The Life of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels
PETER’S GREAT CONFESSION
1. What Think Ye of Jesus? (vs 13-16)
2. Secret of Spiritual Knowledge (v 17)
3. Foundation Stones (v 18)
4. The Keys of the Kingdom (vs 19, 20)
5. The Cross and the Kingdom (vs 21-23)
6. The Cross Applied to Men (v 24)
7. Consequences of Confession (vs 25-28)
Time: Autumn, A.D. 29.
Place: The picturesque region around Caesarea Philippi, at the base of Mt. Hermon (9,000 feet high). About 25 miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee
Place in the Life of Christ: In the last half of the third year of His ministry. Increasing hostility outside the body of disciples leads Christ to test their faith and reveal to them more fully His nature and destiny.
Research Thoughts: What is "confession of Christ?" Why Christ wants us to confess Him. Peterís confession as a model for ours. The reasons for church-membership. Peterís stumbling: a comfort; a warning. Some of our crosses, and how to bear them.
Inductive Study of the Lesson:
a. Read the connecting passages, Mark 7:31-8:26 and Matthew 15:29 to 16:12. Consider how they lead up to this lesson.
b. Read the lesson, dividing it into sections (four or five), giving each an appropriate title.
c. Read the parallel passages, Mark 8:27 to 9:1; Luke 9:18-27. Underscore whatever adds to the account in Matthew.
d. Read Psalms 42, 43, especially 42:6, written probably by David in exile at the place where Christ was. Compare their situations.
e. Read Daniel 7:13, 14, and use a concordance to compare Christís references to Himself as Son of Man, especially Luke 22:69, 70.
f. Note Christís first bestowal of the name Peter (John 1:42).
g. Compare with other passages about foundation stones, especially Peterís (1 Pet. 2:1-10; see 1 Cor. 3:10-17; Rev. 21:19, 20; Is. 28:16, 17; Eph. 2:20, etc.)
h. Study the use of the word "church" in such passages as Matthew 18:17; Acts 2:47; 5:11; 15:3; Romans 16:5; Ephesians 5:24-32; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 2:1, etc.
i. Study the meaning of "Hades" in such passages as Acts 2:27, 31; Luke 16:23; Matthew 11:23; Revelation 1:18, etc. Distinguish it from "Gehenna," Matthew 5:22; James 3:6, etc.
j. On cross-bearing, compare Matthew 10:38, 39; Galatians 6:14; Hebrews 12:2; Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20, etc.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:13-16
1. What Think Ye of Jesus?
After His single miracle in the region near Tyre, Christ returned to Galilee, where at once He worked many miracles, partly because He was back in His own land, partly because of the restoration of His energies through rest, and partly because His ever growing fame drew ever increasing throngs of petitioners. Detailed accounts are given of the healing of the deaf man, the feeding of the four thousand, and the healing of the blind man near Bethsaida (Mk. 7:31 to 8:26). Then our Lord once more turned away from the Lake and withdrew northward. The Pharisees had again opposed Him (Matt. 16:1-4), and indications were renewed that the end of His ministry was at hand. Also, the disciples had just proved marvelously slow to understand Him (Matt. 16:5-12). Both reasons would lead Christ to desire a season of quiet converse with those that were soon to carry on His work alone.
v 13 ... "When Jesus came into the coasts [R.V. ‘parts,’ region] of Caesarea Philippi." He was in the "villages" (Mark); the smaller and more retired localities in the vicinity of the city, where He could teach His disciples with little interruption. "Caesarea Philippi." Herod the Great beautified it, building a temple to Augustus. Later it was enlarged and beautified by Philip the tetrarch, who gave it the name Caesarea, in honor of his emperor (Tiberius Caesar), adding Philippi (his own name) to distinguish it from Caesarea on the Mediterranean, where Paul was imprisoned.
v 13 ... "He asked His disciples:" while He was alone with them, praying (Lk. 9:18). His object seems to have been to draw out the faith of His disciples, revealing to them more fully His nature and redeeming work. He now puts into definite form what they had been gradually learning from His words and works – that He was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God.
v 13 ... "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" He had frequently used this title speaking of Himself; a title which the Jews (from Dan. 7:13, 14) used to designate the Messiah (See Lk. 22:69, 70).
v 14 ... "Some say John the Baptist; some, Elias [i.e., Elijah, the forerunner of the Messiah, not the Messiah himself]; and others, Jeremias," the Greek form of Jeremiah. Of course, in the same sense as Elijah – a forerunner of the Messiah. Edersheim points out that "Jeremiah is placed first, because in Jewish canon he was placed first among the Old Testament prophets," and was regarded as among the greatest. Perhaps also because of the character of his preaching, mingling denunciation with hope.
