Cp Jer 5:21-29; Eze 12:1-20: the prophets dealing with a
stubborn and rebellious people.
Mat 16: "The drama of the work of the Messiah, took a dramatic
turn in this chapter. The understanding of the apostles concerning the work and
ministry of Yahshua was to be enhanced by a most remarkable occurrence. The
narrative commences at the shores of Galilee, at a place called Magdala. So the
record outlines: (1) Opposed at Magdala: vv 1-4. The Lord faced an evil alliance
of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who opposed the doers of good. By resting on
their understanding of typical sacrifices, the Pharisees denied the need of
Christ's first advent. In the teaching of the Sadducees, there was a denial of
the resurrection and therefore the Lord's second advent. (2) Discussion in the
boat: vv 5-12. (3) The great confession: vv 13-16. Peter reveals the importance
of Yahshua, as the unique Son of the Deity. This statement was later to condemn
the Lord to crucifixion in the court of the Jews. (4) The ecclesial rock: vv
17-20. The Master outlines the purpose of his mission, and the foundation of the
ecclesial work. (5) The first key: vv 21-23. The Lord reveals the nature of the
first key to unlocking the Gospel message: that of personal sacrifice and
identification with the crucifixion of the Lord. (6) How to apply the keys: vv
24-28. The measure of the cross is the means to the glory.
"Notice the important statement in v 20, and cp it with Mat
17:9. It is between these two scriptural pylons that the revelation of the
kingdom keys is found. The first key speaks of sacrifice; the second key (Mat
17:1-9) is that of glory. Both elements are vital and fundamental to an
understanding of the Truth (Heb 12:2)" (GEM).
AND TESTED HIM: Cp Mat 4 (the temptation in the
wilderness) with Mat 16:4,8,16,23-25.
A SIGN FROM HEAVEN: There were signs from heaven, but
none so explicit as to compel belief from the willfully disobedient. The ones
who received "signs" were those with some degree of faith already, ie those who
followed Christ for 3 days. As for the others (ie the Pharisees), no sign but
Jonah (the resurrection). One day, they would have their sign: Mat 24:30; 26:64.
Or again, how blind they were! for Christ WAS the "sign from
heaven", the bread from heaven (Joh 6:35...), who multiplied the loaves and
warned against the false leaven of the Pharisees.
In early winter in Palestine the air is still full of summer
dust. The buildup of rain clouds promotes this phenomenon (Geog 49).
A WICKED AND ADULTEROUS GENERATION: "Adulterous", like
their "king" Herod (Mar 8:13)!
NONE WILL BE GIVEN: That is, no other sign except
Christ himself, since they had rejected him. The same Shekinah glory they were
now demanding had been nothing but darkness to the Egyptians. And these men were
"Egyptians"! (Spiritually speaking, the Jews needed to follow their Saviour into
the "wilderness" before they would see "signs" of deliverance! If they remained
in "Egypt", in their minds, there would be no miraculous signs but their own
EXCEPT THE SIGN OF JONAH: Gospel preached to Gentiles,
after the "resurrection" of the prophet.
JESUS THEN LEFT THEM AND WENT AWAY: He never performs
miracles merely to satisfy men's curiosity. Now begins his emphasis on the
ecclesia: vv 16-19.
THE DISCIPLES FORGOT TO TAKE BREAD: "Except for one
loaf" (Mar 8:14). Perhaps, subconsciously, they were not concerned any more with
provisions. (One loaf was sufficient for Jesus to multiply.)
THE YEAST (LEAVEN) OF THE PHARISEES: Their leaven:
doubt, continual seeking for more signs (v 12). Mar 8:15 adds "and that of
Herod": Herod also sought a sign (Luk 23:8). In Luk 12:1, "leaven" also =
hypocrisy. They would not believe, even if they saw other signs.
And they were so scrupulous in all the non-essentials, so much
so that this in itself became a kind of "leaven" or "corruption" in their
spiritual service: resulting in pride, self-righteousness, and
IT IS BECAUSE WE DIDN'T BRING ANY BREAD: 'He thinks we
are just like the crowds, and all we are looking for is another miracle.' Maybe
they were right!
'Open your eyes, open your ears, and stop thinking about
things of the flesh.' Sometimes we do not recognize the power of God right away;
this was the disciples' problem.
