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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 16

 

 

Verses 1-4

CHAPTER 35

SIGNS OF HIS COMING

Matthew 15:39. “Having sent away the multitudes, He entered into a ship, and came to the coasts of Magdala.” Mark 8:10 : “Immediately embarking on a ship, with His disciples, He came into the parts of Dalmanutha.” In these records, chronicling the peregrinations and defining the whereabouts of our Savior, Matthew and Mark precisely agree, both certifying His embarkation, crossing the sea, and His landing — the latter in Dalmanutha, which is the name of the country; and the former, in Magdala, which is the name of the city into which He came on landing. This is the nativity of Mary Magdalene, the latter cognomen being taken from her city, Magdala. Though evidently saved out of the slums, by the ejectment of seven demons, she became one of the brightest saints and truest disciples on whom the sun ever looked down, being last at the cross, first at the sepulcher, and first to receive the full-orbed gospel commission, “Run and preach the risen Christ.” Among the mighty works of Jesus, only a small fraction do we have on record. We have no account of Mary Magdalene’s conversion; but a mere reference to the ejectment of the seven demons, and her subsequent incessant concomitancy of our Lord to the end of His earthly ministry. I trow, she was converted during the present or some other visit of Jesus to her city, Magdala. I feel it pertinent thus to write about her, as she stood at the head of the female department of our Savior’s ministry.

Matthew 16:1-4 : “The Pharisees and Sadducees, coming to Him, tempting, asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. He, responding, said to them, It being evening, you say, It will be fair, for the sky is red; in the morning, It will be stormy today, for the sky is red, lowering. O ye hypocrites, you truly know how to discern the face of the sky, and are you not able to discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous nation seeketh after a sign; and no sign shall be given unto it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” He had fed the multitudes this second time over in Decapolis, not very far out in the country, off the southeast coast of the Galilean Sea; after which, coming with His disciples and embarking on a ship, He crosses the sea from southeast to northwest, landing at Magdala, which is on the coast between Bethsaida and Tiberias, but nearer the former. I was in it, and as I sailed all around the sea, landing at many places, I saw all of these localities, and this as well as other routes pursued by our Lord and on record for our edification.

“Jesus now preaches to the multitudes assembled at Magdala, in the land of Dalmanutha.” Here we have, by Matthew and Mark, the subtle attack made on Him by the Pharisees and Sadducees. These, and the Essenes, were the great denominations of the Jewish Church. The Pharisees were the orthodox, with plenty of good and true doctrine, but spiritually dead; the Sadducees were rich and worldly, skeptical in doctrine, regarded as the heterodox wing of the popular Church; while the Essenes, very poor and generally living in the desert, were the holiness people of that day. As in all ages and countries there has been an exterminating war between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, so it was in that age. The Pharisees and Sadducees, however, bury the hatchet, and unite their forces against Jesus, as we see on this occasion, and may see all over this country, if you will open your eyes. Let a holiness evangelist come to a wicked town, and pour out the lightning — truth of full salvation, and the warring sects will all make peace, like Pilate and Herod, and unite their forces, to criticize, oppose, and if possible defeat the revival. Though Jesus had flooded the whole country with His stupendous miracles, always exercising His power for the relief of suffering humanity, doing good to soul or body; dissatisfied with these wonderful benefactions, which they could neither criticize nor call in question, they allege that these works are all confined to this world, and as Moses, the great leader, lawgiver, and mediator of Israel, whose disciples they boastingly claim to be, had fed them with manna from heaven, incessantly, forty years in the wilderness, therefore they demanded of Him a similar miracle, coming down from heaven. He now, responsively to their impudent and arrogant demands, called them hypocrites; not by way of insult, but because it behooved the Author of all truth to call everything by its right name; and if these preachers had enjoyed the true light of God, instead of antagonizing Jesus, they would have been His faithful and loving disciples. Hence, the reason why, with all their meteorological sagacity, which enabled them to prognosticate the weather, and still they could not discern the spiritual signs of the time, was demonstrative proof that they were not the true ministers of God as they claimed to be, as in that case, the light of the Holy Ghost on the prophecies would enable them so to decipher the signs of the times as to know that He was truly the Christ. That it was not the want of natural intelligence was abundantly evinced by their accurate discriminations of the weather. But it was simply the want of spiritual illumination, which the Holy Ghost sheds on the Word, clear and unmistakable to the spiritually-minded. Hence, the very fact that those preachers were utterly blind to the signs of the times was demonstrative proof that they were hypocrites. What were those signs of His coming? The seventy weeks of Daniel — i.e., four hundred and ninety prophetic years — were just about expired. The scepter, which was not to depart from Judah till Shiloh (Christ) came, had actually departed about the time of His birth, as, on the death of Herod, Augustus Caesar, the Roman emperor, instead of transmitting to Archelaus, took it away altogether, turning Judea into a Roman province, and sending Coponius to serve as proconsul. Besides, all the prophets had just poured out torrents of Messianic predictions, which were wonderfully fulfilled on all sides; John the Baptist, the last of all, and the greatest of the prophets, not only having preached Him with all His might, but actually introduced Him publicly to all the people, assuring them of His Messiahship. If these preachers had not been bigoted and blinded hypocrites, they would most assuredly have seen in Jesus the Christ of prophecy.