v 14 ... "Or one of the prophets;" i.e., "that one of the old prophets is risen again" (Lk. 9:19). Note that this variety of opinion shows that the people were thinking and discussing, but had not come to a certain belief. None of them spoke of Jesus as Messiah, perhaps because His appearance was too great a contrast with their expectations. "The great body of the people could not entertain the idea that He was the glorious King of kings. What was there of the kingly in His circumstances? Where was the crown, the scepter, the throne, the princely followers, the treasures, the armies?" (Morison).
v 15 ... "But whom say ye that I am?" The emphasis is on ‘ye.’ Twice Jesus puts forth this question. Why? Impress on them the importance of having a ‘right’ opinion about Him. Of all religious ideas, none are more important as the right idea about Jesus Christ.
v 15 ... "And Simon Peter answered." Abbott points out that "his original name was Simon or Simeon. The name ‘Peter’ was given to him by the Lord, when he first and joined Jesus at the ford of Bethabara (Jn. 1:40, 41)." Simon Peter was one of the quickest to perceive truth (though it’s obvious he did not always know the full meaning), and the readiest to utter it. He had no doubt formed his opinion before this occasion, but now Jesus’ question was like a match to powder, and the convictions within him, condensed in a compact form, burst out from the fullness of his heart.
v 15 ... "Thou are the Christ:" the anointed One, the Messiah. "Christ" is the Greek, "Messiah" the Hebrew, for "Anointed." As kings and priests were set apart by anointing, the Jews came to call the expected manifestation of God as King of kings and Priest of priests by that beautiful name, the Anointed One. Christ asked, "Who is the Son of man?" Peter replied, "The Son of God."
v 15 ... "The Son of the living God." While it’s doubtful that Peter fully understood the full meaning of his statement, still Jesus was, is and always will be the ‘Son of God’ in the highest sense – a statement which cannot be said of any other being. God is here called ‘living God,’ not only because He is distinguished from dead idols, but also because He is the author of all life and existence – self-existent, eternal. "The Son of the living God" was One Who partook of that living, self-existent, eternal nature. In this confession we see Christ’s humanity and divinity (G.W. Clark). These are words of gold – the sum of theology, climax of human knowledge. In question and answer we clearly see the union of the divine and human in Jesus. This is the basis of the atonement (at-one-ment), and the only hope of this sin-smitten world.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:17
2. Secret of Spiritual Knowledge
v 17 ... "Blessed art thou." Because you have opened your heart to the truth; because you have broken from the bondage of Jewish prejudice and worldly vision; because you have confidence in Me. Faith, knowledge of Christ as the Son of God, almighty to save and infinite in love; a heart in which truth finds a natural soil; a character in harmony with Jesus; broader outlooks into truth – are all exquisite blessings. It is an honor and joy to perceive any truth, even about a beetle or a geometrical diagram. But how much more blessed it is to perceive the highest of all truths, the relation of God and man.
v 17 ... "Simon Barjona;" i.e., son of Jonah. "‘Bar’ is Aramic (the Syriac Hebrew then in use) for ‘son.’" (Edersheim).
v 17 ... "For flesh and blood:" no man, no weak mortal ‘hath revealed’ this unto you. Its origin is not from mere human knowledge, the workings of human thought.
v 17 ... "But My Father which is in heaven." This was a truth that only God could disclose. Always remember this fact: when perplexed about Christ take your doubts in prayer to God (See 1 Cor. 12:3).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:18
3. Foundation Stones
v 18 ... "And I say unto thee, That thou are Peter."; "‘Petros’ in Greek, ‘Cephas’ in Aramaic; a name given him long before in prophecy (Jn. 1:42)" (Coffman). "Jonah means ‘dove.’ Christ had just called him Bar-Jonah, the fluttering son of a dove" (Spurgeon).
v 18 ... "And upon this rock" [‘petra’]. ‘Petros’ usually means a stone, a piece of rock; ‘petra,’ the rock in mass, the foundation rock (Peloubet). "Never did even the lips of Jesus utter more memorable words. It was the laying of the corner-stone of the church..." (Farrar). There are three views regarding the statement of Jesus:
First – This is an interesting and thoughtful view or interpretation of the meaning of the statement by Jesus, keeping in mind that this verse has been the source of "an immensity of discussion." Peloubet (and other leading scholars) held this view and pointed out that "the church is represented as a great building, a temple of the living God. Jesus Christ is the builder, the architect. Peter, representing all the apostles, is one of the great foundation stones (a rock) on which Christ is building His enduring and glorious church." (a) He considered it to be the most natural interpretation of the words. (b) Believing it agreed with other passages of the New Testament, expressing the same truth, such as Ephesians 2:20, where the church is said to be "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets" and Revelations 21:14, where the names of the twelve apostles are written on the twelve foundations of the wall of the city of God. (c) Peter was, in fact, a chief among the foundations of the church. He was one of those who learned of Christ the truth, and he preached it all his life. He was a witness to the resurrection of Christ. It was through his sermon that 3,000 were converted on the day of Pentecost. (d) Peloubet believed this view or interpretation also included the other two views (below), pointing out that Peter was himself built upon Christ, imbued with His spirit. So he concluded that Jesus was without a doubt the original substratum rock on which the church is built; that it was not merely Peter as a man, but Peter living in and by Christ – Peter holding the great truth of Christ as the Son of God – The Rock. (e) In all these things, Peter was only one of the twelve. He was not the only rock. He was a representative of the others. In Ephesians 2:20 and Revelations 21:14 the others are joined with him. A chief objection to this view arises because the Roman Catholics build their doctrine of the Pope’s supremacy on it. But Peter has no supremacy over the other apostles; much less the power of handing it down to successors. It is a strange (perhaps fantastic) interpretation that sees in these words of Jesus any reference to "a church which almost certainly St. Peter did not found, and in a city in which there is no indisputable proof that he ever set his foot" (Farrar). "Should we tear down a building because someone has woven cobwebs all over its walls? Why not sweep away the cobwebs and keep the building?" (Peloubet). Applications: (a) Abbott points out that "everyone possessing a like faith is, according to the measure of faith, a Peter, that is, a rock; and Christ builds His church on this rock, that is, on this living experience of faith in the Christ, inspired in the hearts of men by the Spirit of God." In other words, all Christians, in proportion of their acceptance and obedience to Christ, are, as Peter himself said, "living stones" in the great temple, the church of our Lord (1 Pet. 2:4-6). (b) "The condition of true power in the church is always vital faith in Jesus Christ in the hearts of its member" (Abbott).
Second view – The rock is the confession of Peter; i.e., the Messiahship and Divine Sonship of Jesus. Here the rock is a doctrine, the central doctrine of the church.
Third view – The rock is Christ Himself. He is certainly the foundation stone of the church (1 Cor. 3:11), the bed rock on which the human foundation is laid. As if He had said, Thou are Peter, "a piece of rock;" and I will build My temple (My church) on the Rock of Ages, of which you are a portion, since you are filled with me. Unger’s Bible Dictionary states, "To the church, Christ as the Rock is the foundation (Matt. 16:18) and the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20)." Peloubet concluded that the true interpretation of this passage included all three views, namely, that the rock was: (a) Peter, the confessor; (b) Peter’s confession; and (c) Christ Himself.
v 18 ... "I will build My church." This is the first appearance of the word ‘church’ in the New Testament. It means ‘called out,’ and was originally an assembly of citizens, duly called out to transact community business; denoting a congregation or assemblage of people called out. "The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek uses it to signify the congregation of the Hebrew nation" (Peloubet).
v 18 ... "And the gates of hell:" or Hades, the invisible land, the land of shadow, the kingdom of Death, and therefore of Satan, the king of Death. "It is the place where all who depart this life descend, without reference to their moral character" (Dr. Harrison). "Hades is regarded either as a castle, or, better, as a walled city or enclosure, in which the ‘gates’ stand for the entire wall, and this again for all which it encloses. The meaning is, the realm of death shall have no power over it; it shall be indestructible" (Kendrick). Ellicott wrote that "nothing in our Lord’s teaching is, as measured by man’s judgment, more wonderful than the utterance of such a prophecy at such a time. It was a time of seeming failure. He was about to announce His coming death as a malefactor; and yet it was at this moment that He proclaimed the perpetuity and triumph of the society which as yet, it may be said, existed only in the germ."
Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:19, 20
4. The Keys of the Kingdom
v 19 ... "And I will give unto thee." Peter represents the other apostles, because history shows that nothing was conferred on him which the others did not also receive. In Matthew 18:18, 19 the others are included in this promise (See also Jn. 20:19-23).
