Matthew 16:1-28 | You Are The Christ

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You Are The Christ

 

Matthew 16:1-28

Key Verse 16:16

 

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”

 

As the time for Jesus’ suffering was coming closer, his top disciple Peter made a historic confession of faith which solidified everything Jesus came to this world to do. Peter had said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And this one confession became the foundation of our Christian faith and the rock of the Christian church. And for this very reason Jesus also promised Peter, “On this rock I will build my church”. Jesus meant that Peter’s confession was the rock of man’s salvation. How we see Jesus, and what we believe about him and what he’d come to do is really very important in our lives. That’s what usually separates those who live in Christ from those who die in sin. Perhaps there are three kinds of people in this world. First, there are those who would make this confession of faith and gladly choose to live by the gospel teachings Jesus instituted for his disciples. Second there are those who would make this confession, pretending to be Christians but never living the new way of life set up by the Lord. And of course, the third kind of person is the person who would neither confess Jesus as the Christ nor obey his words. For Peter and the other disciples, this confession was a turning point in their lives. Their lives were never the same after this. From this point on they were no longer students of the faith; they were no longer sheep; they had now become the keepers of the faith! They would now live and die according to the gospel teaching. What made them different from everyone else? It was that confession! They saw Jesus for who he really was— the Son of God, the Promised Messiah, the Savior of the world! He was the one God appointed them to put their trust in, to surrender their lives to, to live and die for! We too need to see Jesus for who he really is, and make confession of faith in him, remain true to him, and live by his words, so that we might serve his kingdom as his disciples. After Peter made his confession Jesus taught Peter the cost of being a disciple. He taught all of them self denial, self sacrifice, and an unflinching devotion to the Christ and to the way of the cross.

 

Look at verse 1. “The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.” These were the political, social and religious powers of the day. They were shrewd. They were practical. And nothing was truly sacred to them except the things that served their own selfish interests and personal gains. Perhaps only money was sacred to them. Outwardly they looked as if they were able to live side by side in peace with one another. But in their hearts they were truly mortal enemies scheming against each other. It was impossible to find one issue over which they might be united. But something happened that brought these terribly corrupt leaders to unite with each other. Jesus happened! Jesus was the only voice of truth among the people. Whenever Jesus spoke, light shone from his heart and exposed the darkness of these people revealing their every aspect of their corrupt lives. Whatever Jesus said or did, people’s eyes opened and their hearts began to beat with new life. So, when Jesus happened, these terrible leaders united together to silence him, even if it meant killing him. But it wasn’t easy to silence Jesus! So, they tried to challenge him hoping he might not be able to meet the challenge and so incriminate himself. “Show us a sign from heaven” they asked him. Of course, their request wasn’t sincere! They wanted to discredit his claim among the people to be the promised Messiah. So how did Jesus answer them?

 

Read verses 2-4. Jesus didn’t answer them. He reprimanded them instead. Jesus told them that they could interpret the weather, how is it that they could not interpret the times? In other words, they had eyes to see the world and to interpret the political and social climate. How is it they had no eyes to see God and to interpret what God was doing among them? Jesus was right on! They could interpret the stock market and the real estate values, but they could not see God’s work of salvation as well as God’s impending judgment right in front them through the coming of Jesus the Messiah. This was certainly not the time for them to remain proud, but a time to be humble. It was a time to put away their selfishness and to participate in acts of compassion and acts of mercy and acts of sacrifice. It was no time to protect their assets and ensure their property but a time to freely give of themselves to those who are needy among the suffering people of God. It was certainly a time to repent. It was surely a time to kneel before God in prayer and to beg for God’s forgiveness and to plead for his mercy. It was a time to start a new life, to put aside everything which hinders the soul from salvation; a time to hold on to the words of Jesus which can heal the soul and make it fit to stand before the holy God. It was certainly a time to do such things. But they were blind to God. And they were blind to see God’s hand working all around them calling them to give up their crooked and selfish ways and instead to please shepherd God’s dying flock. Blind and wretched people— those who would rather keep their pride and possessions instead of receiving God’s gifts handed to them by Christ.