Let us beware lest we plunge into the same awful dilemma. The present age is flooded with prophetic signs of the Lord’s near coming, as we are now in the last century of the demiurgic week; the six thousand years, according to some chronologies, already out; while all of them expire the period in the present century. The Gentile times, according to Daniel and John, are actually running out on us, the lunar chronology having them already expired, the Calendar due in twenty-four years, and the solar in seventy, all conspiring to illustrate the obvious fact that we are living in the time of the end of the Gentile age. Besides, the prophetical fulfillments among the Mohammedans, Romanists, heathens, and Protestants, and especially the Jews, literally girdle the globe with signs of His near coming; e.g., the rapid gathering of the Jews to Palestine, the revival of the old cities in that country, the great and rapid apostasy of the Church in the home lands, and the wonderful and unprecedented progress of missions among all heathen nations, are all literal fulfillments of the latter-day prophecies, ominous of the Lord’s near coming. And yet preachers by thousands see nothing of it, but comfort their carnal members by ridiculing the awful and momentous truths which God’s awakened people are preaching in all the earth, arousing the spiritually-minded to wash, and dress, and be ready for their coming King. We should not be surprised at the blindness of the pulpit and pew with reference to our Lord’s second coming, when we see how literally this state of things was verified in His first advent; as intellectual and educational culture has no power to open spiritual eyes, and reveal the electric light of God’s truth, so we may expect to find humanity uniform in all ages, and the same paradoxical blindness on Israel this day which, in the visitation of her Lord, disqualified her learned preachers to see Him.


Verses 4-12

PHARISAIC LEAVEN

Matthew 16:4-12; Mark 8:13-21. “Leaving them, embarking again in a ship, He departed to the other side.” This voyage was from Magdala, on the northwest coast, over to the region of Bethsaida Julias, on the northeast coast. “And they forgot to take bread, and had but one loaf with them in the ship. And He admonished them, saying, See, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Matthew 16:6. “And Jesus said to them, See and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And they were reasoning among themselves, saying, It is because, we did not take bread. Jesus, knowing, said to them, Why are ye reasoning among yourselves? O ye of little faith, because you did not take bread? Do you not yet understand? Do you not remember the five loaves and the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves and the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? How do you not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread, To beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 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 here and elsewhere, so frequently mentioned in the Bible, Old and New, is always true to its lexical meaning, zurne, “fermentation, corruption,” . . . making everything sour, having wonderful power of interpenetration, so that it literally permeates every atom of the mass into which it is introduced; in that respect pertinently illustrating the kingdom of heaven, as our Savior gives us a parable, setting forth the secret and incessant work of the Holy Ghost in the heart and the spread of the gospel throughout the whole world, using the simile of “leaven,” as He represents the omnipotence and independency of God by the “unjust judge, who neither feared God nor regarded man.” The leaven here, as you see, means the false, corrupt, dead religion of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the debauched politics of the Herodians, in harmony with its lexical meaning and constant Scriptural use, as Paul calls Christ the “Unleaven Bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7), exhorting us to become like Him, by getting rid of all leaven — i.e., all corruption, and everything that would make our religion sour; as we are warned by Wesley against sour godliness, which is Satan’s counterfeit sanctification. In this discourse, which our Savior preached to His disciples in the ship, we see that He warns them against the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians. O how pertinent this admonitory exhortation comes this day to all Christendom! Now what is the leaven of the Pharisees? You are well apprised that they, as Paul tells us, were the “straightest sect” i.e., the orthodox denomination of the Jewish Church — so rigidly contending for every tenet of the Mosaic and prophetic doctrines, and so very punctilious in their pursuit of every ramification of not only Biblical, but even traditionary, teaching; conspicuously punctilious in keeping all of the commandments. Now this was not the leaven; for leaven means corruption, and this was right. Well what was their leaven? Our Savior defines it didache, from didasko, “to teach;” hence it means teaching. Well, what was their teaching? Why, they taught the people that salvation was obtained by keeping the commandments and conforming to the law.

