesus had been ministering to crowds of Gentiles on the southeast of the Sea of Galilee.  After three days of ministry, Jesus did a miracle, feeding a crowd of 4,000.  After that, Jesus sent the crowds away, got into a boat, and crossed the Sea of Galilee to Magdala, on the west coast of Galilee.  Now that He’s back on Jewish soil, some old “friends” show up.

Matthew 16

:1-4 Seeking signs

:1 Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.

testingpeirazo – to try whether a thing can be done; to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quality, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself; in a bad sense, to test one maliciously, craftily to put to the proof his feelings or judgments; to try or test one’s faith, virtue, character, by enticement to sin

signsemeion – a sign, mark, token; a sign, prodigy, portent, i.e. an unusual occurrence, transcending the common course of nature; of miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by him, or by which men prove that the cause they are pleading is God’s;

:2 He answered and said to them, "When it is evening you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red';

fair weathereudia – a serene sky, fair weather

skyouranos – the vaulted expanse of the sky with all things visible in it; “heaven”

This is the same word used by the Pharisees and Sadducees in verse 1, “sign from heaven

:3 "and in the morning, 'It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.'

foul weathercheimon – winter; stormy or rainy weather, a tempest

Both situations have a red sky, but one situation is a red sky in the evening, the other is a red sky in the morning. Seeing a red sky is one thing, but knowing what time it is determines how you interpret the red sky. A red sky in the evening means good weather, a red sky in the morning means bad weather.

:3 Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.

hypocriteshupokrites – one who answers, an interpreter; an actor, stage player; a dissembler, pretender, hypocrite

the face of the sky – or literally, “the face of the heavens”

discerndiakrino – to separate, make a distinction, discriminate, to prefer

A weather prognosticator doesn’t make his predictions based on some new sign written in the heavens. Instead, he looks at what’s already in front of him, and makes his predictions based on that.

The Pharisees and Sadducees don’t need anything new from Jesus. All they need to do is pay attention to what has already been happening.

For us, we too need to simply pay attention to what is already happening in the world around us.

We don’t need God to skywrite “I’m coming tomorrow” to realize that He’s coming soon. We simply need to pay attention to the signs around us.

:4 "A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." And He left them and departed.

What is the “sign of the prophet Jonah”?

Jesus has already spoken of this, so He doesn’t elaborate here.

(Mat 12:38-41 NKJV) Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." {39} But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. {40} "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. {41} "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
The only “sign” anyone really needs is the fact that Jesus died for them on the cross, and was raised from the dead three days later.
That’s enough.

:5-12 Leaven of Pharisees

:5 Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

:6 Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees."

Take heedhorao – to see with the eyes

bewareprosecho – to bring to, bring near

:7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have taken no bread."

They have their minds stuck on their lack of bread and think that Jesus is talking about this. They are probably thinking that Jesus is warning them about buying bread from Pharisees or Sadducees.

But Jesus has been thinking for awhile about this last encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees. He’s not thinking about bread, but about these men.

:8 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?

It’s so easy to misunderstand things. I do it all the time.


Two men were walking home after a Halloween party and decided to take a shortcut through the cemetery just for laughs. Right in the middle of the cemetery they were startled by a tap-tap- tapping noise coming from the misty shadows. Trembling with fear, they found an old man with a hammer and chisel, chipping away at one of the headstones. “Holy cow, Mister,” one of them said after catching his breath, “You scared us half to death—we thought you were a ghost! What are you doing working here so late at night?” “Those fools!” the old man grumbled. “They misspelled my name!”

I usually get pretty defensive when someone points out the fact that I’ve misunderstood, but lately it seems that I’m misunderstanding SOOOOOO many things that I’ve been trying to learn to just laugh at myself – what a fool I am!

I find it interesting that it seems that the disciples’ “little faith” was their reason for misunderstanding Jesus.

:9 "Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up?

:10 "Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up?

They’ve now seen Jesus feed huge crowds on two separate occasions. They should know by now that they don’t have to worry about bread when they’re with Jesus.

:11 "How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?; but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

:12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Pharisees and Sadducees – actually, these two groups were miles apart in some of their teachings. The Pharisees taught there was a resurrection from the dead. The Sadducees taught that you died, and that was it. The Pharisees taught that there were angels and that God did supernatural things. The Sadducees taught there was nothing supernatural. The Pharisees believed that the entire Old Testament was the inspired Word of God. The Sadducees only believed the first five books of the Bible were inspired of God.

How could Jesus lump the Pharisees and the Sadducees into the same group? What element of their teaching did they have in common that made them both so dangerous?



Luke writes,
(Luke 12:1 NKJV) In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

The problem with the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees is that they taught one thing, but lived another.

leaven – leaven, or yeast, has some interesting properties.
It works through decay. The yeast actually breaks down the dough and releases gases, all through decay.
It spreads. You put a pinch of yeast in a lump of dough and let it sit. The yeast will eventually permeate the entire lump of bread all by itself.
We often see “leaven” as a picture of sin – Sin brings decay. Sin spreads.
But hypocritical teaching also works like leaven.