v 19 ... "The keys of the kingdom of heaven." The key: "The ancient Oriental key usually bore not much resemblance to the artistic little metallic instrument which we mean by the word, and which Italian painters pictured in Peter’s hand. It was a wooden apparatus, which often would heavily lade a man’s arm. There was a crook at one end so that it could be worn about the neck as a badge of office" (Abbott). Christ pictures His kingdom of obedient believers, the church, as a great building, with gates and doors over which His disciples have authority as porters; and, as stewards, access to its treasure rooms. The kingdom of heaven: "The phrase "kingdom of heaven" in the Gospels never means the visible, external, organic church. And rarely, if ever, does it mean the future state in contrast with the present, but the reign of God in the individual soul, or community" (Abbott). It means almost the same thing as ‘the church’ in the previous verse. It means the whole community of obedient believers, the new dispensation of grace. Here it is represented as a city or large house with entrance gates, and doors to treasure-rooms. Symbol of the keys: (a) In great houses and palaces there was of necessity a steward or general manager of the establishment. To this person was given the keys of the gates and to the treasure- house and storerooms. This person had general authority and control over everything. (b) Ellicott wrote that "the scribes of Israel were thought of as stewards of the treasures of divine wisdom (Matt. 13:52). When they were admitted to their office they received, as its symbol, the ‘key of knowledge’ (Lk. 11:52), which was to admit them to the treasure-chambers of the house of the interpreter." Martin pointed out that "when the Jews made a man a doctor of the law, they put into his hand the key of the closet in the temple where the sacred books were kept, and also tablets to write upon; signifying by this, that they gave him authority to teach, and to explain the Scriptures to the people."
The Statement: From the above facts we learn that in giving the power of the keys, Jesus made Peter and the other apostles His prime ministers, His authoritative representatives on earth, developing and organizing His kingdom after His death. This authority was best committed to those who had been trained under the personal supervision of Jesus, and later endowed by the abundant gift of the enlightening and guiding Holy Spirit. (a) They would be taught the true doctrines of the Gospel, through which those who believe and obey would come into the kingdom. (b) They were to be the instruments through which many would enter the kingdom. Example: Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost turned the key, admitting about 3,000 into the kingdom in one day. (c) Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit it gave them authority to decide the many administrative questions which would come up, such as the admission of the Gentiles into the church (see Peter’s vision in Acts 10); whether the Gentiles must conform to Jewish rites, decided in the council at Jerusalem, under Peter’s leadership (Acts 15); the appointment of deacons; the case of Simon Magus, and Ananias and Sapphira. (d) It gave them the key to the interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures. (e) It gave them the key to the treasure-house of Gospel knowledge. It was through their witness and preaching that we have the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, which are the authoritative rule of the church in all ages. The power of the keys is the assurance of the inspiration of the New Testament – The Christian’s power in the kingdom of God. In some degree all Christians have the power of the keys. On their faithfulness, true living and earnestness often depends whether the light of Christ will shine on those living in dark places, whether the lost receive the Gospel. The Christian also has the keys to the treasure-house of divine truth. The Holy Spirit will guide him in his search, enlighten his eyes, and he shall continually see new treasures in the Word, works and providence of God.
v 19 ... "And whatsoever thou shalt bind ... loose." Though some refer (a) the keys to the admission of ‘persons,’ and (b) the binding and loosing to the permitting or forbidding of ‘things,’ this is probably an explanation and confirmation of the gift of the keys. Morison points out that "the phrases ‘whatsoever thou shalt bind,’ and ‘whatsoever thou shalt loose,’ were common Hebrew expressions, having a definite and well-known meaning. ‘To bind’ meant ‘to forbid,’ or ‘to declare forbidden.’ ‘To loose’ meant ‘to allow,’ or ‘to declare allowable.’" "In a sense the words ‘forbidding’ or ‘allowing’ were common among the Jews. ‘No other terms were in more constant use in Rabbinic canon law then those of ‘binding’ and ‘loosing.’ They represented the ‘legislative’ and ‘judicial’ powers of the Rabbinic office" (Vincent).
v 19 ... "Bound in heaven." In the spirit of Peter’s confession, whatever the apostles might ‘forbid’ or ‘allow,’ received the sanction of heaven. In other words, as Barnes writes, "it received the authority and approbation of God. They were to be guided infallibly in the organization of the church; first by the teaching of Christ; and second by the teaching of the Holy Spirit." For examples of the exercise of this power (see Acts 1:15-22; 5:3-10; 6:2-4; 11:1-18; 15:4-29). "The power in this sense ceased with inspiration" (G.W. Clark). What powers were given to the apostles? (a) A power of understanding. The Holy Spirit opened their minds, allowing them to enter the treasure-house of Christ’s teachings and those of the Old Testament. (b) A power of invitation, so, as on Pentecost, their sermons were able to draw men by the thousands into the gate of salvation. (b) A power of exclusion, allowing them to close the doors of the church against the unworthy. (c) A power of administration, allowing them to wisely conduct the affairs of the church. The entire book of Acts is actually an illustration of the use of the keys, such as the collection for the Jerusalem poor (review c. under ‘The Statement’ paragraph above). These powers of the keys are still exercised by Christians, following the example of the inspired apostles. Spurgeon put it this way: "Today the Lord continues to back up the teaching and acts of His sent servants, those Peters who are pieces of the One Rock."
