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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Matthew 16

Verse 1

16:1 A full description of these two sects will be given at verse 12. They were opposed to each other in various respects, but often forgot their differences and united in opposing Christ or his apostles. Their motive in coming to Jesus here was to tempt or test him. Had they been honestly seeking for evidence of the might and wisdom of the Lord he would have granted the request, but he never performed a miracle to gratify mere curiosity or to meet a challenge.

Verse 2

16:2 Jesus referred them to their own study of the heaven in which they professed to know how to figure out the future by the present indications.

Verse 3

16:3 The signs of the times were as clearly portrayed in the Scriptures as were the weather signs, yet they pretended there was nothing on record to indicate the work and purpose of Jesus. Since this was only a pretended necessity for additional evidence Jesus called them hypocrites.

Verse 4

16:4 This subject of the sign of Jonas is explained at chapter 12:40.

Verse 5

16:5 The preceding verse says that Jesus departed from the multitude. He and his disciples had been in the vicinity of Magdala which is on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. They then crossed over the sea, and verses later in the chapter show that, they were to spend some time in an uninhabited territory where there would be no opportunity to purchase provisions. Jesus knew the disciples had forgotten to attend to that matter (Mar 8:14 says they had one loaf), and decided to use the fact as a basis for a test of their faith in him as one who could and would care for them.

Verse 6

16:6 Without mentioning bread directly, Jesus warned them against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sad-ducees whom they knew to be two evil groups of Jews.

Verse 7

16:7 There is no logical connection between literal leaven and these sects as far as the disciples were considering it. But a guilty conscience sometimes interprets an unrelated statement as a rebuke and that is what they did about Christ's remark.

Verse 8

16:8 Jesus accused his disciples of small faith because they were disturbed over as trival a matter as a shortage of bread. Had there been no visible prospects for food at all for the present, their general knowledge of past experiences should have given them confidence that nothing serious would be allowed to happen to them.

Verse 9

9-10 It seems that man needs to have his faith renewed from time to time on account of his unreliable memory. Moses had seen all the mighty works of God in Egypt and the Red Sea, yet when he was told that nation was to be given an abundance of flesh to eat he wondered where the Lord would get it. (See Num 11:18-23.)

Verse 11

6:11 Jesus needed only to state that he was not considering bread when he used the term leaven, for the disciples then concluded rightly that he had used if figuratively.

Verse 12

6:12 The disciples made the correct interpretation of the comparison and applied it to the dootrine or teaching of those two sects. I shall give the description of these prominent groups of the Jews as may be learned from reliable works of reference. "What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers which are not written in the law of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sad-ducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory [binding] which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers." Josephus, Antiquities, Book 13, Chapter 10, Section 6. "In addition to the books of the Old Testament, the Pharisees recognized in oral traditions a standard of belief and life. They sought for distinction and praise by the observance of external rites and by the outward forms of piety, such as ablutions, fast-ings, prayers, and alms-giving; and, comparatively negligent of genuine piety, they prided themselves on their fancied good works. . . . A Sadducee, a member of the party of the Sadducees, who, distinguished for birth, wealth, and official position, and not averse to the favor of the Herod family and of the Romans, hated the common people, were the opponents of the Pharisees, and rejecting tradition acknowledged the authority of the Old Testament alone in matters pertaining to faith and morals; they denied not only the resurrection of the body, but also the immortality of the soul and future retribution, as well as the existence of angels and spirits." These last two quotations about the Pharisees and Sadducees are the historical remarks of Thayer in his Greek lexicon, the original words being PHARISAIOS and SADDOUKAIOS. Having given an extended account of these two sects for the information of the reader, I shall summarize it by saying that the false doctrine of the Pharisees was that the tradition of the fathers was of equal authority with the written Scriptures. That of the Sadducees was that there would be no resurrection of the body and consequently no future life.