Hence, you see, Jesus warns us against the dead orthodoxy of the Pharisees. You may be straight as a crowbar, and still as dead and cold as a crowbar. You may be as orthodox as Wesley, Knox, and Bunyan, and still dead as a hammer and cold as an iceberg, only waiting to warm in hell. What was the leaven of the Sadducees? They did not believe all the Scriptures, and were not orthodox like the Pharisees, yet, you see, Jesus puts them in the same black catalogue, having the same trouble; i.e., they were spiritually dead, and neither of them had salvation. Now, what is the leaven of the Herodians? The Herodian family had long been the rulers of that country, through Roman patronage, the old king, who was on the throne of Judea when Jesus was born, having reigned thirty-eight years, and died while the infant Christ was in Egypt, being the last king of the Jews, according to prophecy; was an especial favorite of Caesar’s, who honored him with the title of king. Subsequently to his death, his sons had been kings and proconsuls of Judea, Galilee, Perea, Iturea, and Trachonitis, all being invested with their offices by the Roman emperor. Hence, the Herodians were a political party, in favor of Roman rule in that country. Though the Pharisees and Sadducees were in open hostility to all the sympathizers with Roman rule, and longing to regain their independence, yet in their malignant opposition to Jesus, they actually unite with the Herodians. Now how does this warning to beware of the Herodian leaven apply to us? The Roman Government was an awful military despotism, full of political intrigue and corruption. O how pertinent for the people of God at the present day to beware of the corrupt politics which inundate the country with intrigue, peculation, perjury, and an overflowing sea of vice and fraud, actually threatening the very stability of the Republic!

Now I think we understand our Savior’s salutary admonition to His disciples, aboard the ship crossing the sea of Galilee. Shall not all of us, who are sailing over time’s stormy sea on the good old Ship of Zion, heed this warning of our Prophet? Now what is it? Hear, and govern yourselves accordingly. Beware of dead orthodoxy, whether in Methodism, Baptistism, Presbyterianism, or Quakerism. Orthodoxy can never keep you out of hell. You must, with all your orthodoxy, have matter of fact, experimental, personal regeneration and sanctification; i.e., spiritual life and holiness. Beware of dead heterodoxy, like the Sadducees; and beware of politics — do not talk them, but talk about Jesus. Do not read political papers, but read your Bible and holiness literature. Go quietly to the polls, and vote on the Lord’s side of every question, knowing no politics, but “seeing Jesus only.”


Verses 13-16

CAESAREA-PHILIPPI

Matthew 16:13-16; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20. This is the northern terminus of our Savior’s ministry, two days’ journey on horseback from the Sea of Galilee up the Jordan Valley to the foot of Mt. Hermon, where a great spring is one of the principal sources of the Jordan. This city is just over the border of Galilee in Iturea, at the time of our Savior under the tetrarchy of Philip. M.: “And Jesus having come into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, asked His disciples, saying, Whom do the people say that I, the Son of man, am? And they said, Some say, John the Baptist; others, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or One of the prophets. He says to them, But whom do you say that I am? And Simon Peter, responding, said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus responding, said to him, Blessed art thou, Simon, the son of Jonah; because flesh and blood did not reveal it to thee, but My Father who is in the heavens.” About twenty-eight months have rolled away since our Lord entered upon His ministry, meanwhile He has flooded Galilee with His miracles; visited, in person or by the Twelve, nearly all the cities and villages in Israel. Despite all efforts, John the Baptist sending his disciples, with the avowed purpose of bringing Him out into an unequivocal proclamation of His Christhood, — He simply sent them back, to tell John about the mighty works which they had seen.