v 20 ... "Then charged He [with a note of warning] His disciples that they should tell no man," etc. Why? (a) Because the disciples were not yet fully schooled in the doctrine of the true nature of Christ’s kingdom and office, and would not be till the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost gave them understanding and power. (b) Because Christ wanted no disciples by hearsay or impulse, but those whose faith grew to conviction, as Peter’s had grown. (c) Because the people would be turned away from their spiritual needs and the new life which was essential to the coming of the kingdom. They would be turned away from their desire to realize the outward glories of their false conception of the Messiah as king, a danger completely removed after the crucifixion. (d) Because the announcement that Jesus was the Messiah would no doubt excite tumult and rebellion among the people in their likely attempt to try and make Jesus the leader of revolt against the Roman government, thus interfering with His true work, His plan for a spiritual kingdom, arousing the Romans against His church.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:21-23
5. The Cross and the Kingdom
We may be sure that the rock-foundation of Christ’s church is not Peter the man but Peter the first confessor and his confession. Why? Because we are now shown the leader of the apostles making a tremendous blunder and receiving a tremendous rebuke. This is actually a comfort, since we are all blunderers. It is in spite of our errors that Christ builds us into His church.
v 21 ... "From that time forth." Beginning at once, as the account in Luke makes plain. Not earlier, because the disciples’ faith in Christ as the Messiah had not been strong enough to endure the revelation of the Messiah’s shameful death. They were now prepared for the events hastening on.
v 21 ... "Began Jesus [His first announcement of this great fact] to shew unto His disciples [reminding them of Scripture they already knew, interpreting it] how that He must go [‘Must go,’ not because He was forced, or did not have power to do otherwise, but because it was necessary to accomplish His work of redemption into which He had gladly entered] unto Jerusalem [capitol of Jewish nation, symbol of the church, place of the temple, its sacrifices He had come to fulfill], and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes." "The three classes which constituted the Sanhedrin" (American Commentary).
v 21 ... "And be killed" By crucifixion – making the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. Was Christ’s death necessary? Not if men had been better; but such was not the case. The prophets knew that they would be evil. Christ’s death fulfilled those prophecies – it was the necessary result of man’s wickedness, which the prophecies pointed out. Christ’s death was necessary to carry the outworking of the union of God and man – the atonement – to its fullest extent and completeness. Nothing less than Christ’s death on the cross could show men the supreme horror of sin, and the supreme love of God for sinners.
v 21 ... "And be raised again the third day." The resurrection of Jesus was essential to the proof that He was the true Messiah. It was essential to His work of redemption, and reigning as King at the right hand of God (1 Cor. 15:14-18). In their grief at the disclosure of the cross, the disciples overlooked the brighter side of the revelation. But Christ’s resurrection was as necessary as His crucifixion; for no one could worship a dead Messiah. And, without rising from the dead, Christ could not bring our "life and immortality to light."
v 22 ... "Then Peter took Him [to one side, apart, in private] ... began to rebuke Him." He only began – for he was soon interrupted – finding fault with what Jesus had been saying, arguing against its truth. Peter was going to set Christ right. Peter had shown something of this already (see Mk. 1:36). Yet, no one doubts that Peter was moved by love; perhaps a little conceit as well.
v 22 ... "Saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord." The plan of redemption outlined by Jesus was so contrary to all Peter’s expectations and hopes, so completely opposite to every picture of the Messiah King and His reign, that it seemed inconceivable to Peter. To him it no doubt seemed absurd, ruinous, a deathblow to their hopes, and a triumph to their enemies. After all, Peter had gained only a glimpse of Christ’s spiritual kingdom, and still held to the false hopes of a material kingdom to which Christ’s death on the cross would be absolute ruin.