YOU OF LITTLE FAITH: Ct with the Gentile woman: "Woman,
you have great faith!" (Mat 15:28).
V 9: feeding the Jews (Mat 14:17,21); v 10: feeding the
Gentiles (Mat 15:34).
BASKETFULS: "Kophinos" = small basket, in ct "spuris"
(large basket) of Mat 15:37; Mar 8:8.
I WAS NOT TALKING TO YOU ABOUT BREAD: Natural bread is
of secondary importance. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and
all these things will be given to you as well" (Mat 6:33).
THE YEAST... OF THE PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES: The
"leaven" of hypocrisy: Luk 12:1.
CAESAREA PHILIPPI: The furthest possible point from the
SON OF MAN: Cp Gal 4:4. Same nature: Rom 8:3; Heb
Follow the religious notions of the crowd, and you are almost
certain to be wrong. (Notice that popular sentiment did not proclaim Jesus as
Messiah any more; very evidently, this man did not WANT to be king!)
Six questions in Matthew: (1) "Who do you say I am?" (Mat
16:15); (2) "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" (Mat 8:26); (3) "You
of little faith... why did you doubt?" (Mat 14:31); "What do you want me to do
for you?" (Mat 20:32); "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" (Mat 9:28);
"How many loaves do you have?" (Mat 15:34).
God revealed this to Peter: v 17. Jesus, "My beloved Son": Mat
3:17; Mark 9:7; Luke 3:22; Mat 17:5.
THE LIVING GOD: That is, the God of the living
creatures: 1Sa 17:26; 2Ki 19:4,16; Ps 42:2; 84:2; Hos 1:10; 2Co 3:3; 6:16; Heb
3:12; 9:14; Rev 7:2.
SON OF JONAH: An implied contrast between Jonah
(Simon's earthly father) and God, Christ's heavenly father. Also, sig "son of
the dove", with poss ref to Mat 3:16!
THIS WAS NOT REVEALED TO YOU BY MAN, BUT BY THE FATHER IN
HEAVEN: How did Peter know? Luk 4:41; John 17:8.
"Note here that Peter was asked for his opinion, and he gave
it as his opinion. Yet Jesus calls it a revelation from God -- inspired, without
anyone knowing it as such except Jesus! The explanation that this revelation was
through the instruction already given by Jesus is clearly an expedient. Why
should he say 'My Father' when referring to what he himself had done? The other
eleven disciples and multitudes of others similarly instructed, could have made
the same confession, but didn't. The obvious simple conclusion is that here God
was at work on the mind of Peter, unperceived by all except Jesus"
PETER: "Petros" = a loose, rolling stone: v 23; Luk
ON THIS ROCK: By contrast, "petra" = the great,
immovable rock! That rock is not Peter, but Peter's confession: 1Co 3:11; Eph
2:20; Mat 7:24,25; 1Pe 2:6,8. Peter was certainly not the supreme authority of
the early church: see Act 11:1-3; 8:14; Gal 2:11.
Peter's fallibility: there is no evidence of any authority
passed on by him to successors, either.
Christ is the ROCK, not Peter! See Mat 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1Co
10:4; Eph 2:20; 1Pe 2:6-8. There can be no other foundation but Christ: 1Co
Likewise, God Himself is the "Rock" of Israel: Isa 44:8; Deu
The power of the "keys" was committed to all the apostles, not
just to Peter: Mat 18:18; Joh 20:23; Rev 21:14. (Christ speaks of all equally:
Mat 18:1; Luk 22:25-30; Mar 9:34.)
"Power to bind" = power to preach gospel by which men and
women may be bound to Christ. "Loose", then, = not preaching!
Or, perhaps, power to judge (as Ananias and Sapphira: Acts
5:1-10; 13:9-12) or to heal (as Aeneas: Acts 9:32-35; or Acts
FROM THAT TIME ON: Now, a new emphasis: dealing with
Cp Elijah, rejected by Ahab and Jezebel, but "raised" from
despondency (1Ki 19:2-8).
Disciples' ignorance of Christ's impending death, and their
desire for the kingdom to come immediately: Mat 17:4; 19:27; 20:20-23.
PETER... BEGAN TO REBUKE HIM: The echo of Eden: "You
will not surely die" (Gen 3:4)! Peter was acting the serpent's part.
