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The sign of Jonas, the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees guarded against; Peter's profession of Christ, and the Lord foretelling his death, are the several subjects of this Chapter.
"The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven. (2) He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye 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 lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? (4) A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed."
It is very awful to behold men in an unwakened, unregenerate state, professing, like those Pharisees, great concern for religion. In all ages there have been multitudes amusing themselves, and deceiving others, on this ground. Signs from heaven, false: interpretation of the Prophets, and men untaught by God the Holy Ghost, setting up a system of instruction for others. To all such the cross of Christ will be as offensive as to the Pharisees of old. But to all such there will be no sign given but like that of Jonas, to offend them still more, and to work no work of grace.
"And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. (6) Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (7) And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. (8) Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? (9) Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? (10) Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? (11) How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? (12) Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees."
The caution the Lord gave to his disciples then; of a leaven in their doctrine, I venture to believe, was generally intended as a caution to all his disciples, in every age of the church. And never was there a period where the caution was more needful than now. Oh! what a leaven mixes in the present hour with the pure doctrines of Christ, and even in churches calling themselves Christian? Freewill, self-righteousness, improvements of grace, and conditional salvation with some, and the denial of the Holy Spirit's agency, with the work of regeneration, and the justifying righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ with others, to say nothing of numberless other corruptions which have crept, in among men, to the great injury of the faith once delivered unto the saints, these too plainly prove that the precept of Christ, to beware of the leaven of deception and error in doctrine, is highly seasonable in the present day of the Church.
"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? (14) And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. (15) He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? (16) And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (17) And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (18) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (19) And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (20) Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ."
The question Jesus here put to his disciples, is that grand and momentous question which everyone should ask his own heart, for in the proper apprehension of it consists everlasting life. John 17:2-43.17.3 . Some read the words thus. Whom do men say that I am? Do they call me the Son of Man? Do they indeed know me in my human nature, the seed of the woman promised? Reader! it is blessed, yea very blessed, so to know him. Hebrews 2:16-58.2.18 . The various opinions concerning Christ at that time, may serve to shew that there always hath been, and always will be, as now, great variety of notions, concerning Christ. But, Reader! there can be but one right judgment, and that must be formed from divine teaching. And hence, when Peter for himself and his few faithful companions, declared that Jesus was the Christ of God , the Lord made this remarkable answer; that flesh and blood could not reveal the glorious truth; and none but the Father which is in heaven. I beg the Reader to pause over this account of Christ for his own sake, and see whether his knowledge of Christ comes from the same Almighty teaching. If, my brother, like Peter, you know and believe that Christ is the Christ of God, most evident it is, from what Jesus hath here said, that you have never learnt it from flesh and blood, but God himself hath been your teacher, and, like Peter, you are blessed in that knowledge also. See those sweet Scriptures; Matthew 11:27 ; John 6:45-43.6.46 ; Galatians 1:15-48.1.16 ; Ephesians 1:17-49.1.18 ; 1 Corinthians 12:3 ; Ephesians 3:14 , etc. What follows in the promise made to Peter, is not simply to Peter as Peter, but as representing the Lord's body, his Church. Christ himself is the rock Jehovah hath laid in Zion. So the Prophet was commissioned to tell the Church. Isaiah 28:16 . And so Peter himself, in reference to Christ, explained it. 1 Peter 2:6-60.2.8 . Hence when Jesus said, upon this rock trill I build my Church, he meant himself, on whom Peter and all true believers are alike built, and from their union with Christ, neither hell nor corruption shall be able to prevail. By the keys of the kingdom of heaven, given to Peter, I venture to believe (but I do not presume to decide) is meant the power and prevalency of prayer, whensoever Jesus, by his outpouring of his Spirit, gives a spirit of prayer, And certain it is, that when the Lord the Holy Ghost gives a spirit of grace and. supplication to a child of God, the prayer, indicted by the Spirit, is in conformity to the will of God, and exactly in unison with the intercession of Christ. Hence the binding, or loosing, both in earth and heaven, must be secured, because all the Persons of the God. head are engaged in the agency. Whatsoever ye ask in my name, (said Jesus,) believing, he will give it you. John 16:23 .
"From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. (22) Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. (23) But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."
Observe with what tenderness the Lord Jesus begins to prepare the minds of his disciples for the great event coming. Oh! the love of Jesus! But observe the mistaken views of Peter upon the occasion. No doubt it was love in Peter to the person of his Lord; which could not bear the thought of his dear Lord's sufferings. But alas! Peter what would have become of Christ's Church, if Jesus had not died to redeem it? I have often paused over the passage. Think what Christ said to his dear servant; get thee behind me Satan! Is this Peter, who, but a little before, Jesus, the Son of God, declared to be blessed? Never did the Lord Jesus use such language, and that to a child of God, and one of his own redeemed ones. But, Reader! while you and I consider, as in the instance of Peter, how a soul may be made blessed in the abundance of revelations, yet what temptations the same may fall into, when the Lord remits but a moment his teachings: and while we learn this from the character of this Apostle, let us yet abundantly more look unto the Lord Jesus in this instance, and see how his zeal for his Father's glory, and an holy love: to his body, the Church, made him long for the hour, when, by his sufferings and death, he should accomplish redemption for his people. Oh! thou precious Lord Jesus! with what earnestness didst thou enter on this baptism of sufferings, and how wast thou straitened until it was accomplished!
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (25) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (26) For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
How graciously the Lord took occasion, from the mistaken views of Peter, to warn and teach all his disciples to be on their guard against all such influence. All the disciples, as well as Peter, were tainted with the same misapprehensions. And, Reader! are we not all? But ease, in this life, is not attainable with following the cross of Jesus. And the profit of the whole world, with the loss of the soul, would leave a man poor indeed.
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (28) Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here which shall not taste of' death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom,
These verses are blended as if expressive of the same truth. Every coming of Christ is glorious, both when he comes first to awaken a soul, and in all the after visits of his grace, until he finally comes to take his redeemed home to glory. And Jesus puts his name, the Amen, the faithful witness, to the truth of it, that some then present would not, like holy Simeon, sec death until they had seen Christ's kingdom of grace, leading to a sure kingdom of glory. And this was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, and is fulfilled in every instance of a redeemed soul, when awakened from darkness to light, and from the power of sin and Satan to the living God.
Lord, I pray thee! keep my soul from every leaven, which, mingled with the complete justifying righteousness of my Lord Jesus Christ, would rob my God of his glory, and my soul of happiness. And doth my God and Savior demand of my poor soul who Jesus is, amidst the varieties of creeds and professions of the present day? Oh! for the teaching of God the Holy Ghost, the revelation of God my Father, and the blessed manifestation of the Son of God to my heart, that I may bear a fixed, unalterable, and decided testimony, before Angels and Men, that thou art the Christ of God, the Lord, my righteousness. Oh! yes! thou Holy One of Israel! thou art indeed the Christ of God, the Word of God, the Lamb of God, the wisdom of God, and the power of God, for salvation to everyone that believeth. And oh; my honoured Lord, as thou hast said, flesh and blood cannot reveal it, and none but God the Father can give a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, hath the Lord given to me this spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of my Lord; then let me take to myself the blessedness of the discovery, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Oh! for grace to savour the things which are of God, and not those which are of men. Give me, blessed Jesus, grace to follow thy cross, and learn all the necessary exercises of self denial, that being conformed to thy image here; I may be satisfied When I awake up after thy likeness hereafter!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 16". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany