THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson we mainly looked at Matthew 15 in which Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for putting the traditions equal with and at times greater than Godís law. We see Jesus encounter a Gentile woman who was persistent and faithful. We ended with Jesus healing more people including a deaf and mute man and He feeds 4000 men. Jesus gets on a boat and is now in the region of Magdala.
Our study begins in Matthew 16 and Mark 8. Matthewís account gives us more detail, so letís begin in:
Matthew 16:1 Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.†
The Pharisees and Sadducees did not really like each other because of their different views of doctrine. However, Jesus had a way of bringing Him enemies together because both of these groups despised Jesus and wanted him dead. This is not the only time these two groups will come together for the common cause of trying to trap Jesus so that He might be discredited or put to death.
These men want Jesus to show them a sign from heaven. Markís account says this:
Mark 8:12 †But He sighed deeply in His spirit.
Have you had one of those moments when you were trying to explain something to someone that is so obvious, yet the person just does not seem to be able to comprehend it no matter how many times you try and explain it? If you have experienced that, you know how frustrating that can be. Well, this gives you a good idea of how Jesus felt at this moment and why it is that he sighed deeply in His spirit.
Jesus has done many miracles up to this point. The Pharisees and Sadducees had seen some of these miracles and no doubt heard about many others. Though much proof has already been given, these guys want another sign. Whether they meant some sort of sign from heaven itself such as the sun standing still or just another miracle that was undeniably from God, Jesus knew that it would not matter what He did as this point because they were unwilling to believe. Had He done another miracle at this point, they would just try and explain it away or accuse Him of being a vessel of the devil. Next, we read:
2 He answered and said to them, "When it is evening you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red';† 3 "and in the morning, 'It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.†
These Pharisees and Sadducees were not incapable of observing the signs that were right in front of their faces. Jesus points out how they have no problem observing the sky to know when bad weather is on the way. These same observational skills could easily be used to see the signs of the times that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the coming Messiah. Please note what Mr. Comffan wrote:
What are "the signs of the times"? (1) The prophetic weeks of Daniel were about to expire. (2) The great herald of the new age, John the Baptist, had appeared according to prophecy, "in the spirit and power of Elijah." (3) The scepter had departed from Judah and the lawgiver from beneath his feet (Genesis 49:10). (4) Even a "sign from heaven" had already been given at the baptism of Christ when God spoke out of heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). (5) It had been revealed to Simeon that he should not die until he had seen the Lord's Christ; and it must be presumed that Simeon, by that time, was long since dead and buried. (6) All the world was expecting the coming of some Great One. (7) The Christ himself, "that Prophet like unto Moses," had appeared upon the banks of the Jordan and had been identified by John the Baptist as "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world"! And John was the only authentic prophet Israel had had in half a millennium. Yes, it must be admitted that the Pharisees missed the signs of the times, however skilled they might have appeared as weather prophets! (Coffman Commentaries on Matthew).
Jesus goes on to say:
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.
The main purpose of Jesusí miracles was to prove that He was the Son of God. When that primary purpose would fall on blind eyes, Jesus would not do miracles because it would be pointless, not because He was not capable of doing them. Jesus had already proven who He was to these men by the numerous miracles He had already done. So, He says these men belong to a wicked and adulterous generation who only seeks after signs, but the only sign they will receive is the sign of the prophet Jonah.
While this statement probably left them scratching their heads, the sign of Jonah is referring to his being in the belly of that fish for 3 days and nights before he was brought back to the shore alive, which is symbolic of Jesusís death and resurrection, which would be the ultimate sign that Jesus is the Messiah. According to Mark,
Mark 8:13 And He left them, and getting into the boat again, departed to the other side.
One thing I would like for you to learn from this is that while you may love someone with all your heart and desperately want him to understand the importance of becoming a Christian and living for God, you cannot and must not waste all your efforts on that person. I am not saying† give up on him, but like Jesus, you need to depart from him and seek others who are more receptive to the truth.
