Tonight we will finish Matthew 16 by reading and studying verses 13-28. The first section we will look at tonight is verses 13-20.
In this passage, Jesus asks His disciples a question, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” It is obvious that Jesus knew who He was, as He refers to Himself as the Son of Man. This term, the “Son of Man” might not make sense the first time we read it. We are all sons of men, after all. In Jesus’s case it was notable that He is named the Son of Man because He was God come down to earth in human form. So when Jesus asked the question, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” of His disciples, He is acknowledging His divinity as known among them, but He wanted to know who the common population thought He was.
Jewish history in the Old Testament has many prophets working miracles for God’s glory, so it is not surprising that people thought of Jesus as one of these prophets or even John the Baptist, who had gained a following before his death. But Jesus’s question then segues into a follow-up question of who the disciples thought He was. Peter answers truthfully and honestly that Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God.
Jesus’s reply to Peter in verses 17-19 can be misinterpreted. When Jesus affirms Peter’s answer and builds upon Peter’s declaration, Jesus is speaking in a way that reveals the plan for spreading the gospel after He dies and is resurrected. For the church is not built on Peter, but rather is built upon the fact that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son sent to seek and save the lost. Peter’s and the other disciples’ efforts to preach and spread the gospel would help to build the church. The Holy Spirit will also eventually provide them with the ability to perform miracles. The binding and loosing remark meant that they would have the power and knowledge to preach what is lawful and what is unlawful.
Jesus’s request that they not reveal His identity came so that the spreading of this information not compromise His earthly purpose by prematurely bringing judgment and punishment upon Him.
Verses 21-28 include two important ideas for us as Bible students: Jesus was continuously tempted and to follow Him requires sacrifice.
When Jesus tells the disciples that He would have to die, Peter objects strongly, naively thinking that Jesus was above such a thing. While Peter’s strength of belief is impressive, it also reveals that he did not yet fully comprehend Jesus’s purpose on earth. This was the first time that Jesus told them what literally needed to happen in order for Him to fulfill His purpose and die for the sins of all humanity. This concept is is of a divine design and did not necessarily gel with the ways the disciples understood Jesus up to this point.
Nevertheless, Jesus persists with an explanation because He knows that they will ultimately understand and preach the plan of salvation to mankind.
Jesus’s rebuke to Peter is eye-opening because He calls Peter Satan. Of course Jesus does not literally think of Peter as Satan, but Peter’s admonition to Jesus that He was too good to suffer such things represented to Jesus a temptation. Jesus was a man while on earth after all and although He never sinned, He did experience all temptations just as we do, and that too so that He can aid us when we are in need (Hebrews 2:17-18). Jesus’s temptation in this instance was to forego the suffering on the cross and thwart God’s plan.
But as we can see in verse 23, Jesus’s resolve to remain true to the plan of salvation was very strong and He would not allow the temptation to remain before Him for long. His resistance to it provides an excellent example for us, in fact. Do I let a temptation hang around in front of me, do I let it stay in my brain as it continues to wear me down until I ultimately give in? Or do I absolutely and immediately resist as Jesus does in verse 23? It is easy to see which is the more effective practice!
Finally in verses 24-28, we have Jesus’s admonition to both the disciples and to us by extension that we should sacrifice all for Him. Living for Christ is the answer; living for self is ultimately an empty pursuit. All of the money and possessions in the world are nothing beside the hope we have in heaven with Jesus Christ. How am I living today?