a. Doubtless our Lord felt that it was better for His works to proclaim His Christhood than that He should publicly avow it. Here was the trouble: the prophets had wrought miracles, especially Elijah and Elisha, even raising quite a number from the dead. Consequently some, and among them King Herod, thought He was John the Baptist risen from the dead. As Elijah had wrought such stupendous miracles, bringing fire from heaven and raising the dead, on the very ground traversed by Jesus, many thought that He was some one of the old prophets who had risen from the dead. During these twenty-eight months, while the whole country has been flooded with miracles so stupendous as at once to beggar all cavil, the people have had an opportunity, by the irresistible fact of His mighty works, corroborated by His inimitable preaching, to settle down in the conclusion of His Christhood without an open proclamation.

b. The simple fact is that the Jews, having endured the galling yoke of a foreign despotism thirty-two years, and all settled in the prophetical revelation that the Christ is to be King of the Jews, are eager to crown Him the very moment that matter is settled, while the Roman soldiers were holding the gates of every city, ready to kill any man who would claim to be king, without having received the crown from the hands of Caesar. This was the very accusation written over His bead on His cross when He was crucified) “This is the King of the Jews.” Hence the necessity of postponing the open avowal of His Messiahship to the latest practical date.

c. I trow, this was the reason for His going away off to Caesarea-Philippi, out of the circle of His old audiences, and away from the multitude, who had crowded after Him, professing discipleship. When I visited Caesarea- Philippi, I went up on one of the peaks of Mt. Hermon, hanging over the city, where there is a great military citadel, about two thousand feet long and three hundred wide, built of solid masonry, though in ruins, the walls mainly yet intact, which had been occupied during the ages of Roman, Saracen, Crusade, and French rule, within which there is an old temple, said to have been built by Herod the Great. Tradition says that in this temple, when Jesus preached to the people, He proclaimed His Christhood, propounding the above questions to Peter, the apostolic senior, and in this, as well as other cases, the representative and speaker of the Twelve.


Verse 18-19

CHAPTER 36

THE CHURCH

Matthew 16:18-19; Mark 8:30; Luke 9:21. Matthew “And I say 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. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of the heavens; and whatsoever thou mayest bind on earth, shall be bound in the heavens; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in the heavens. Then He commanded His disciples that they must tell no one that He is the Christ.” It is really indispensable at this date of our Lord’s ministry, that His leading disciples, and especially the apostles, should have clear and positive information as to His Messiahship, only eight months of His earthly ministry still to transpire, with the exception of the forty days intervening between His resurrection and ascension. Now that He is gone away off, out of the circle of His ministry, into this temporary retirement in Sryia, He has an opportune privilege with His disciples alone. As to the multitudes, still let them solve the problem in contemplation of His mighty works, which were certainly calculated to settle the conviction of all the unprejudiced that He was truly the Christ. As He moves on in His ministry, the public proclamation of His Messiahship comes more and more to the front, the matter being in such a shape with the Jews and Romans that such an avowal would cost Him, or any one else, His life. We now reach a grand, salient epoch in our Savior’s ministry, when the gospel Church is conspicuously revealed to the apostles as destined to supersede the politico-ecclesiasticism of the former dispensation. N.B. Peter is a Greek word, and means “rock.” Jesus gave it to Simon, indicative of his firmness. The world, however, never saw the rock in Peter’s character till after the fires of Pentecost had burned out all the trash of depravity, revealing to all the world the solid rock, which caused him to live a hero and die a martyr. When our Savior says to Simon, “Thou art Peter” — i.e., “Thou art rock,” He used the word Petros, which means a broken rock, such as we use in a building — immediately He says, “Upon this rock,” using the word Petra, which means the great unbroken strata, underlying the continents and oceans, and constituting the foundation of the earth. This word He applies to Himself. All Christian character, in this life, is more or less fragmentary, Jesus being the only Integer, whom we all imitate, and to whose perfection and glory we aspire, living in the hope of that coming glorification which shall make us like Him. Now what about the Church? Our Savior’s word is Ekklesia, from Ek, “out,” and kaleo, “to call.” Hence it means the “called out” — no hereditary hierarchy, nor ecclesiasticism, like Judaism; but the individual souls, in every nation, who hear the call of the Holy Ghost (and He calls all), and come out of the world, forsaking all, and identifying themselves with God for time and eternity. These, and only these, constitute the Church of God. Now He said, “On this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.” We must go down through all the sand, mud, soapstone, and slate, till we strike the solid rock, and there build our superstructure, if we want it to stand. The calling out by the Holy Ghost is regeneration; and the building on Christ, sanctification. Hence the instability and vacillation peculiar to unsanctified Christians; while the genuine and thorough sanctification gives you a stability which will not cower in the presence of roaring lions and martyr fires. “Here,” He says, “I will build,” i.e., edify you indefinitely. While the negative side of sanctification, going down to the deep foundation of the earth, and consciously reaching the solid rock, is definite and complete. The erection of the superstructure — i.e., the building of Christian character — will not only continue through this life, beautifully progressive, but through all eternity, towering into loftier heights, and broading into grander dimensions, thus accumulating the Divine similitude and glory, the wonder of redeemed humanity, and the admiration of the unfallen intelligences of the celestial universe through the flight of eternal ages. Comparatively few have any correct conception as to what the Church is. They think the carnal, worldly people, constituting the congregations in the different denominations, are the Church; whereas none but the truly regenerated ever have been or can be members of God’s Church; regeneration bringing you in, and sanctification establishing you, qualifying you for official responsibilities, such as the pastorate, the diaconate, eldership, evangelism, and teaching.