Jesus turned to: to the following multitude (Luk 14:25), the
backsliding disciple (Luk 22:61), the impulsive disciple (Mat 16:23; Mar 8:33),
and the trembling believer (Mar 5:30).
GET BEHIND ME: How quick a transition Peter made from
Mat 16:18 / Mar 8:29 to Mat 16:23 / Mar 8:33! Peter was standing in front of
Jesus, as though to stop him from going further. What Peter did not see was
that, with all his good intentions, he was nevertheless attempting to destroy
the mission of his Savior. Christ says, 'Don't hinder me; help me. Get behind me
-- follow me... to Jerusalem!' And he does: "To this you were called, because
Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his
steps" (1Pe 2:21).
SATAN: Refers to Peter, not the personal fallen-angel
devil of popular belief. Meaning one who opposes (2Co 12:7).
STUMBLING BLOCK: A loose rock, the only function of
which is to cause someone to stumble! Contrast with v 18!
Vv 24-26: An overview of the four "parts" of the "transaction"
of redemption (see Lesson, Redemption) demonstrates that... Christ gave himself
for himself: he was at the same time three of the four "parties": he was the
buyer, the price paid, and that which was purchased! In this he was the first
and preeminent example of his own words here. He redeemed, or bought, himself
from the power of sin and the world because he gave himself up, utterly and
wholeheartedly, to do the will of his Father. He lost his life to save his life,
and -- not incidentally -- to save the lives of all who in faith follow his
AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS: Each individual disciple's
particular burden. (But Christ helps each of us to carry it: Mat
AND FOLLOW ME: "Of the three things enjoined, the last
is a vital thing: to follow. The other two are utterly essential because through
the essential you achieve that which is vital. The reason is this. You can
approve, and not follow. You can applaud and not follow. You can understand and
preach, without following. You can defend the Truth pugnaciously, without
following. You can tire yourself out on busy works -- without following... The
central thing is the denial of self. It is utterly radical. Denial of self is
the inward thing. Taking up the cross daily is the external manifestation of the
inward condition. To talk of it is not to realize it. To write about it is not
to achieve it. The use of the word 'daily' emphasizes that it is not just a
theory but something that is real and practical; facing squarely every new
circumstance; confronting bravely every impediment; grasping joyfully every new
opportunity. In practice it means giving unhindered access to the Master into
every chamber and esp into every dark corner. To think of that possibility might
make us feel ashamed but at the same time it may do us good" (GD).
"The sentiment that Christ's righteousness alone is to be the
basis of our acceptance, is one of the countless and pernicious corruptions of
clerical theology. It doubtless originated in the misapplication of a certain
element of apostolic truth, namely that which informs us that all are under sin,
and that our salvation is not of works; but through the righteousness of faith
that is in Christ. Men have long ceased to perceive that this principle applies
only to unjustified sinners, and not to those who have been placed in a
justified or forgiven position, through the obedience of faith. Christ is
righteousness for sinners in this sense, that God offers to forgive them for
Christ's sake, and to grant them a coheirship with Christ, of what Christ, as a
manifestation of God, has achieved for himself. But when sinners become saints,
they come into relation to a new principle. They are responsible to him as
servants to a master, and he will judge them according to their works" (SC
"The cross is the symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt,
violent end of the human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and
started down the road had already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming
back. He was not going out to have his life redirected. He was going out to have
it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing. It
slew all of the man completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good
terms with its victim. it struck swift and hard and when it had finished its
work the man was no more. That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between
the ways of God and the ways of man is false to the Bible and cruel to the soul
of the hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world. It intersects
it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our life up on to a higher plane. We
leave it at a cross. The grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die. That
is the beginning of the gospel" (AWT).
"To give my life for Christ appears glorious. To pour myself
out for others... to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom -- 'I'll do it. I'm
ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory.'
"We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000
bill and laying it on the table -- 'Here's my life, Lord. I'm giving it all.'
But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash
in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50
cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, 'Get
lost.' Go to a committee meeting. Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a
"Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious. It's done
in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out
in a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little
over the long haul" (F Craddock).
I think it wouldn't be going too far to say that there IS a
discernible reason for every commandment which we are given... and that that
reason leads, without too much delay or detour, right back to the Atonement.