v 23 ... "Get thee behind Me, Satan." Satan means ‘adversary,’ the great ‘enemy’ of all good; used in the Savior’s time as a proper name. Christ is not calling Peter Satan. Instead, the Lord recognizes that Satan is using Peter as a mouthpiece for the same temptation which Jesus had faced at the beginning of His ministry. Ellicott pointed out that by suggesting that "Jesus might gain the crown without the cross, attaining a worldly kingdom, Christ saw the recurrence of the temptation which had offered Him the glory of those earthly kingdoms, based on the condition that Jesus would draw back from the path the Father had appointed for Him, leaving the thought of an invisible kingdom which He came to set up in the hearts of men (Matt. 4:1-11)." Morison adds: "He did not call His apostle ‘a satan, a devil,’ but for the moment He looked through Peter, and saw behind him His old enemy, cunningly making use of the prejudices and impulsive honesty of the undeveloped apostle." Why did Jesus react like this? William Barclay points out that it was because at "that moment the temptations came back to Him with cruel force. He had already faced them in the wilderness. From the beginning of His ministry He was tempted to take the way of power. ‘Give them bread, give them material things,' said the tempter, ‘and they will follow you.’ ‘Give them sensations,’ he said, ‘give them wonders, and they will follow you.’ ‘Compromise with the world,’ said the tempter. ‘Reduce your standards, and meet the world half way, and they will follow you.’ It was precisely the same temptations with which Peter was confronting Jesus all over again." These temptations were never completely absent from the mind of Jesus. At the end of the temptation story, Luke writes: "And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from Him for a season" (4:13). Again and again the tempter attacked our Lord. No one wants a cross; to die in agony. Even in the Garden this same temptation – to take another way – came to Jesus. Here Peter is offering ‘another way.’ The sharpness of Jesus’ answer is surely due to the fact that Peter was urging on Him the very things that the tempter no doubt constantly whispered to Him. Barclay says, "Peter was confronting Jesus with that way of escape from the Cross which to the end beckoned to Him." This is why Peter was ‘Satan.’ Peter’s ideas were of men, not of God. Satan is any influence that seeks to make us turn back from the hard way God has set before us. Satan is any power that seeks to make human desires take the place of the Divine imperative. No doubt, this temptation was felt more deeply by Jesus because it came from a loved one. We have some reasons for assuming that Peter himself was unaware of the full implications of the confession. Shortly after the confession we find him rebuking Jesus for teaching about His death and being sharply reprimanded (Matt. 16:21-23). We also know it was not out of the question for Peter to make statements, even by inspiration, the significance of which he did not fully understand (Acts 2:39; 10:28-34). We know that Peter could speak rashly in times of excitement (Matt. 17:4-5; Mk. 9:5- 6; Lk. 9:33). Even in a time of deep loyalty for his Master, Peter could utter a heartfelt conviction that would not stand up under stress (Matt. 26:33-35, 69-75). Therefore, we conclude that Peter probably did not realize the full significance of his true confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. Is it so difficult for us to understand why the Master spoke to Peter as He did? Jesus’ heart was deeply wounded, because the tempter spoke to Him that day through the mistaken, yet deep love of Peter’s heart.
Consider two early interpretations of the phrase: "Get behind me, Satan!" First, Origen suggested that, when Jesus said this, He was saying to Peter: "Peter, your place is behind Me, not ‘in front’ of Me. It is your place to ‘follow’ Me in the way I choose, not to try ‘to lead’ Me in the way in which you would like Me to go." If the phrase can, in fact, be interpreted this way, it seems that a little of its sting is removed. Why? Because it does not banish Peter from Christ’s presence. Instead it reestablished him to his proper place, as a follower walking in the footsteps of Jesus. We must always take Christ’s way, never seeking to compel Christ toward our way. Second, a further development of this comes from a close examination of what Jesus here says in the light of what He said to Satan in Matthew 4:10. The Authorized Version translates: "Get thee hence, Satan!" The Authorized Version translates: "Get thee behind me, Satan." The New King James Version translates: "Away with you, Satan!" As Barclay points out, "Jesus commanded Satan to ‘Begone!’ However, the Lord’s command to Peter is: ‘Begone behind Me!’ In other words, ‘Become My follower again.’" William Barclay further wrote: "Satan is banished from the presence of Christ; Peter is recalled to be Christ’s follower. The one thing that Satan could never become is a follower of Christ; in his diabolical pride he could never submit to that; that is why he is Satan. On the other hand, Peter might be mistaken and might fall and might sin, but for him there was always the challenge and the chance to become a follower again." It is as if Jesus said to Peter: "At this moment you have spoken as Satan would have spoken. But that is not the real Peter speaking. You can redeem yourself. Come behind Me – be My follower again, and everything will be fine." So, what is the basic difference between Peter and Satan? It is the fact that Satan will never get behind Jesus. We are going to fall, but as long as we try to follow Jesus Christ there is always the hope of glory both here and in the world to come.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:24
6. The Cross Applied to Men
The necessity of cross-bearing, which our Lord had just asserted of Himself, He now applies to all His disciples in the remaining verses of the chapter. It is part of the consequences of confessing Him. The way to the Messiah’s crown was through the cross. The way to their own crown of eternal life was through a similar path. Using illustrations they could understand, Jesus helps them perceive the reasons why He must suffer before He can reign.