Verses 21-23

HIS DEATH & RESURRECTION

Matthew 16:21-23; Mark 8:31-33; Luke 9:22. Matthew: “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that it behooved Him to depart to Jerusalem, and to suffer many things from The elders, the chief priests, and scribes, and to be put to death, and to rise the third day. And Peter, taking Him to him, began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be to Thee. And turning, He said to Peter, Get behind Me, adversary; thou art My stumblingblock, because thou dost not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Our Lord is still up at Caesarea-Philippi, with His disciples, teaching and revealing the deeper things of His kingdom, not only to their edification, but their astonishment. It was the misfortune of the Jews so to mix up the prophecies appertaining to the first and second coming of Christ, that they ran into much bewilderment for the want of the necessary discrimination and division of God’s Word; while Isaiah and others had vividly revealed His humiliation, as a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;” as a “Root out of dry ground, without form or comeliness, and none desiring Him;” “Led as a lamb to the slaughter, as a sheep dumb before His shearers, opened not His mouth;” “In His humiliation, His judgment was taken away” i.e., He had no fair trial, but was mobbed, contrary to both Jewish and Roman law. These gloomy prophecies, descriptive of His humiliation in His first advent, were by no means enjoyable themes with the Jews, who leaned the more to those grand and glorious cognomens portraying Him as “the Prince of peace,” “the government on His shoulders;” and Daniel 7:14, not only describing Him as a triumphant and glorious King, but certifying positively that “to His kingdom there shall be no end, but He shall reign King of kings and Lord of lords forever.” Now, for the first time, He comes out and positively reveals to His disciples His coming arrest, condemnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Peter, robust, stout, and naturally brave as a lion, immediately conceiving the view that His enemies are going to combine against Him, take Him, and kill Him, leaps to the conclusion, That is a game at which two can play. We will fight in His defense till we die, and the thousands and myriads who have been blessed with bodily healing, demoniacal ejectruents, and the multitudes endeared to Him on account of their friends thus wonderfully saved, soul and body, will rally and help us and will make it hot for them. Consequently, both Peter takes Him by the arm, or His vesture, and pulls Him up to Him; looking Him in the face, says, “They can’t do that; we will be on hand, rally Your multitude of friends, and protect You to the last moment.” “Satan,” in the E.V., is too strong, the word not appearing here as a proper name, when it is applied to the devil, but simply in its original meaning, “adversary” or “opposer,” as Peter was innocently antagonizing the Divine economy relative to His death and resurrection, which he did not understand; and Jesus said, “Thou art My stumbling-block;” i.e., “You are throwing yourself in the way of the very work I came to do” — i.e., to suffer, die, and redeem the world from sin, death, and hell. “Thou dost not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men;” i.e., “You are not thinking on the Divine side of this great transaction, you have not yet received light and entered into it understandingly, but you are considering My Messiahship from a human standpoint.”