Verse 13

6:13 Jesus and his disciples having landed on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee they journeyed northward until they came into the coasts or vicinity of Caesarea Philippi. This is to be distinguished from the Caesarea that was on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The place got its name by the desire of Herod Philip who wished to honor Caesar and himself both by a twofold name. That was accomplished by the name which we have just read as the double name includes both Caesar and Philip. Jesus concluded it was time to introduce the most serious phase of his own authority and purposes. He opened the subject by inquiring about the current opinions concerning himself; not of his doings but of his identity. He had been out among the people long enough for them to have formed some kind of ideas as to his real standing as a public teacher. He could not have asked this question for information for he already knew what was in man (Joh 2:24-25). Hence it was asked to bring out the contrast that should be existing between the opinions of the common people and that of the men who had been chosen to be the apostles after .Jesus was ready to leave this world.

Verse 14

6:14 All of the persons named had died, hence the reference to them in connection with Jesus was on the theory of the transmigration of souls. See the explanation of that subject with the comments on chapter 14:2.

Verse 15

6:15 Jesus then came out with the climax of the conversation. The answer to the question he was going to ask would be read by future generations. The apostles had been with him and seen his work and heard his teaching. It remained to be shown by the answer whether that association had made any better impression on them than was expressed by the common people. Jesus asked them (all of the apostles) for their estimate of him regarding his identity.

Verse 16

6:16 Jesus had addressed his question to all of the apostles, but it would not be expected that all of them would speak at once in answering the question. Peter was generally the spokseman for the others, and if what he said did not agree with them they would have made it known. The reply that Peter gave to the question embraced all that Jesus claimed to be. The word Christ means "anointed" and as it applied in this case it meant that Jesus was the one that God would recognize as a ruler in the kingdom. The Son is equivalent to the phrase "only begotten Son" in Joh 3:16. God has numerous sons from a spiritual standpoint, but Jesus is the only one who is the offspring of the person of God. The living God signifies that he is not the offspring of the idol gods for they are lifeless objects.

Verse 17

6:17 Bar-jona means son of Jona, and the full name is given to distinguish him from others who were named Simon. Flesh and blood hath not revealed it. Peter could not have received this information from any human source, hence it had to come from the Father in the way of divine inspiration.

Verse 18

6:18 I do not believe it is necessary to trouble ourselves about a grammatical basis for arguments that are frequently made over the original Greek words for Peter and rock. It is true that they are different from each other to some extent. But if we should consider them only in their literal meaning they are similar. But we know that Jesus did not mean to tell Peter that he was to be "the rock" on which the church would be built. It is also clear from other passages that Peter is in the foundation of the church but so are all the apostles (Eph 2:20). Then we cannot single out this one apostle and say that he is the foundation rock as the Romanists teach. The rock on which Christ intended to build his church was his own divinity that was embodied in the confession that Peter had just made. Much questioning also is done as to the antecedent of it; but that, too, is needless for we know that Jesus meant everything that would be necessary to accomplish his purpose of building his church. Gate is from PULE and Thayer defines it, "access of entrance into any state." Hell is from HADES and means the state or place of the soul after death. Jesus knew he must die and that his soul would go through this entrance to Hades, but that those gates would not be able to retain him, for he would come out from within them into life again so that he could perfect his work of setting up his church.

Verse 19

6:19 Keys is from KLEIS which Thayer defines, "a key. Since the keeper of the keys has the power to open and to shut, the word is figura- tively used in the New Testament to denote power and authority of various kinds." There is -nothing significant about the plural form of the word, but it is a part of the same figure that Thayer uses in his definition. The man who has charge of a building carries a group of keys, hence the word is used in the plural form; literally there is but one key to the kingdom of heaven and that is obedience to the requirements of the Gospel. Jesus was speaking directly to Peter because he was the spokesmen for all the rest. We know it was not meant that Peter alone was to have the keys, for Jesus said virtually the same thing in Joh 20:21-23 and he was talking to all of the apostles. Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, etc. This is Christ's own comment on the keys of the kingdom. He intended to send the Spirit upon the apostles to "guide them into all truth" (Joh 16:13), so that they would make no mistake in telling men what they must do to be saved. Being thus inspired, their teaching to men would be according to the will of heaven and hence it would be ratified there. Whatsoever thou shalt loose, etc., means the like thought on the negative side of the subject. No one has the right to bind any doctrine on men that was not required by the apostles. While on this verse it should be observed that in this conversation with the apostles, Jesus speaks of the church and the kingdom of heaven in the same sense, showing that no distinction is to be made today, for the kingdom is afterwards spoken of as being in existence (Mat 26:29; Rom 14:17; Col 1:13; Col 4:11; 1Th 2:12; Heb 12:28; Rev 1:9).