v 24 ... "Then said Jesus unto His disciples [and to the multitudes whom He now called to Him [Mk. 8:34], If any man will [wills to, purposes to] come after Me," follow in My footsteps, enter My kingdom with Me. To ‘come after Me’ is to be My disciple, My follower; to go to the work, the joy, the heaven, the kingdom to which I am going.
v 24 ... "Let him deny himself." Renounce self as master, accepting Christ as Master. This precept rebukes self-will, self-indulgence and self-righteousness. Christ does not desire asceticism (1 Tim. 4:1-5); He has no pleasure in our pains. He wants us to be exultantly happy, but He wants us to seek our joy the way He found His – denying ourselves all that is wrong, as well as things good in themselves, such as comfort and wealth, when by self-denial we can help someone else. Self-denial: Self-denial for the sake of self-denial, as if our pains and troubles were a sweet incense to God – the more we suffer, the more He is pleased – is contrary to Christ’s teachings and promises. The Apostle Paul calls such self-denial a ‘doctrine of death’ (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Why? Because it belies God’s goodness, making us self-righteous, keeping us from true self-denial required by Christ. What is the self-denial that Christ requires? It is to deny ourselves everything wrong, no matter how pleasant it may be; it is giving up what is pleasant and right in and of itself, when we can best aid the cause of Christ and the redemption of our fellow-men; it is to do right, serve Christ, promote His kingdom at whatever cost; making Christ first and everything else second.
v 24 ... "And take up his cross." Luke adds, ‘daily;’ not once, but all the time. The cross is the pain side of the self-denial. Our cross is whatever we find hard to do or bear for Christ’s sake; when our wills cross the Divine will. The cross: (a) The cross is the symbol of doing our duty, even at the cost of the most painful death. Christ obeyed God, carrying out His work for the salvation of men, though it required Him to die on the cross. And ever since, the cross has stood as the emblem, not of suffering, but of suffering for the sake of Christ and His Gospel. It is the highest ideal of obedience to God at any and every cost. (b) Each one must take up his own cross. (c) He must take it up voluntarily; accept it, not merely enduring what is laid on him. (d) He is to do it as a follower of Christ. "The cross for the cross, never; but the cross for the Lord, always" (Monod). (e) The cross is a test. It is the sieve that sifts out false followers – testing whether we are disciples in deed and in truth, or only seekers after the loaves and fishes.
v 24 ... "And follow Me." To follow Christ is to take Him as our Master, Teacher, Example; to believe His doctrines, uphold His cause, obey His precepts, though it leads to heaven by the way of a cross. It is not merely to do right, but to do right for His sake, under His leadership, according to His teaching.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:25-28
7. Consequences of Confession
v 25 ... "Whosoever will [willeth, determines to] save his life." Whoever makes this present existence – its ease and pleasure – his supreme object, shall lose the higher, enduring life; but whoever is determined, for Christ’s dear sake, to ignore the lower life, will find the higher life, including all of the lower worth having, and infinitely more. In other words, one who makes the pleasures and enjoyments of life a chief aim; one who determines to have worldly blessings and rewards, even at the expense of righteousness, religion, and the service of his Master.
v 25 ... "Shall lose it." Shall lose all that makes life worth living; even the earthly rewards which he once called his life, as well as eternal blessedness.
v 25 ... "And whosoever will [is willing to] lose his life:" to give up those outward things which are desirable and blessed in and of themselves, for which worldly men chiefly seek, and which seem to make life on earth happy and worth living – honors, riches, pleasures, power.
v 25 ... "For My sake." Mark adds, ‘for the Gospel’s.’ The mere loss of life has no promised blessing. It is only loss for the sake of Christ that has this promise. Multitudes of people love their lives for gain, pleasure, fashion, etc. Each of these has more martyrs than the cross ever required; but such loss is without spiritual compensation or hope.
v 25 ... "Shall find it." Whosoever loses for the love of Christ, for the sake of preaching and advancing the Gospel shall find it – shall have a blessedness and glory which will a thousand times compensate for every loss. Such loss is temporal, the gain eternal. Such loss is small, the gain infinite. Such loss is of outward things, the gain is in the nature of the soul itself.
v 26 ... "For what is a man profited." ‘Some have said this consideration of ‘profit’ and ‘reward’ is only another form of selfishness. But selfishness is the seeking of our own good at the expense of or injury to others. To seek what is profitable is not selfishness, but wisdom. It is simply folly to throw away life, pleasure, or wealth for no good whatsoever. The wise man wants to know what good will come from it, both for himself and others. Only a fool has no regard for profit.