Verses 24-26

DISCIPLESHIP

Matthew 16:24-26; Mark 8:34-37; Luke 9:23-25. Mark: “Calling to Him the multitude, along with His disciples, He said to them, Whosoever wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” We have no mention of the multitude, since He has been at Caesarea-Philippi, till now, when it is said that Jesus called them to Him, that they might hear, along with His disciples. Hitherto He has been expounding the straight, practical facts relative to Himself, expository of His Christhood and atonement, which it is very important for His disciples to know with certainty at this late date of His ministry. Now that He proposes to elucidate the conditions of discipleship, the whole multitude are concerned; therefore we see that, desisting from these interviews with His disciples, He invites the multitude to enjoy His preaching. The conditions of discipleship are plain, positive, explicit, and unmistakable, beginning with total and unequivocal selfabnegation, and culminating in crucifixion. The sinner’s way crosses, antagonizes, and disharmonizes with God’s way. All this must be primarily and eternally abandoned. This is the great work of repentance, fundamental in salvation. Then he must follow this total self-abnegation by taking up his cross, and walking in the track of Jesus; this is justifying faith, which invariably involves the whole problem of practical Christianity, loving obedience to every commandment, and faithful discharge of every duty, however arduous and repellent to the flesh. N.B. The first hemisphere of this great transaction is total, unequivocal, and eternal self-abnegation, taking up the cross and following Jesus, through tempest and sunshine, prosperity and adversity, whether flowers bloom or fagots flame, birds sing or lions roar; i.e., forsaking all sin we do our whole duty, let it be ever so repellent to the flesh. Now, remember, there is another distinct hemisphere fitting on to the preceding, and constituting the beautiful celestial sphere of Christian discipleship Jesus carried His cross to die on it. Though He broke down on the way, a stout African disciple relieved Him. So if you break down under the cross of heavy and intolerable duty — e. g., family prayer, public prayer, testimony, appeal, house-to-house visiting, slum work, street preaching — God will send an angel to carry the cross for you, whether incarnate or excarnate.

Discipleship means following Jesus. The utility of His cross was to die on it. So, remember, you are not only to suffer while bearing the cross, but actually you are to be crucified on it, thus putting an end to all suffering, and radically reversing the former environments, putting you upon the cross; so that you no longer bear the cross, but the cross bears you. There is a woeful misapprehension appertaining to Christian discipleship, even among holiness people. It is generally taken for granted that the faithful cross-bearer is sanctified. This conclusion is utterly out of harmony with our Savior’s exposition of discipleship. The masses of Church members simply refuse to bear the cross, thereby forfeiting all claims to discipleship, and putting themselves on a par with open sinners. A true conversion makes you a bona fide cross-bearer; while sanctification, crucifying Adam the First, and thus eliminating all repellency to Christian duty, puts you on top of the cross, so that henceforth it carries you; i.e., every duty to God which is heavy and irksome to the unsanctified, undergoes a mysterious and inexplicable metamorphism, so that, instead of being repellent and heavy, it is magnetic, charming, and delightful; so that, instead of chilling your enthusiasm and retarding your progress, it thrills you with new inspiration, giving you a fresh impetus on your heavenly way. To this there is no exception, even bloody martyrdom is disrobed of his terrors; so the pilgrim goes shouting to the burning stake. Hence you see that all who refuse to bear the cross of Christ are sinners. Those who bear it faithfully are justified; while the crucifixion which we receive on the cross, sanctifying us wholly, gives us the complete victory over all crosses, so that we carry them no more, but they carry us, every cross having eagle wings, mounting skywardly, and soaring away to glory, while we ride them triumphantly, with song and shouts of victory, till, welcomed by angelic millions, we sweep through the gates of glory.

Mark 8:35 : “For whosoever may wish to save his soul, shall lose it; and whosoever may lose his soul, for My sake and that of the gospel, he shall save it. For what shall it profit a man if he may gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” In this paragraph our Savior gives psyche, the regular and constant word for soul, four times. The E.V. translates it “life” in two instances, ‘and “soul” in two more. I must confess, I see no reason for this change. If our Savior had meant “life” in verse thirty-five, He certainly would have said zoe.

The very fact that He says psyche all the time, is sufficient reason why we should do likewise. Methinks the translators simply failed to apprehend the deep spiritual meaning of our Lord in this beautiful passage, given literally by Mark and Luke. James 1:4; James 4:8, speaking of the “double-minded man,” uses this same word, dipsychos — i.e., double- souled — applying it to the unsanctified Christian; setting forth the fact that the unregenerate have one evil soul, the sanctified one good soul, and the unsanctified Christian the double soul; i.e., the good soul created by the Holy Ghost in regeneration, and the bad soul inherited from Adam the First, subjugated in conversion, and kept subordinated by grace, but still surviving, and an antagonistical element in the deep interior of the heart, causing much hindrance to duty and many a defeat in spiritual conflict, and a perpetual impediment to our efficiency for God, till eradicated and removed in the second work of grace, in which case you are no longer “double-minded,” unstable in all your ways, but free as a bird of Paradise, and happy as a lark, soaring into the sky; unincumbered by a solitary impediment, you fight, conquer, sing, and shout your way to heaven. You see from our Savior’s deliverances, that all religion is self-denial. The sinner refuses to deny himself of carnal pleasures, and sells out his soul to the devil for a “mess of pottage.” The unsanctified Christian finds self-denial hard and repellent to the flesh. There is where he flickers, lets go his hold on Jesus, and goes down to bell; while a sanctified man finds all self-denial no longer hard, but easy, and even delightful, so that he enjoys it, and runs after it, finding that every self-denial gives him an elastic bound for glory.

Here our Savior simply assures us that all who save their souls, shall lose them; and those who lose their souls for His sake, shall find them. We come into the world with a bad soul, which we must not only antagonize, but get rid of it altogether, coming to Jesus for a new soul, created in His own image and likeness. Hence the unpopularity of the true religion in all ages, and the paucity of its votaries. It is because the heavenly road is beset with crosses, which Adam the First can not pass, because they were put there to crucify him. Consequently, the carnal clergy, with the devil to help them, have in all ages led the people some other way. Satan has laid earth and hell under contribution, the last six thousand years, to render the way of death pleasant and charming to travelers. He has cut down the mountains, filled up the valleys, macadamized the road, paved it with gold, strewn it with flowers, and enchanted it with the most charming music, thus intermitting neither labor nor expenditure to make the road satisfactory to all, Church members and outsiders. No theology, Churchism, nor priestcraft can ever change the law of discipleship here propounded by the Prince of glory. If you would be a disciple, you must actually lose that evil soul you have had all your life, and take chances to get another; i.e., the man of sin must consent to lie down and die, taking the risk about living again.

The people of this world hold to the maxim, “A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush.” Consequently they hold on to the soul which they have had since their earliest recollection, willing to take all the religion which they can have compatibly with that soul; i.e., they will join the Church, take water baptism, weekly sacraments, work faithfully in the Church machinery, do some very nice parrot talk in the social meetings, pay their dues, attend church, receive official honors, represent the Church in the Conferences, and, with a collegiate education, actually preach the gospel — in their way. But to have heavy hands laid on them, nailing them to the cross, to bleed and die like Jesus, taking chances on the resurrection life, is utterly out of the question, and to be rejected contemptuously as the vain hallucination of the holiness cranks, who ought to be run out of the country. Good Lord, shine through us, and enable us to take Thy plain and simple Word, and be Thy true disciples!


Verse 27-28

THE SECOND COMING

Matthew 16:27-28. “For the Son of man is about to come in the glory of His Father, with His angels, and will then give to each one according to his work. Truly, I say unto you, There are certain ones of those standing here who may not taste of death, until they may see the Son of man coming in His kingdom.” Mark 8:38; Mark 9:1 : “For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and wicked generation, truly, the Son of man shall be ashamed of him, when He may come in the glory of His Father, with His holy angels. And He said to them, Truly, I say unto you, That there are certain ones of those standing here who may not taste of death until they may see the kingdom of God having come in power.”

Luke 9:26-27 : “For whosoever may be ashamed of Me and My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His glory, and that of the Father, and that of the holy angels. And, truly, I say unto you, There are certain ones of those standing here who may not taste of death until they may see the kingdom of God.” Very pertinently does our Savior here follow that terribly rigid and close sermon on discipleship, by one of the grandest of all possible inspirations, to settle the problem of discipleship, at any and every conceivable cost, making sure of heaven if we lose everything else, which is certainly the normal verdict of sound intelligence.

a. As this passage, recorded by Mark and Luke, reads in E.V., it has been the puzzle of millions. I know not why they give us the future tense, indicative mode, when the Greek has the present subjunctive. Within about one week from the time of this utterance, Peter, James, and John actually witnessed a prelude of His second coming on the Mount of Transfiguration.