Next we read:
Matthew 16:5 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."† 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have taken no bread."†
This is yet another classic example of how clueless Jesusí apostles were at times. They knew they had forgotten to take bread with them, which caused them to have a preconceived idea in their heads. When Jesus told them to beware of the leaven of the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Herod, which Markís account adds, they somehow twisted this into thinking Jesus was getting on to them for not bringing bread. †
How many times have we found ourselves guilty of this same thing? I donít think there is a person on this earth who has not been guilty of this. When we have a preconceived idea about something, we tend to take what we hear and make it fit with our preconceived idea no matter what is said. We do this with people as well. We might think a person who is stubborn is always stubborn about everything. So, no matter how that person responds to what we say, we are going to think that person is being stubborn even when he is not. We must learn to not allow our preconceived idea to cloud our judgment. Notice Jesusí response:
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?† 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?† 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.
Leaven is usually used in a positive light, but this example shows leaven being used in a negative light because is talking about the negative effects of these menís doctrine. Jesus knew that if they allowed themselves to let the leaven of these men to penetrate their hearts that it could cause them to be corrupted with their false teachings especial those things about Christ. While this is not a complete list, I like the summary that Mr. Coffman gives regarding the false teachings of these Pharisees and Sadducees.
They had formed a powerful, socially prominent, politically dominating alliance against him and were advocating his rejection with every cunning and lying argument possible. They argued: (1) that Christ could not be the Messiah, because Elijah had not yet come; (2) that his signs were not "from heaven," but from earth; (3) that the demons he exorcised were, in truth, cast out by the power of the devil; (4) that he was a violator of sacred traditions; (5) that he profaned the sabbath; (6) that the Scriptures "proved" the Messiah could not come from Galilee, but from Bethlehem (John 7:41); (7) that none of the rulers of the people believed on him (John 7:48); (8) that they KNEW him to be a sinner (John 9:24); (9) that he was a glutton and a winebibber; (10) that he was a Samaritan; (11) that he was a friend of publicans and sinners; and (12) that he was a deceiver. (Coffman Comentary on Matthew).
You have to appreciate Jesusí patience with His disciples as He walked them through what He meant. He points out how illogical it would be for Him to be talking about bread because He has already proven by feeding the 5000 and the 4000 that bread is not an issue. He finally makes some headway with them because they finally understand that He is not talking about bread, but about the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
What we need to learn from this is that we have to be careful with what allow coming into our hearts. We should never think that we can keep poking a porcupine and never get pricked. No matter how strong your faith is, if you keep subjecting yourself to the leaven of the world or of false teachers, it can and will affect you to the point to where you do not feel as passionate about sin as you did before. We should all beware of any leaven that does not agree with the Word of God.
Mark 8:22 Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him.† 23 So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything.† 24 And he looked up and said, "I see men like trees, walking."† 25 Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.† 26 Then He sent him away to his house, saying, "Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town."
Jesus is now in Bethsaida. As usual, people are bringing the afflicted to Him. This time it is a blind man. Mark is the only one who records this event. Jesus leads the man out of the town. Our text tells us that He spits on his eyes and puts His hands on him. After doing this, Jesus wants to know if he saw anything.
This first time, he is able to see some, but not clearly because he could not see the details of the men walking around. Instead, they looked like trees. The fact that he knew the difference between what a man and a tree looked like tells us that he was not born blind, but became blind as some point in his life.
Next, Jesus puts his hands on the man again and has him look up. This time his sight is fully restored. As Jesus had done many times before, he tells the man to not go back in town or to tell anyone in the town about what just happened.
This miracle is a unique one. It is the only miracle in which Jesus heals a blind man in two stages. Since our text does not tell us why it was done in two stages, many have speculated several reasons. Personally, I do not think that this miracle indicates that Jesus had to take two tries to make this man see because over and over again, He did all kinds of miracles that just took 1 time with some of them being miles away from Him.
Whatever the reason, I believe there was a purpose to this. I suppose you could interpret this several ways, but it seems reasonable to me that when Jesus asked him if he could see anything after the first time indicates to me that Jesus knew that he would not see clearly at that moment. Some have suggested that Jesus was showing that He could also heal in stages. In other words, He could heal someone all the way or make them halfway healed. Of course, in the end, we see Jesus fully healing this blind man so that he can see clearly. Whatever the reason for doing this in two parts cannot be known for sure, but what we do know is that this was another great miracle done by Jesus.