Christ's sacrifice is not just about blood, and sweat, and
tears... and it is not just about the cross on that dreadful, but wonderful,
It is -- and we all know this! -- about the life he lived
every day, every hour, before he arrived, finally, at that cross. Because it was
his own unique life, built up day by day, with the building blocks of a thousand
moments of ten thousand days, that made his cross meaningful.
Thousands of Jewish men died on thousands of Roman crosses
across the length and breadth of Israel. But only one man died a sacrificial,
atoning death on a cross. Because he was the perfect sacrifice, without spot or
So Christ's sacrifice is really about a life of many choices,
each one in one way or another a choice to deny himself, and his own will, and
to serve his Father, and his Father's will.
A lifetime of choices made the final choice -- of the cross
itself -- a choice of cosmic significance... a choice which resonates to this
day, and echoes in our lives.
The essence of sacrifice is denial of self. And if we choose
Christ and his cross, then we are also choosing denial of self... as a way of
life. It is the hardest choice we can make, but it is the most rewarding.
Allowed to work in our lives, that commitment and that choice will change us.
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after
me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants
to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his
life? Or what can a man give in exchange for his life?' " (Mat 16:24-26).
We could run down a list of Christ's commandments, and the
commandments passed along by the apostles as well, and ask: 'How does this
relate to the Atonement?' And in every case, I venture to suggest, we shall find
the answer -- and the meaningful example for us, of HOW to keep the commandment,
and WHY we should keep it -- in the "living sacrifice" of Christ.
Do we wonder why we are commanded this, for example?: "Do not
resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him
the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him
have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two
miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants
to borrow from you" (Mat 5:39-42). Well, of course, reason enough to do this --
or (let's be honest) to try very, very hard -- is that Christ has commanded it.
But was it just an otherwise pointless requirement plucked out of the air:
'Let's test them with this one, while we are at it'? Of course not. We are told
not to resist evil because Christ did not resist evil. And Christ did not resist
evil because he had committed himself, wholeheartedly, to his Father who would
ultimately judge rightly (1Pe 2:23). If we believe that that final judgment of
our Father is sure and certain and righteous, then what does it matter if evil
ones misuse us today, or tomorrow, or all the rest of our lives? God will set it
right. What does it matter if we lose our coat, or our time, or our creature
comforts -- the loss of those things which we might hold dear will only
reinforce to our minds the one thing that we MUST hold MOST dear -- which no
thief or bully or evil circumstance can take away from us: "What, then, shall we
say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not
spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- how will he not also, along
with him, graciously give us all things?... Who shall separate us from the love
of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or
danger or sword?" (Rom 8:31,32,35).
And suppose the "cross" we are called to bear at this very
moment is not the loss of property, or health, or loved ones... the terrible
losses that Job, for example, bore? Suppose the "cross" we are called to bear at
this very moment is... simply... the harsh word spoken to us, or the little
slight we experience, or the brief delay because some driver cut us off in
traffic, or the tiny barb that pricks our pride?
Maybe the "cross" that we are called to bear, right now, is
not the great mountain of difficulty that looms in front of us... but the little
grain of sand in our shoe!
How do we respond? Do we give harsh word for harsh word,
little grumble for silly slight, little whispered curse for minor inconvenience?
Do we recoil at the least threat to our pride, or the least questioning of our
intelligence, or our strength, or our goodness, or our wisdom?
Or... do we recall that "even Christ did not please himself"
(Rom 15:3)? And do we therefore "turn the other cheek" to the little slap, the
little needle, the little attack -- even if, and especially if, it comes from a
brother or sister?
If we do, and when we do, then we are "living the atonement"
in our lives.
Through fits and starts, and stops and blind alleys, sometimes
failing but sometimes succeeding, we are learning to be, even in the small
things of our lives, "living sacrifices" (Rom 12:1,2).
But the trouble with "living sacrifices" is that -- as one
writer put it -- "they keep crawling down off the altar".
Lord, help me to hold on to your altar, and "die a little bit"
every day, so that I might show forth your death until you return.
"Life" in v 25 and "soul" in v 26 are sw: Gr "psyche" = the
natural life. All our possessions, wealth and earthly treasures, would be
valueless if it meant the giving up of our future life.
AND THEN: That is, after his sufferings of the cross (v