Centered on Christ

Explore the Bible Series

October 28, 2007


Background Passage: The Gospel of Matthew 16:13-17:27

Lesson Passage: The Gospel of Matthew 16:13-28


Introduction: This week’s lesson contains wonderful, sublime truths and battleground passages that have seriously divided Christians for centuries. Despite the disputes, Christians agree that the deity of Christ shines through in these chapters, and the gloom of doubt and despair gives way to the glorious light of the self-revelation of the Son of God.





Outline of Background Passage:


I.                   The Confession of Simon Peter (16:13-20)

A.    Jesus’ questions for the disciples (vv. 13-15): The Lord asked the Twelve about the popular perceptions of his identity.  Clearly, Jesus wasn’t taking some kind of public opinion poll; nor was he seeking information from the disciples.  It appears that he aimed at their self-awareness, and the disciples offered several answers to Jesus’ question: John the Baptist (apparently Herod believed Jesus was the reincarnation of John), Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.  The Master didn’t evaluate their responses; rather, he posed a more pointed question about their understanding of his identity, “But who do you (plural pronoun) say that I am?”

B.     Peter’s answer to Jesus’ second question (v. 16): acting as a spokesman for the group, Peter made two assertions about Jesus.

1.      “You are the Christ”: Simon affirmed the apostolic conviction that Jesus was the Messiah, the promised anointed one who fulfilled the prophecies and covenants of the Hebrew Scriptures.

2.      the Son of the Living God”: While Peter did not deny the Lord’s continuation of the Hebrew prophetic tradition, he did distinguished the Lord’s office from the prophets. Jesus was not only a prophet, but he was the fulfillment of the great prophecies of the Old Testament.  Note that Jesus did not deny or correct Peter’s claims.

C.     Jesus’ response to Peter’s observation (vv. 17-19)

1.      “Blessed are you…”: Again, Jesus did not Peter’s affirmation; instead, the Lord commended the disciple’s insight.

2.      “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you…”: Clearly, Jesus meant that God had revealed this insight to Peter.

3.      “on this rock I will build my church”: This statement has become a battleground between Protestants and Catholics.  Historically, Roman Catholics have rested, on this text, their assertions concerning the primacy of Peter.  As I understand Catholic theology, they believe this passage affirms their views about Peter’s papacy, the primacy of the bishop of Rome, papal infallibility, and apostolic succession. Protestant theologians have interpreted this verse in several different ways, and, in my judgment, some have reacted so vigorously to the Catholic position that they deny any reference to Peter in this text.  While I do not believe this passage will bear all the weight Catholics claim, I do think the grammar indicates that Peter would play a significant role in the establishment of the New Testament church: his prominence at Pentecost, missionary activities, taking the gospel to the Gentiles (the conversion of Cornelius), and participation in the Council of Jerusalem. Jesus promised to build his church on this rock, and the gates of hell (Hades) would not prevail against the institution built on Peter and his insightful confession. 

4.      “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom…”: Jesus entrusted administrative authority to Peter (later the Lord extended this authority to other disciples- see Matthew 18:18). Jesus must have had in mind Isaiah 22:22, a passage that reflects the authority entrusted to Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah.  The image, it seems, focuses on the honor and administrative authority of Peter and the apostles. These men recounted the life and message of Jesus, organized local assemblies of believers, counseled churches on matters of theology and practice, settled ecclesiastical disputes, and establish missionary strategies.  Please observe carefully the nature of Jesus, statement.  He did not say, “whoever you bind... loose…” rather, he said, “whatever you bind… loose.” 

D.    Jesus’ charge to the disciples (v. 20): Some mystery attends this statement. Jesus cautioned the Twelve about indiscriminate preaching of the Lord’s identity.  Many misunderstood the true nature of the identity and work of the Messiah, and undisciplined announcements about the Messiah might set off unfortunate consequences.  Furthermore, all four Gospels indicate that Jesus intended to devote these last months to special training and preparation of his disciples, and a premature announcement might derail the Lord’s intent concerning the Twelve.


II.                Jesus Foretold His Crucifixion and Resurrection (16:21-28)

A.    A dramatic change in Jesus’ ministry (vv. 21-23): Matthew’s account marks a significant shift in Jesus’ work.  While, of course, he continued to minister to the public, the Lord now centered his attention on the special training of the Twelve.  If, indeed, the apostles possessed the keys of the Kingdom, they, above everyone else, needed a strategic understanding of the things that would soon transpire in Jerusalem.  Jesus made sure they would not misunderstand the significance of the Lord’s death and resurrection.  Obviously, Peter did not have infallible insight when he rebuked the Lord, and Jesus sharply withstood the impetuous disciple.

B.     A striking demand of the Lord’s disciples (vv. 24-28):  Jesus disclosed that suffering and death awaited him in Jerusalem; however he also claimed that a cross awaited all of his followers. Following Jesus entailed more than feeding hungry crowds, healing the sick, and enjoying ht exhilaration of popular acclaim. No, discipleship demanded a denial of self and a bearing of the same reproach, persecution, and violent opposition that Jesus endured.  Verse twenty-eight, in my judgment, refers to the redemptive process that the disciples would soon observe: the transfiguration, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the ascension, and Pentecost.


III.             The Transfiguration and Its Aftermath (17:1-27)

A.    Jesus transfigured before three disciples (vv. 13): The first milestone in the coming of the Kingdom transpired on unidentified mountain.  Three disciples accompanied Jesus to a solitary place, and, according to Luke, the Lord engaged in a season of prayer.  The drowsy apostles awakened to a transformed Savior.  Moses and Elijah, representatives of the Law and the Prophets, attended Jesus, and the three disciples fell on their faces in fear.  Peter, awestruck by the luminous vision, proposed that the disciples build tabernacles (huts reminiscent of the Feast of Tabernacles) for the distinguished figures that appeared before him.  As Peter spoke, a radiant cloud enveloped the Lord, Moses, and Elijah.  This cloud, like the great pillar that attended the Children of Israel in the time of the Exodus, denoted the presence of the Father.  God spoke from the cloud and affirmed the father’s approval of the person and work of the Son.  Then, as suddenly as the remarkable scene unfolded, the Lord appeared alone before his terrified disciples.  This episode reveals the matchless mercy of God.  As the horrific humiliation of Jesus approached, the Lord gave these disciples and unmistakable and unforgettable glimpse of the divine glory of the Savior.

B.     The healing of a demonic boy (vv. 14-21): The Lord and his “inner circle” descended from the Mount of Transfiguration, and, as they encountered a large crowd, the people a loving father complained that the other disciples had failed to help his poor son.  The boy, oppressed by a demon, suffered from terrible seizures, and the desperate dad brought his son to the disciples.  Their meager faith failed to help the father and son, and the Lord, after healing the boy, rebuked the nine for their faithlessness.

C.     Jesus reiterates his prediction of the Passion (vv. 22-23): The time reference is uncertain, but this second prediction of the Passion occurred in Galilee.  As before, the disciples were deeply distressed by the Lord’s words.  They learned about these things very slowly, and, apparently, they had no understanding of Jesus’ statement about his resurrection.

D.    Jesus paid the temple tax (vv. 24-27): This chapter ends with an account of Jesus’ obedience to Exodus 30:11-16.  According to this Old Testament text, Jews paid a tax for the support of the tabernacle (later the Temple), and, Jesus, in obedience to this directive, miraculously provided payment for the tax. Matthew, the former tax collector, is the only Gospel writer to record this event.