“For not having followed cunningly devised fables, having made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but having been eye-witnesses of His majesty. . . . And we heard this voice borne from heaven, being along with Him in the holy mount.” (2 Peter 1:16-18.)

Here you see, Peter certifies that they witnessed His power and coming, while they were with Him in the holy mount. Now what was that holy mount? Why the Mount of Transfiguration, which they actually visited in a few days from that time, it being the preliminary coming of the Lord in His glory; i.e., an actual adumbration of His second coming. As Peter, James, and John were all present in His audience, and actually witnessed this prelude of His second and glorious coming, we, on the Mount of Transfiguration, have a preliminary fulfillment of this prophecy.

b. Within forty years of that date, while many of those people were still living, the Lord actually came, in His awful retributive judgments on the unbelieving Jews, executing righteous retribution for the rejection of His Son, destroying Jerusalem, and desolating the land with the awful scourge of the Roman armies, putting an end to the Jewish State and nationality, and annihilating the Jewish polity. Some able critics here find the fulfillment of this prophecy.

c. On the day of Pentecost the kingdom did certainly, as Mark says, “come in power,” having been on earth during the ministry of our Savior; but in the fiery baptisms and rushing tempest on the day of Pentecost it certainly did come in the signal manifestation of unprecedented power.

d. I see no reason why we may not take the whole passage as it is, and apply it to the existing generation, as it simply affirms a gracious possibility; i.e., there are some of those who are standing here, who may not taste of death until they may see the Son of man coming in His kingdom. Hence you see it simply affirms a gracious possibility on the part of that generation to see the Son of man coming in His glory, with the glory of the Father and the holy angels, before they pass away. You must remember that man has always been a failure. He failed in Eden; failed in antediluvian times; failed after the flood, landing in Egyptian slavery; failed in Judaism, rejecting and murdering their own Savior; and, according to the prophecies, will fail in the Gentile age, bringing on the tribulation, and forfeiting the millennium. Is not this very discouraging? O no! While man is a failure under all circumstances, God is an invariable and glorious success. Hence, all of these human failures should only inspire us to give up humanity, and fly to God, sinking away, lost in Him, to spend an eternity of bliss. The generation contemporary with Jesus was no exception. There was a gracious possibility for that generation to have preached the gospel to every nation, and so evangelize the world as to meet the condition of our Lord’s return (Matthew 24:14); as in that case He would have returned in His glory before the death of that generation. Here our Savior assures us, “Whosoever may be ashamed of Me and My words, in this wicked and adulterous world, the Son of man shall be ashamed of him, when He may come in the glory of His Father, with His holy angels.” Remember, this is the peroration of that awful sermon on discipleship, which nowadays is dodged, perverted, and misconstrued by clergy and laity, laying under contribution all their wits, to devise an easy way to heaven, washing, dressing, and educating old Adam, and taking him along with them. N.B. In a similar manner we find so many tender footed on the coming of the Lord, which our Savior here gives in immediate connection with His exposition of discipleship. The true, blood-washed, fire-baptized, and Spirit-filled disciple is not troubled when we preach the coming of the Lord, but elated with heaven-born enthusiasm, causing him to leap, shout, and run to meet Him. Jesus here calls the people who are ashamed of Him and His words, “a wicked and adulterous generation.” Far from shame or embarrassment at the coming of the Lord, we should be watching and waiting, and ready with shouts, to meet Him. “And now, little children, abide in Him, in order that if He may appear, we may have boldness, and not shrink with embarrassment from Him at His coming.” E.V. says we “may not be ashamed.” This is the same word which our Lord uses with reference to His words and His presence when He comes in His glory. Hence we should all be so saved and sanctified as to put us in perfect harmony with the words of Jesus; so we do not want to turn and twist them about, nor evade their force in any way, but want them to remain just as Jesus gave them. And as to Himself, “He is the fairest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.” Since His ascension, the widowed Church has mourned the absence of her Heavenly Spouse, and longed for His return, even now watching and waiting, ready to run to meet Him with shouts of triumph. So be sure that you are not ashamed nor embarrassed, when you read His Word, and contemplate His personal coming in a cloud this day.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 16:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/matthew-16.html.

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Thursday, May 23rd, 2019
the Fifth Week after Easter
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