Our next event is Peterís great confession of Jesus being the Christ. This event is recorded in in Mt. 16:13-20; Mk. 8:27-30; Lk. 9:18-21. †Matthewís account gives us the most detail, but Lukeís account gives one detail the others do not, which is that Jesus was praying alone and disciples come along and join Him. With this mind, letís begin looking a Matthewís account.
Matthew 16:13 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?"
Dummelow identified Caesarea Philippi as that built by Philip the Tetrarch, situated at the sources of the Jordan, near the foot of Mount Hermon (9,000 feet), in the midst of magnificent scenery. It was a Gentile city, often called Paneas (now Banias), because the god Pan was worshipped there. The other Caesarea on the sea coast, was called, for distinction, Caesarea Palestina. (J. R. Dummelow, One Volume Commentary (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 680.)
Jesus is asking His disciples an important question about what people are saying about who He is. Notice their response.
Matthew 16:14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
Some might consider this as a compliment to Jesus, but it is not because these people had missed the big picture that He is the Son of God. Now you might wonder why they might think he was Jeremiah. Well, this idea of Jeremiah coming back comes from 2 Esdras, which is one of the Apocrypha books. These are uninspired books that were written during the 400 years of silence from God between the OT and NT. 2 Esdras said that Jeremiah would come back before the Messiahís kingdom was set up.
The fact that so many were thinking Jesus was someone other than the Messiah shows how well the opposing Jews had convinced the people that Jesus was not the Christ. Of course, people and even the apostles themselves were confused about the kingdom that Jesus came to establish because they were all looking for a physical kingdom instead of a spiritual one. Now we know who most people thought Jesus was. Next Jesus asked:
Matthew 16:15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
At this point, Jesusí disciples have been with Him around 3 years. They have seen a lot of miracles and heard Jesus teach many things. If anyone would answer this question correctly, you would think it would be His apostles. So, what is the response?
Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, 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.
Peter is usually the first to speak out. Sometimes that causes him to put his foot in mouth, other times something great is said at that moment. Though many others doubted who Jesus really was, Peter could look at the life of Christ and all that he saw with his eyes and could boldly say with all confidence that Jesus is Deity, the Son of God.
Jesus is well pleased with Peter because of this great confession. When Jesus says this was revealed to Him by His Father in heaven, I do not believe this talking about some special revelation the Peter received that others did not, but that this truth about who Jesus was came from observing Him as He continued to carry out the will of the Father. Any way you look at it, the source of this truth ultimately came from the Father. Jesus goes on to say:
Matthew 16:18 †"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.† 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."† 20 Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.
There are three different issues we need to deal with in this text that some are confused about. For example, the Catholics teach that the church was built upon Peter. They come to this conclusion because the name Peter means rock, so they believe Jesus is saying that Peter is the rock He will build His church on. This might sound logical at first, but a quick a look at the Greek will show that it is not logical at all.
The name Peter does mean rock or stone, but it comes from the Greek word Petros, which is in the masculine form, which you would expect since we are talking about a man. However, the word rock, which Jesus said He would build His church on comes from a different Greek word Petra, which is in the feminine form. Also, this word means rock, but it we are talking about a cliff, a ledge or a very large stone. It becomes quite clear that Jesus was not talking about building His church upon Peter. If He had wanted to teach that, He would have said that He was going to build His church on Peter instead of using another Greek Word.
Some have suggested that if Jesus had illustrated this to Peter, He could have picked up a small rock, which would be equivalent to the rock described by Peterís name, and then pointed to a nearby cliff or large boulder as talked about building His church. Of course, another point I donít want to miss is the fact that Jesus said He would build His church singular. The Bible only teaches about there being one church and not denominations.