 

Look at verse 4 again. Jesus called them “wicked” and “adulterous” people looking for the easy way out when they should be looking to see how they might purify their hearts from corruption by seeking God. They enjoyed leadership. But they did not put no the responsibility of leadership. They want to be honored as priests and shepherds, but they did not want to lift a finger to do what shepherds are supposed to do. So, not only their own souls decayed, but they also poisoned the flock of God as well until the whole lot of them became a corrupt and adulterous generation all together!

 

They wanted Jesus to give them a sign— a miracle from heaven. So, Jesus said he would give them one. Look at verse 4 again. Jesus gave them the “sign of Jonah”. Many people are like that. They want a sign that Christ is actually the Messiah. They want proof before they put their trust and faith in him. But Jesus said he would give one sign, one miracle, one proof and no other. What is the sigh of Jonah? Johan died in the belly of the fish and came to life again three days later when the fish spit him out on land. Therefore the sign of Jonah is the sign that Jesus would suffer, die and rise again from the dead. The sign of Jonah means something else as well. It means that God requires that his people repent of their sins and put their trust in the crucified son of God who died and shed his blood that they may be forgiven and freed from the plague of sin. The sign of Jonah requires us to trust that God who raised Christ from the dead raises us up with him and gives us grace to live a new life for his glory. It takes tremendous humility to trust Jesus’ words, because the sign of Jonah brings us to the cross, and the cross shows us our sins, and our sins call us to repentance— always. Proud and stubborn, these religious people wanted a sign before they could believe in Jesus. But the truth is that they really didn’t want to repent of anything. They were very comfortable in their sinful lives to repent. They just wanted Jesus to go away! The only miracle has already taken place. Sometimes people say they want to see a sign before they believe or turn their lives over to God, or even do what they know they should do. They just don’t want to repent. Sometimes we ourselves are deceived by the glitter of this world and feel that we need a sign before we give up that thing which we hold dear to our hearts. We just don’t want to repent! The sign has been given already. There are no more signs. Christ has given his life. He has risen. Humble yourself, stand with a repentant heart before the cross.

 

Verses 5-12 is another remarkable story about the disciples thick headedness. When Jesus was done reproving the religious leaders, he simply warned his disciples not to be influenced by these people. Look at verse 6. “‘Be careful,’ ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’” Jesus really wanted his disciples to watch out for the terrible influence of those who pretend to be holy and godly but whose hearts are full of worldly corruption. And their worst kind of corruption was not what they did, but what they actually did not do! Everyone sins. The influence of sin is terrible, to say the least. But there is an influence so much worse than the influence of sin. Do you know what it is? It is the influence of those who don’t repent! If a person knows that he is guilty, and refuses to make amends, that person’s influence is really deadly. If a person knows that he has wronged God, and wronged his fellow man, but refuses to set things right just because he is too proud to do so, or too set in his ways to do so, then his influence is truly deadly. The influence of those who don’t make things right with God is like poison to the soul who watch and learn from them. They learn from them how to be defiant and proud, and both those and those whom they influence are ruined.

 

Jesus warned his disciples not to be influenced by what the Pharisees should have done before God but did not do. David was a king. He was highly honored by God and the people. Once he was fleeing from his son who wanted to kill him. An enemy of David saw him and insulted him before David’s army and people. David’s attendants wanted to kill this man for insulting the King. But David told them to leave him alone. He figured that it is better to be humble before both God and man than to be vengeful and to defend his own honor. Such influence is truly godly influence. The influence of those like David who humble themselves lives forever! Jesus was mocked and insulted and beaten. But he forgave his accusers! Think of that kind of influence! It was a great influence on all his people who learned from Jesus how to forgive rather than to get even. Most people would rather defend their honor. Most would rather retaliate. Most would rather hold their ground whether they are right or wrong! But if you want to be a godly influence you must learn to be careful, and to guard against the yeast of the world which poisons your faith and makes you no better off than those who are faithless! Jesus warned his disciples not to be influenced by what the Pharisees should have done before God but did not do. He loved them. He rather wanted them to influence others with the gospel faith and with the hope of God than to be influenced by others. So he taught them the heart and mind of God.

