Bible Commentaries
Matthew 16

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verses 1-12

The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 13

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?

When Jesus came into the coasts, [ ta (G3588) meree (G3313)] - 'the parts;' that is, the territory or region: In Mark (Mark 7:27) it is "the towns" or 'villages' [ koomas (G2968)].

Of Cesarea Philippi. It lay at the foot of mount Lebanon, near the sources of the Jordan, in the territory of Dan, and at the northeast extremity of Palestine. It was originally called Panium (from a cavern in its neighbourhood dedicated to the god Pan) and Paneas. Philip, the tetrarch, the only good son of Herod the Great, in whose dominions Paneas lay, having beautified and enlarged it, changed its name to Cesarea, in honour of the Roman emperor, and added Philippi after his own name, to distinguish it from the other Cesarea (Acts 10:1) on the northeast coast of the Mediterranean sea. (Joseph Ant. 15: 10, 3; 18: 2,1.) This quiet and distant retreat Jesus appears to have sought, with the view of talking over with the Twelve the fruit of His past labours, and breaking to them for the first time the sad intelligence of His approaching death.

He asked his disciples - "by the way," says Mark (Mark 8:27), and "as He was alone praying," says Luke (Luke 9:18) --

Saying Whom (or more grammatically, "Who") do men say that I the Son of man am? [or, 'that the Son of man is'-recent editors omitting here the me (G3165) of Mark and Luke; though the evidence seems pretty nearly balanced] - q.d., 'What are the views generally entertained of Me, the Son of man, after going up and down among them so long?' He had now closed the first great stage of His ministry, and was just entering on the last dark one. His spirit, burdened, sought relief in retirement, not only from the multitude, but even for a season from the Twelve. He retreated into "the secret place of the Most High," pouring out His soul "in supplications and prayers, with strong crying and tears" (Hebrews 5:7). On rejoining His disciples, and as they were pursuing their quiet journey, He asked them this question.

Verse 14

And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist - risen from the dead. So that Herod Antipas was not singular in his surmise (Matthew 14:1-2).

Some, Elias - cf. Mark 6:15.

And others, Jeremias. Was this theory suggested by a supposed resemblance between the "Man of Sorrows" and 'the weeping prophet?' Or one of the prophets - or, as Luke (Luke 9:8) expresses it, "that one of the old prophets is risen again." In another report of the popular opinions which Mark (Mark 6:15) gives us, it is thus expressed, "That it is a prophet, [or] as one of the prophets" [the word "or" - ee (G2228) - is wanting in authority] - in other words, That he was a prophetic person, resembling these of old.

Verse 15

He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

He saith unto them, But whom (rather, "Who") say ye that I am? He had never put this question before, but the crisis He was reaching made it fitting that He should now have it from them. We may suppose this to be one of those moments of which the prophet says, in His name, "Then I said, I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain" (Isaiah 49:4): Lo, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree; and what is it? As the result of all, I am taken for John the Baptist, for Elias, for Jeremias, for one of the prophets. Yet some there are that have beheld My glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, and I shall hear their voice, because it is sweet.

Verse 16

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. He does not say, 'Scribes and Pharisees, rulers and people, are all perplexed; and shall we, unlettered fishermen, presume to decide?' But feeling the light of his Master's glory shining in his soul, he breaks forth-not in a tame, prosaic acknowledgment, 'I believe that thou art,' etc.-but in the language of adoration-such as one uses in worship, "THOU ART THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD! "He first owns Him the promised Messiah (see the note at Matthew 1:16); then he rises higher, echoing the voice from heaven - "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" and in the important addition - "Son of the LIVING GOD," - he recognizes the essential and eternal life of God as in this His Son-though doubtless without that distinct perception afterward vouchsafed.

Verse 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. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou. Though it is not to be doubted that Peter, in this noble testimony to Christ, only expressed the conviction of all the Twelve, yet since he alone seems to have had clear enough apprehensions to put that conviction in proper and suitable words, and courage enough to speak them out, and readiness enough to do this at the right time-so he only, of all the Twelve, seems to have met the present want, and communicated to the saddened soul of the Redeemer at the critical moment that balm which was needed to cheer and refresh it. Nor is Jesus above giving indication of the deep satisfaction which this speech yielded Him, and hastening to respond to it by a signal acknowledgment of Peter in return.

Simon Bar-jona, [bar Yownah] - or, 'son of Jona' (John 1:42) or Jonas (John 21:15). This name, denoting his humble fleshly extraction, seems to have been purposely here mentioned, to contrast the more vividly with the spiritual elevation to which divine illumination had raised him.

For flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee - `This is not the fruit of human teaching.'

But my Father which is in heaven. In speaking of God, Jesus it is to be observed, never calls Him, "Our Father" (see the note at John 20:17), but either "your Father" - when He would encourage His timid believing ones with the assurance that He was theirs, and teach themselves to call Him so-or, as here, "My Father," to signify some special action or aspect of Him as "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Verse 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.

And I say also unto thee, [ Kagoo (G2504) de (G1161) soi (G4671) legoo (G3004)]: q.d., 'As thou hast borne such testimony to Me, even so in return do I to thee;'

That thou art Peter. At his first calling, this new name was announced to him as an honour afterward to be conferred on him (John 1:43). Now he gets it, with an explanation of what it was meant to convey.

And upon this rock. As "Peter" and "Rock" are one word in the dialect familiarly spoken by our Lord-the Aramaic or Syro-Chaldaic, which was the mother tongue of the country-this exalted play upon the word [ Keeypaa' (H3710); keefas (G2786), John 1:43 ] can he fully seen only in languages which have one word for both. Even in the Greek it is imperfectly represented [ su (G4771) ei (G1487) Petros (G4074), kai (G2532) epi (G1909) tautee (G5026) tee (G3588) petra (G4073)]. In French, as Webster and Wilkinson remark, it is perfect, Pierre-pierre.

I will build my church - not on the man Simon Bar-jona; but on him as the heaven-taught confessor of such a faith. "My Church," says our Lord, calling the Church His OWN; a magnificent expression, remarks Bengel, regarding Himself-nowhere else occurring in the Gospels. See the notes at Matthew 13:24-30; Matthew 13:36-43, Remark 3.

And the gates of hell, [ hadou (G86)] - 'of Hades,' or, the unseen world; meaning, the gates of Death: in other words, 'It shall never perish.' Some explain it of 'the assaults of the powers of darkness;' but though that expresses a glorious truth, probably the former is the sense here.

Verse 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.

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven (the kingdom of God about to be set up on earth) and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Whatever this means, it was soon expressly extended to all the apostles (Matthew 18:18); so that the claim of supreme authority in the Church, made for Peter by the Church of Rome, and then arrogated to themselves by the Popes as the legitimate successors of Peter, is baseless and impudent. As first in confessing Christ, Peter got this commission before the rest; and with these "keys," on the day of Pentecost, he first "opened the door of faith" to the Jews, and then, in the person of Cornelius, he was honoured to do the same to the Gentiles. Hence, in the lists of the apostles, Peter is always first named. See the note at Matthew 18:18. One thing is clear, that not in all the New Testament is there the vestige of any authority either claimed or exercised by Peter, or conceded to him, above the rest of the apostles-a thing conclusive against the Romish claims in behalf of that apostle. See the notes at Matthew 1:1-25; Matthew 2:1-23; Matthew 3:1-17; Matthew 4:1-25; Matthew 5:1-48, Remark 8.

Verse 20

Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. Now that He had been so explicit, they might naturally think the time had come for giving it out openly; but here they are told it had not.

The occasion here is evidently the same.

Verse 21

From that time forth began Jesus to shew 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.

From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples (that is, with an explicitness and frequency He had never observed before), how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things ("and be rejected," Matt. and Mark) of the elders and chief priests and scribes-not as before, merely by not receiving Him, but by formal deeds --

And be killed, and be raised again the third day. Mark (Mark 8:32) adds, that "He spake that saying openly" [ parreesia (G3954)] - 'explicitly,' or 'without disguise.'

Verse 22

Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

Then Peter took him, [aside], apart from the rest; presuming on the distinction just conferred on him; showing how unexpected and distasteful to them all was the announcement.

And began to rebuke him - affectionately, yet with a certain generous indignation, to chide him.

Saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee - i:e., 'If I can help it;' the same spirit that prompted him in the garden to draw the sword in His behalf (John 18:10).

Verse 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.

But he turned, and said - in the hearing of the rest; because Mark (Mark 8:33) expressly says, "When He had turned about and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter;" perceiving that he had but boldly uttered what others felt, and that the check was needed by them also.

Get thee behind me, Satan - the same words as He had addressed to the Tempter (Luke 4:8); because He felt in it a Satanic lure, a whisper from hell, to move Him from His purpose to suffer. So He shook off the Serpent, then coiling around Him, and "felt no harm" (Acts 28:5). How quickly has the "rock" turned to a devil! The fruit of divine teaching the Lord delighted to honour in Peter; but the mouthpiece of hell, which he had in a moment of forgetfulness become, the Lord shook off with horror.

Thou art an offence, [ skandalon (G4625)] - 'a stumbling-block' unto me: 'Thou playest the Tempter, casting a stumbling-block in my way to the Cross. Could it succeed, where wert thou? and how should the Serpent's head be bruised?'

For thou savourest not, [ ou (G3756) froneis (G5426)] - 'thou thinkest not' - the things that be of God, but those that be of men. 'Thou art carried away by human views of the way of setting up Messiah's kingdom, quite contrary to those of God.' This was kindly said, not to take off the sharp edge of the rebuke, but to explain and justify it, as it was evident Peter knew not what was in the bosom of his rash speech.

Verse 24

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.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples. Mark (Mark 8:34) says, "When He had called the people unto Him, with His disciples also, He said unto them" - turning the rebuke of one into a warning to all.

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Verse 25

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

For whosoever will save, [ thelee (G2309 ) soosai (G4982 ) - 'is minded to save,' or bent on saving], his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. See the notes at Matthew 10:38-39. 'A suffering and dying Messiah liketh you ill; but what if His servants shall meet the same fate? They may not; but who follows Me must be prepared for the worst.'

Verse 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?

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose, [ zeemioothee (G2210 ) - or 'forfeit'] his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Instead of these weighty words, which we find in Mark also, it is thus expressed in Luke: "If he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away" [ heauton (G1438) de (G1161) apolesas (G622) ee (G2228) zeemiootheis (G2210)], or better, 'If he gain the whole world, and destroy or forfeit himself.' How awful is the stake as here set forth! If a man makes the present world-in its various forms of riches, honours, pleasures, and such like-the object of supreme pursuit, be it that he gains the world; yet along with it he forfeits his own soul. Not that any ever did, or ever will gain the whole world-a very small portion of it, indeed, falls to the lot of the most successful of the world's votaries-but to make the extravagant concession, that by giving himself entirely up to it, a man gains the whole world; yet, setting over against this gain the forfeiture of his soul-necessarily following the surrender of his whole heart to the world-what is he profited?

But, if not the whole world, yet possibly something else may be conceived as an equivalent for the soul. Well, what is it? - "Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Thus, in language the weightiest, because the simplest, does our Lord shut up His hearers, and all who shall read these words to the end of the world, to the priceless value to every man of his own soul. In Mark and Luke the following words are added: "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words" - `shall be ashamed of belonging to Me, and ashamed of My Gospel,' "in this adulterous and sinful generation" (see the note at Matthew 12:39), "of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26). He will render back to that man his own treatment, disowning him before the most august of all assemblies, and putting him to "shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2). 'O shame,' exclaims Bengel, 'to be put to shame before God, Christ, and angels!' The sense of shame is founded on our love of reputation, which causes instinctive aversion to what is fitted to lower it, and was given us as a preservative from all that is properly shameful. To be lost to shame, is to be nearly past hope. (Zephaniah 3:5; Jeremiah 6:15; Jeremiah 3:3.) But when Christ and "His words" are unpopular, the same instinctive desire to stand well with others begets that temptation to be ashamed of Him which only the 'expulsive power' of a higher affection can effectually counteract.

Verse 27

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.

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels - in the splendour of His Father's authority and with all His angelic ministers, ready to execute His pleasure; "and then he shall reward ... "

Verse 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.

Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, [ tines (G5100 ) toon (G3588 ) hoode (G5602 ) hesteekotoon (G2476 ) - 'some of those standing here,'] which shall not taste of death, until they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom - or, as in Mark (Mark 9:1), "till they see the kingdom of God come with power;" or, as in Luke (Luke 9:27, more simply still, "until they see the kingdom of God." The reference, beyond doubt, is to the firm establishment and victorious progress, in the life-time of some then present, of that new Kingdom of Christ, which was destined to work the greatest of all changes on this earth, and be the grand pledge of His final coming in glory.

Remarks: Remarks:

(1) The distraction and indecision of the public mind on the great vital questions of Religion will be no excuse for the want of definite convictions on the part either of the educated or the illiterate on such momentous matters. On the contrary, it is just when such distraction and indecision are greatest that the Lord Jesus expects firm conviction and decision on the part of His true friends, and values it most.

(2) The testimony here borne, in our Lord's commendation of Peter, to the reality of an inward divine teaching, distinct from the outward communication of divine truth, is very precious. For Peter had enjoyed the outward teaching of the Son of God Himself. But since many others had done this to no saving effect, the Lord expressly ascribes the difference Between Peter and them to supernatural illumination.

(3) When the Lord has any eminent work to do in His kingdom, He always finds the fitting instruments to do it; and yet, how different, usually, from those He might have been expected to select! Who would have thought that a humble Galilean fisherman would be chosen, and found qualified, to do what at that time was the highest work for Christ, to lay the foundations of the Church-opening the door of faith to the Jews first, and thereafter to the Gentiles? But this is God's way-to choose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the mighty, and base things of the world, and things which are despised, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

(4) In the words of commendation and reward here addressed to Peter we have a striking example of the extremes to be avoided in the interpretation of Scripture. While Romanists and Romanizers build upon this a distinction in favour of Peter, in which none else, even of the Twelve, were destined to share, able Protestants have gone to the opposite extreme, of denying that our Lord, in speaking of "that rock on which He was to build His Church," had any reference to Peter at all; and take the rock to mean either the Speaker Himself, or at least the fundamental truth regarding Him which Peter had just uttered-that He was "the Christ, the Son of the living God." But as in that case the manifest play upon the word "rock," which the name of Peter was designed to express, would be lost, so we do not lose the truth for which these Protestant interpreters contend by admitting that Peter himself is intended in this announcement, provided it is understood that it was not as the man "Simon, son of Jonas," that anything was to be built upon Peter, but on Peter as the man of most distinguished faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Thus, while the plain sense of the passage is preserved, the truth expressed is according to Scripture.

(5) How hard is it even for eminent Christians to stand high commendation without forgetting themselves! (See the note at Luke 22:31, etc.; and see 2 Corinthians 12:7.) Peter, it is to be feared, must have been carried somewhat off his feet by the encomium pronounced upon him-even though his superiority was expressly ascribed to grace-before he could have been betrayed into the presumption of taking his Master to task.

(6) How deeply instructive is the sharp distinction which Christ here draws between the things that be of God and those that be of men, and how severe the rebuke administered to Peter for judging of the one by the standard of the other! If the things of God be hidden from "the wise and prudent" (see the note at Matthew 11:25), can we wonder that when God's own children make use of the world's wisdom and prudence to measure His ways, they should misjudge and run against them? And yet, so plausible is this worldly wisdom, that when, having fallen into unspiritual conceptions of the things of God, Christians throw stumbling-blocks before those servants of Christ who are more devoted than themselves, they fancy they are only checking a too fiery zeal, and arresting proceedings which are injudicious and hurtful; while our Lord here teaches us that they are but tools of Satan!

(7) Let the example of Jesus, in not only resenting and repelling all such suggestions as tended to arrest His onward career, but even when they came from His most eminent disciple, tracing them with horror to their proper source in the dark enemy of man's salvation, stand out before us as our perfect Model in all such cases.

(8) In times of severe persecution, and in prospect of suffering in any shape for the sake of the Gospel, it will be our wisdom, and be found a tower of strength, calmly to weigh both issues-the gain and the loss of each course. And to be prepared for the worst, it will be well to put the best to the world's gain over against the worst of Christ's service. Put the gain of the whole world against only one loss-the loss of the soul-and the loss of everything in this world, friends, goods, liberty, life itself, against only one gain-the gain of the soul. Then let us ask ourselves, in the sight of conscience and God, and an eternity of bliss or woe, With which side lies the advantage? And to make the answer to this question the more certain and the more impressive, let us habitually summon up before us the scene here presented to us by Him who is to be Himself the Judge-the great assize, the parties at the bar, the open acknowledgment and acquittal of the one, the disavowal and condemnation of the other, and the eternal issues. So shall we feel ourselves driven out of the denial of that blessed Name, and shut up and shut in to Christ and the fearless confession of His truth and grace, come what may.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.