v 26 ..."If he shall gain the whole world." All the pleasure, wealth, sources of enjoyment, honors, blessings, this world has to give. But note the ‘if.’ Very few that lose their souls gain the whole world, or even its smallest part.
v 26 ... "And lose his own soul." ‘Soul’ here is the same word translated ‘life’ in the previous verse. The meaning is the same, for life is the life principle inherent in the soul – the soul in its active enjoyment, enduring nature and capabilities. Therefore, if a man in gaining the whole world becomes lost (Luke), as on a desolate island, or if he dies in the process, or if he loses his health and is racked with pain, or if he loses his innocence and is tormented with remorse, what has been gained? All this applies with double force to the eternal loss of character, happiness and peace.
v 26 ... "Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" There is no compensation for the loss of the soul. All other losses may be repaired. The loss of the soul is without remedy and without hope.
v 27 ... "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father." In that day, those that have been ashamed or afraid of Christ’s cross on earth will find the Lord of heaven ashamed of them (Mark). Morison points out that "real character resolves itself into the real doing, working, acting, of the soul. He who is meet (suitable, fitting, proper) in character for bliss shall have bliss adjudged to him. He who is not meet (suitable, fitting, proper) for bliss shall be condemned (See Matt. 25:31-46)." Everything in the judgment will be according to truth. The "well done" will be spoken only to those who have done well; and "enter into the joy of your Lord" only to those who have been faithful to their Lord. What is a brief pain or trouble here when compared with eternal bliss?
v 28 ... "There be some standing here," etc. There were some there before Him who would live to see the beginnings of Christ’s kingdom, the marvelous conversion of about three thousand at Pentecost, the end of the Jewish dispensation in the fall of Jerusalem, and the spread of Christianity throughout Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy, were within the lifetime of perhaps the majority of Christ’s listeners.
Practical Thoughts: (a) Verses 13-15 – There are still many varying opinions regarding the Christ. The outside world rates Him far too low, and therefore misses the blessing. (b) Verse 26 – Christ’s character, works and kingdom on earth, compel us to believe that He is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. (c) Verse 17 – Those who live nearest to God and abide under the influence of His Spirit have the strongest faith in the Divine Son of God. (d) Verse 18 – The true church is sustained and built up by those who have a living faith in the Divine Son of the Living God. (e) The true church with the indwelling Christ is safe against all the powers of the enemy. (f) Verse 19 – In degree, every Christian has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. By doing his duty in praying, giving, working, souls will be brought in. By neglect, they will be left out. (g) The rules and administration of every local congregation of the Lord’s church should be guided by the Holy Spirit, so that what they forbid or permit on earth shall be approved in heaven. (h) Unless a church has the Divine Christ dwelling in it, it will be too strenuous in forms, or too loose in practice. (i) Verses 21-23 – We are ever tempted to substitute worldly wisdom in religious affairs for the Divine wisdom and methods; but the suggestion proceeds from Satan. (j) Good men sometimes do the devil’s work, though they don’t know it. (k) Verse 24 – In His service, Christ sets difficulties, trials, joys and prospects before those who would become His disciples. (l) We are to renounce the world as ‘master,’ using it only as ‘servant.’ Like fire, the world is a good servant, but a terrible master. (m) Christ’s cross is the sweetest burden that we could ever bare. It is no more a burden than wings are to a bird, or sails to a ship. (n) Verse 25 – No man ever really gained anything by doing wrong. (o) It is amazing how small a price some will exchange for their soul. (p) Verse 26 is an unanswerable arithmetical problem; requiring an infinite series to express the answer. (q) Verses 27, 28 – The triumph of Christ and His kingdom is certain. All of us can see the signs of His coming, and the dawning rays of His glory.
The Confession Needed Today: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." (a) Prompt, like Peter’s. Every day’s delay is a day lost for Christ and ourselves. (b) Unreserved, like Peter’s. Unless Christ has every claim on us, He has no claim at all. (c) Bold, like Peter. We should care more about bringing a smile to Christ’s face than all the frowns and sneers of men. (d) Humble, as Peter came to be, when he learned his weakness and need. "I am not good enough to be a Christian" – how many say that! But this is the very reason to become a Christian, because no one is good enough. It is the sick who need the physician. (e) Confident, like Peter. Christ will accept us, and even praise us, and build us into His church, in spite of our flaws – in spite of our failures. (f) Self-sacrificing, as Peter became – he who, as legend says, begged to be crucified head downward, thinking himself unworthy to suffer in the same position as his Lord.