 

Look at verses 13-15. “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’” When they told him the crowd’s opinion he asked them a similar question. “‘But what about you?’ ‘Who do you say I am?’” It was really a life or death question which demanded a right answer. How did they reply? Read verse 16. “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” “You are the Christ,” means you are the Messiah promised Savior— come to save us from our sins. It’s a “confession of faith”— a confession that comes from the heart and attests that Jesus is the Savior— my Savior— the One whom God sent to save me from my sins. This confession is the most important confession of our lives. It is important because our salvation depends on it. Romans 10:9 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Whenever a person realizes their sinful condition before God, and acknowledges what Jesus had done on the cross for their sins, then that person looks to God for forgiveness; and God offers them forgiveness and he comes to live in their hearts through his Holy Spirit.

 

Through this confession Peter also did something else. It was also an expression of his love for Jesus who loved him! It expressed Peter’s desire to follow Jesus all his life and at any cost. Peter lived with Jesus. He shared in Jesus’ life and his ministry. He learned the secrets of the kingdom of God from Jesus. He opened his heart to his life giving words. He shared in Jesus’ joy and in Jesus’ anguish on many occasions. Peter came to love Jesus from his heart not only as his Teacher, but also as a Companion, as a Counselor and as a Friend. He loved and cherished Jesus more than life itself. And through all that time with Jesus, Peter witnessed that Jesus was much more than a Prophet or Man of God; but that Jesus is the compassionate Shepherd God had sent to be Peter’s very own Savior as well as the Savior of all other people. When he experienced this truth in Jesus, Peter was ready to now commit his life to Jesus— to follow him in life and in death. Who can make such a confession of faith and of love to Jesus? Who can commit their lives like this to Christ? Only those who know Jesus intimately! Sometimes in his grace God works in our hearts to see who Jesus is, and what he has come to do. And we are given the grace to make a confession of faith. But for that confession to grow into a commitment we need to live with Jesus as Peter lived with Jesus day and night, until Jesus becomes the heartbeat of our lives. If you live with Jesus day and night, through personal Bible study and prayer life, through reflection writing and meditation, you cannot but commit yourself to him through a bond of faith, of love and of commitment like Peter did: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

 

Look at verses 17-20. Peter’s confession of faith, “You are the Christ,” became the foundation of the Christian church of our Lord Jesus. And with this confession of faith comes the commitment to follow Jesus and to obey his words. By this confession, most Christians have found strength to overcome the hardships and temptations of life and the strength to live as the holy disciples of our Lord Jesus. By this confession they have found the power to overcome the power of Hades and the courage to journey to the Kingdom of God.

 

Read verse 21. Jesus now began to explain to his disciples the work of Christ— that is, what the Christ would do. He would be betrayed, would suffer, die, and rise from the dead as the King of kings and Lord of lords. In that way he would accomplish salvation for all who have faith in him. The way of the cross was not easy for Jesus! It was the way of suffering and of pain. But the way of the cross was God’s way of salvation. It was the way of truth, of life and of salvation. And Jesus wanted to teach this universal truth to his disciples so that they may accept the way of the cross as the way of life because it was God’s way and the way to the eternal kingdom.

 

Look at verse 22. “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’” Peter loved Jesus but he hated the way of the cross. He hated to hear about the sacrifice Jesus would do for the sake of man’s salvation. Peter liked to hear encouraging words such as “Everything will be okay, or things will get better.” But Jesus only talked about the life of suffering. So Peter rebuffed Jesus, almost telling him: “Don’t talk like this. Talk about good things.” Jesus knew that the way of the cross was not so popular even among his own disciples. So Jesus rebuked Peter to help him accept this truth from his heart. So, he said to him: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (23) Jesus wanted Peter not to be influenced by the devil’s teaching about easy going life. He wanted him not to have the mind of sinful man but the mind of the sacrificial God.

 

What is the mind of the sacrificial God? Read verse 24. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” Christian life is a life of self sacrifice and of self-denial. We cannot ignore this! It is what God would have us do. Shall we refuse the life giving will of God, and exchange it for some moments of pleasure! The people of the world no nothing about self-denial. They just follow their feelings and give in to their sinful desires. But the Christian should be different. A Christ follower must battle with his or her sinful desires and make them submit to God’s holy desires through the Holy Spirit. There is no doubt that God wants us to follow Jesus in the way of the cross. The way of the cross is the way of serving God’s purpose in our life. God calls you and I to lose our lives in serving the gospel. We must once again consider Jesus, the Christ of God. And we must also decide that to have faith in the Christ is also to follow in the Christ’s footsteps of self sacrifice, and self denial and to finally recommit ourselves to him in total devotion.

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