So what was Jesus referring to? What is this rock He will build His church on? It is the great confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Our second problem comes from the Jesus giving †Peter the keys to the kingdom. The Catholics would claim that this also points to Peter being the first Pope. After all, He was given the keys to the kingdom or we could say keys to the church. There are several problems with this idea. First, this text shows that Peter could not be who Jesus would build the church on because He was just giving Him the keys to open the door. Peter cannot be the foundation and the door opener at the same time. The keys of the kingdom have to do with revealing the truth about it, which presents the second problem. Peter was not the only one who opened the door to the kingdom because he was not the only one holding these keys. Peter did not stand up on the Day of Pentecost by Himself and preach. No, it was all 12 apostles that did this.
Letís look at our verse one more time.
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."
Please notice that whoever has the keys of the kingdom would bind on earth what is bound in heaven and loose on earth what is loosed in heaven. Jesus told this same thing to all the apostles in Matthew 18:18.
Matthew 18:18 †"Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Therefore, the keys of the kingdom were given to all the apostles and the authority to preach what came from heaven was given to them all as well. Peter was not the Pope, nor did he behave like the Popes that the Catholic Church have put in place by their manmade traditions.
Our third problem comes from the binding and loosing statement. Jesus was not saying that the apostles or Peter could bind and lose things on earth as they saw fit. No, the grammatical structure of what Jesus said means that the apostles were to reveal or teach those things that were already bound or loosed in heaven. In other words, everything they would teach from inspiration would come from the authority of heaven and never from the apostles themselves.
I am surprised that people would even think that Peter or the apostles could bind or lose things on their own considering the Jesus Himself only taught and did those things His Father in heaven showed Him to do. This teaches us a great lesson that we should always respect the Word of God and what it says about different matters and for us to never take manís opinion over what God Word says because only it can tell us what is to be bound and loosed.
Jesus commands His disciples not to reveal His true identity and then we read:
Matthew 16:21 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.
This is a clear statement from Jesus about how He would go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of His enemies, be killed and raised on the 3rd day. Those who teach the rapture theory think that Jesus failed to setup the earthly kingdom He was supposed to, yet Jesus shows that He knew He was going to die for mankind when He came to earth. The OT also prophecies about how the Messiah would be put to death. So, none of this took Jesus by surprise because it was supposed to happen this way. His death would be the only worthy sacrifice to reconcile man to God. So, those who teach the rapture doctrine have a great misunderstanding of Scripture. Notice Peterís reaction to this:
Matthew 16:22 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."
Peter just made the great confession of Jesus being the Christ, but now he sticks his foot in his mouth trying to become the teacher and trying to say that the role of Christ should not be fulfilled. Jesus has to go from blessing Peter to rebuking him. However, He did not rebuke him like He did the devil because He tells Peter to get behind Him, which is basically saying, ďPeter, stop taking on the role of the teacher and get back behind me and follow my lead.Ē Peter was not considering the will of God at this moment, but was just speaking from His heart. Many have found themselves opposing the will of God when they listen to their hearts instead of the will of God.
Matthew 16:24 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.† 25 "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.† 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?† 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.† 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 is what true discipleship is all about. If we are going to follow Jesus, we must make the commitment to put Him first in our lives. Nothing this world has to offer is worth losing our souls over. When we keep our focus on the big picture of eternity in heaven, then we will even be willing to give up our physical lives before we turn our backs on God and His Word.
As Jesus said, there is a day coming when all of life on earth will end, which is the judgment day. On that day, we will receive the reward based on our works. If you are a worker of righteousness, then heaven will be your home. If you are a worker of wickedness, then your home will be in hell.
Verse 28 is a death blow to the rapture doctrine because Jesus says that some living at that time would not die until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom or as Markís account says, they will see the kingdom of God present with power. Those who teach the rapture doctrine say we do not have the kingdom yet. So, that would mean that some of those people Jesus spoke to would still have to be alive today, but we know this is not true. The kingdom came with power on the day Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostle when they used the keys of the kingdom to open the door as they proclaimed Jesusí death, burial, and resurrection in Acts 2.
We have learned a lot in this lesson, but I hope you walk away with the basic principle of how important is that we always commit ourselves to God and His will and never allow the leaven of the world or false teachings to corrupt us.