Verse 20

6:20 A command similar to this one is in chapter 17:9, except that a certain time was set before which the disciples were not to make the specific announcement of the divinity of Christ. The crowning fact that was to prove that great claim of Jesus was to be his resurrection after three days. The public ministry for the general teaching about the kingdom that was at hand was drawing nearer to its close, and Jesus did not wish to release this fundamental truth unto the world prematurely.

Verse 21

6:21 See the remarks of the preceding paragraph about the progress of the ministry of Jesus. Since it was in that stage, it was time to begin preparing the minds of the apostles for the tragic events not far ahead, including the death and resurrection of their Lord with whom they had been so closely associated in the work.

Verse 22

6:22 The idea that Peter had in this impulsive speech was that something certainly would be done to prevent the thing Jesus had predicted. His own action recorded in Joh 18:10 indicated that he was willing to help prevent the tragedy.

Verse 23

6:23 The primary meaning of Satan is "adversary," and when Peter intimated that he would try to prevent the thing that Jesus declared would be done he became an adversary to him. Savourest means to be thinking about some subject of personal interest, and in this case it was the idea of an earthly kingdom that occupied the mind of Peter. He wanted such a kingdom to be set up because of what it would mean to him, and certainly such an event would require the living presence of the king. A part of Thayer's definition of the original for offence is, "an impediment placed in the way." Were Peter to have his wishes carried out in this matter it would have been an impediment to the great plan that Jesus had in view.

Verse 24

6:24 After is from OPISO and Thayer explains the word at this place to mean, "to follow any one as a guide, to be his disciple or follower." Deny is from APARNEOMAI which Thayer defines, "to deny," and explains the definition to mean in this passage, "to forget one's self, lose sight of one's self and one's own interests." Figures of speech are based upon some literal fact. Take up his cross is a reference to the rule of compelling a condemned man to carry his own cross to the place of execution. If the victim became unable to bear it alone, someone would be made to take up the rear part and help carry it, walking after the other to the place of execution. (See Luk 23:26.) The present verse means that a professed follower of Jesus must be willing to help bear the trials and self-denials that were practiced by him.

Verse 25

6:25 This verse is explained at chapter 10:39.

Verse 26

6:26 World and soul are used in the same sense as the two kinds of life in the preceding verse. The thought is that the things of this world are altogether not as valuable as the soul of man, and that if one were to exchange his soul to gain this world it would be a transaction without profit.

Verse 27

6:27 It has been nineteen centuries since Jesus uttered the words of this verse, but he wished his disciples to have something to look for as a reward for their sacrificing everything necessary to save their soul and gain that which is worth more than all this world. They were expected to rely on the promise of Christ because of their faith in him, because the reward would not come in their lifetime.

Verse 28

6:28 The preceding verse gives the promise of reward for faithful work at the second coming of Christ. As a guarantee of the surety of that promise, Jesus told them that some of them in his presence would live to see the great event that was to prepare men for that last day of accounts. They were promised the honor of seeing the Son of man in another manner; he was to be seen spiritually in his kingdom. We incidentally may obtain an important truth by this statement. The kingdom was set up in the time of those apostles, and that disproves the heresy taught by some today that the kingdom is still in the future.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 16". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/matthew-16.html. 1952.