It doesn’t build people up, it tears them apart.

It spreads. There’s something at work in a church, even if it’s unseen, when the people that are teaching are saying one thing but living another.

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Jesus said “Take heed” and “beware”.

Look with your eyes. Get up close to what they say.

That’s how you spot a hypocrite.

What’s the antidote to this “leaven”?

As a teacher, it is important to live what you teach. Speak truth. Live the truth.

There will be times when you don’t live up to your teaching – truth is still the antidote. Don’t try and pretend to be something that you’re not. Admit your failures. Admit your faults.

(Eph 4:14-15 NKJV) that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, {15} but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ;


It’s getting close to people that allows you to spot a hypocrite. You find that their life doesn’t match what they say.

Getting close to people is also how people can see that you’re not a hypocrite.

(Phil 4:9 NKJV) The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul lived an example that the Philippians could see and imitate.

:13-20 Peter’s Confession

:13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"

Caesarea Philippi – this is a city 25 miles to the north of the Sea of Galilee, located on the slopes of Mt. Hermon, near the source of the Jordan River.

It was an ancient site of Baal worship. The Greeks turned it into a cult center for the god Pan and one of the names for the city was “Paneas”, now called “Banias”. Augustus Caesar gave the town to Herod the Great who built a temple to the emperor there. Herod’s son Philip later renamed the city Caesarea Philippi.

:14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

Herod thought that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead.

Others thought that Jesus might have been Elijah, who was supposed to return before the coming of the Lord.

Others thought Jesus was one of the dead prophets like Jeremiah, risen from the dead.

:15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

It’s interesting to know what other people think of Jesus, but the most important question you’ll ever answer is this one – who do YOU say that Jesus is?

:16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Simon Peter – Matthew refers to Peter here as “Simon Peter”.

Simon was his actual name, the one given to him by his parents.

Peter was the name that Jesus gave him.

ChristChristos – “anointed”; this is a term that is used for someone who has been “anointed”, having oil put on them. “Anointing” was done as a picture of the Holy Spirit being on a person. It was a term used for priests and kings. Most of all, it was used for the Messiah, the Savior, God’s anointed deliverer.

Peter recognized that Jesus was more than a prophet. He was THE Anointed One, the Messiah.

Son of the living God – Jesus started the conversation off by calling Himself the “Son of Man”, a simple human being. Yet Peter realized that Jesus was no ordinary human. He was divine. He was the Son of the living God.

:17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

Simon Bar-Jonah – “Simon, the son of Jonah”

Note the contrast: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Simon is the son of Jonah.

Peter didn’t think up this idea on his own. He had help. He had God’s help.

revealedapokalupto – to uncover, lay open what has been veiled or covered up

It might have seemed to Peter and the other disciples that Peter was simply answering a question. Yet Jesus points out that Peter had actually been receiving a revelation from God Himself.

A revelation from God might not always be accompanied with electrical shocks or dancing lights. Sometimes it may come as a simple, quiet idea in your head.

:18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church,

Peter has given Jesus a title, “Christ”. Jesus now clarifies Peter’s title.

Jesus uses two closely related, but different words in the sentence:

PeterPetros – a “masculine” word; meaning “a rock or a stone"

rockpetra – a “feminine” word meaning, a rock, cliff or ledge; a projecting rock, crag, rocky ground; a rock, a large stone

The Catholic church has long held the view that Peter himself is the “rock” on which Jesus builds His church.

But Paul tells us the church isn’t built on Peter, but on Jesus Christ:
(1 Cor 3:11 NKJV) For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Also, the specific words that Jesus uses have Peter being just a small part of the “rock” on which Jesus builds.

The “rock” on which Jesus builds is the statement that Peter has just made, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The church is built on Jesus being the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God.
It’s when a person comes to the same conclusion that Peter comes to that they are saved. This is what builds the church, the “living stones” being piled on top of each other.

:18 and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

the gates of Hades – the rulers and elders of a city hang out at the city gates. It is also the place for the marketplace as well.

Some see this as a reference to Caesarea Philippi, since it was a place of idol worship, and there is a cave supposedly known as “the gates of hell” located there.

Some see this as the church being able to withstand the attacks of Satan and his armies.

Others see this as the church being able to storm the fortress of hell and rescue those held captive by the devil.

Others see the gates of Hades as symbolic of death, Jesus’ death. Jesus’ own death won’t stop what God is wanting to do, in fact Jesus’ death is what He came to do.

:19 "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

As believers we have been given authority by Jesus.

We’ve been given…

keys – used to lock and unlock doors.

We have authority to…

binddeo – to bind, fasten with chains, to throw into chains

looseluo – to loose any person (or thing) tied or fastened

What things do we have the ability to “bind” and “loose” on earth that are affected in heaven?

We have authority to bind demons and the works of the devil. Exercising this authority on earth affects things and beings in the heavenlies.
We have authority to “loose” or “release” the power of the Holy Spirit.

:20 Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.

Doesn’t sound very evangelistic. But this is just a temporary command. One suggestion is that Jesus is trying to keep the crowds from getting too large and proclaiming Him to be the king before the right time. The day will come later when He will send them out to preach.

:21-28 The way of the cross

:21 From that time Jesus began to show to 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 the third day.

When Jesus died on the cross, it should have come as no surprise to the disciples. He had been warning them for years about what was ahead.

:22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!"

:23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

One moment Peter is having God the Father reveal things to him (vs. 16-17), and the next he’s being influenced by Satan.

Peter is just like us.

Pay attention to what Jesus is telling Peter.

Peter is concerned about Jesus suffering and dying.

But the “things of God” do not involve our being comfortable.

Jesus didn’t come to the earth to be comfortable. He came to die for our sins.
Both Jesus and the Father were more concerned about paying for the sins of the world than they were with their own comfort.

How often are our lives centered on our being “comfortable”?

I wonder how often we end up sidetracking God’s plans for our lives or the lives of others because we don’t want anyone to be “uncomfortable”?

:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.


Following Jesus

This is what it means to be a follower or a disciple of Jesus.
1. Deny yourself
When a person became a convert to Judaism, a “proselyte”, there were certain steps they were to follow, and what Jesus lays out is very similar to these steps.

Adam Clarke writes, “A condition required in the Jewish proselyte was, that he should perfectly renounce all his prejudices, his errors, his idolatry, and every thing that concerned his false religion; and that he should entirely separate himself from his most intimate friends and acquaintances.

To follow Jesus, the main thing you are to “renounce”, the false religion you’ve been following, is your “self”.
The first step in following Jesus is learning to say “no” to your “self”.
Being a disciple is not about getting “your” way done. It’s about denying yourself. Peter wanted “his” will, for Jesus not to die. Jesus knew that God’s plan was different. He had to die.
2. Take up your cross
The picture of taking up a cross was appropriate in Roman-occupied Palestine. Jesus’ listeners had seen condemned criminals carrying a part of their cross through the city on the way to the place of execution. They were ordered to carry their cross to demonstrate their submission to the authority of Rome, against which they had rebelled.

Jesus would take up His cross, not in submission to Rome, but in submission and obedience to the Father.

The cross involves suffering

Death on a cross was not a pretty thing. It wasn’t something you recovered from. It was designed to be painful.

The cross involves calling.

The cross is not just a place of suffering, it was a calling. It was what Jesus was called to do. It’s what He did for us.

We are to take up “our” cross, not His. We are to follow out what God’s purpose and calling are for our lives and then to follow after it, even if it does involved suffering.

3. Follow Jesus
He doesn’t ask us to do anything that He hasn’t already done. He might ask us to give our lives, but He already gave His.

Stuart Briscoe writes, “I was in Edinburgh about a year ago speaking at Charlotte Chapel, and a delightful young lady gave her testimony. She had come back from Kabul, Afghanistan, where she was a missionary nurse. She said how she was really enjoying the work she was doing there, and then she’d met a young man and fallen in love. He’d asked her to marry him, but she had said, “I made a commitment to my church back home to serve on the mission field. If I were to marry you, that might change everything. So before I can give you an answer, I need to talk with the leaders of the church.” And so that was why she was home. She’d flown home all the way from Afghanistan to talk to the leaders of the church.

“As I was looking at the congregation, I noticed a fellow sitting in the front row who had the weirdest look on his face. So when she was through and sat down next to me, I said, “Who is that fellow? Do you know him?” She said, “That’s the young man.” I said, “I thought he was in Kabul.” She said, “He was. He heard I was flying back to Scotland to talk to the leaders of the church, so he said he wanted to talk to them as well. So he jumped on the next plane.”

“You can always tell lovers: they don’t give up. They “come after,” as a lover comes after the beloved. And that’s the picture that Jesus gives: “If you’re going to come after me, it’s because you love me because I first loved you, and there’s something about me that draws you irresistibly to me.” Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ?

-- Stuart Briscoe, Ordinary Folks Make Great Disciples," Preaching Today, Tape No. 47.

If we really love Jesus, we’ll follow Him wherever He goes. He denied Himself. He took up His cross. We follow.

:25 "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Following Jesus can be dangerous. If you try to avoid anything that will harm your safety, that will probably mean not following Jesus. And you will end up losing your life.

But if you are willing to give up your own life, your own self, your own desires, your own comfort in order to follow Jesus, you will find what real life is all about.

:26 "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

People work their entire lives in order to be comfortable. But in the end, they will lose it all.

:27 "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

This is when we will have real “comfort”, when Jesus returns.

:28 "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

This verse might be better at the beginning of the next chapter. The next chapter tells the story of the “transfiguration”