Today: [Matthew 16]
Today: [Matthew 16] Signs, Wonders, and Revelation: In Matthew 16 Jesus speaks extensively regarding the issue of signs, wonders, and revelation. The Pharisees seek signs in order to build themselves up and find the endorsement of God for their religious views. The disciples on the other hand gain scintillating insight into who Jesus actually is as the son of God, but must be held in check in order to deal with their own personal agendas that would be their undoing unless they were to subjugate themselves to the claims of Christ and the superintendence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
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[Mat 16:1-28 KJV] 1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, [It will be] fair weather: for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, [It will be] foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O [ye] hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not [discern] the signs of the times? 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. 5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, [It is] because we have taken no bread. 8 [Which] when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake [it] not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade [them] not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
In the book of Matthew, the Pharisees repeatedly approach Jesus with controversial issues, seeking to discredit His claims and His ministry. To a non-Jew or a non-Christian at the time this gospel was written, it would have been evident that the intended audience was a Jewish one, because the issues at hand were uniquely Jewish in nature. In verse 1 the Pharisees again, feigning sincerity ask Jesus to show them a sign from heaven. Jesus’ answer suggests to them that signs are all around, but they are not paying attention. He asks the question, who can they look at the sky in the evening time and accurately predict tomorrow’s whether and yet be so obtuse about spiritual matters? What this tells us is that from Jesus’ perspective, insights and mysteries expounded abound all around us, if we choose to exercise God given discernment to divine them, particularly from nature.
Remember that Gen. 1:14 tells us that the sun, moon, stars and the cosmos were so created by God to give us understanding and the ability to measure the signs and seasons. That is more than just being the basis of a calendar system for measuring time, or a navigational system for ancient mariners. In Rom. 1:20, Paul states that the visible creation, properly discerned makes known to us the very mysteries of God. The weather systems and environment above us are no exception. Meteorologists tell us that there are seven jet-streams, or great rivers of wind that encompass the earth, generation our weather as we know it.
Without these jet streams, much of our planet would be completely uninhabitable. What does this tell us about God and His person and glory? This is a mystery hidden in God until the end times, because these jet streams were not discovered until during WWII, when the Japanese attempted to use them to rain bombs down on the US mainland.
What do the seven jet streams teach us? The word used to speak of God’s spirit in the Old Testament is “ruach” which means blast or current of air. In the New Testament the word is “pneuma” which means the same: “a blast or current of air”. Isa. 11:1-3 tells us that there are 7 spirits of God, or rather there are 7 aspects of the one Holy Spirit. We can deduce then the teaching that just as properly understanding the jet-streams over the earth helps us predict the weather, likewise understanding the role of the 7 spirit of God in our lives, we can anticipate and cooperate with what God is about to do in our lives.
While Jesus is saying all these things to the Pharisees, He finds afterward that His disciples are distracted because they have forgotten to take bread for their journey. Jesus never neglects to make things happening around the disciples a teaching moment. He upbraids them for being overly distraught about forgetting to take bread, reminding them of the feeding of the 5000 and the 7000 just a few days before. What He wanted them to understand was that it was more important for them to take with them the bread of life and not to resort in times of need to the leaven, or doctrine of the Pharisees.
What can we learn from this? When we are in a place of pressure (as the disciples, being without food for their journey) – remember not to resort to what a Pharisee would resort to in order to solve his problem. A Pharisee, facing a problem in his life will resort to legalistic religion, to buttress his faith and convince himself that if he fasts enough, reads the Torah enough, prays enough and teaches others likewise, that God will come through for him. Jesus is warning His disciples not to think like this, to beware the leaven or the doctrine of the Pharisees. How are Jesus’ followers to deal with such pressures then? They are to depend on their God-given capacity of faith to solve their problems, just as Jesus demonstrated by the miraculous multiplication of food on two previous occasions. Faith is more than a belief system wrapped around the claims of Christ. Faith is an evidentiary grace, by which you lay hold on that which is not seen, in order to cause it to manifest in the natural realm for the purposes of meeting your needs or the needs of others – all in the name of Jesus, as one exercising a God-given gift. This faith, is exactly how Adam and Even would have conducted themselves in the exercise of their God-given dominion, had they not transgressed in the fall. Jesus, in rebuking the disciples for their puny faith, is basically exhorting them to have faith in their faith, to have faith in the faith of God that is the measure (according to Rom. 12:23) given to EVERY man that comes into the earth.
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? 14 And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. 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. 22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. 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. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 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. 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.
In verse 13, Jesus seeks to bring His disciples to a definitive consensus regarding just who He is. In the course of doing this, He is attempting to expose spurious beliefs among them that were common at the time, regarding reincarnation, etc.
While it isn’t talked about much among theologians, there are multiple instances both in Matthew and other gospels where Jesus seeks to dispel this belief among His followers. In the midst of this conversation, Peter bursts out the declaration that Jesus cannot be compared with any lesser example of Jeremiah, or Elijah, for He is none other than the Christ (the Messiah) the Son of the living God. Where did Peter gain this insight? Verse 17 tells us that it was by revelation. Though Peter technically has yet to be born again, Jesus declares that this revelation did not come to Peter as any human intuition, but as a direct revelation by the Father in Heaven. This whole idea of revelation is the subject of what Jesus says next.
The word used her is “apocalupto” and it means “to uncover”. It isn’t as though the understanding wasn’t there. For anyone then, or now considering the claims of Christ, His miracles and His teachings it cannot be credibly denied that He is unusual, unique and by implication even by an unbeliever – the Son of God. The point is that revelation of the Father to Peter was not injecting new information but simply uncovering what was already there.
In understanding the revelatory insight given to Peter by God, Jesus says that this is a rock of foundation upon which He intends to build upon the earth and establish the culture of the kingdom among men. What is the rock? What is the subject of conversation? From the disciples’ perspective, the discussion is who is Jesus. From Jesus perspective, He already knows who He is, the object at hand for Him is the revelatory gifting by which the Father revealed His identity as the Christ to impetuous Peter. The rock to Jesus, the starting place of everything He was to build among men, begins with the revelatory insight itself that is the basis without which a man or woman cannot even know who He is or what He intends to do in the earth.
What about you? Have you ever received personal revelation from God? Is this because you are so spiritual, or because God quickened it to you? What next? When God shows you something, what do you do with it? The remainder of the chapter contains very important lessons about this, which we must learn. When Joseph received revelation in his dreams, he told everyone and wound up in a pit, sold into slavery, and in prison. In verse 20 Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone what God had revealed first to Peter and now to all the 12. Learn this important lesson: when God shows you something, you can anticipate the next thing that happens is that He will forbid you to share it with anyone. This is the hallmark of authentic revelation. If you think you have an insight and feel perfectly free to tell anyone who listens, you might pause and consider if this is really something revealed to you from God.
The second thing that happens after revelation is imparted to the disciples, is that Jesus discloses to them several things about to happen that are the exact opposite of what Peter’s revelation implies. If Jesus is the son of God then they certainly expected Him to be fast tracked to the throne, to dispense with the Romans, do away with Herod and take over all of Judea to bring heaven to earth, right? Instead Jesus speaks of His impending death. So, learn another hallmark of authentic revelation which is this: when God shows something to you, there will come immediately after seemingly that which is exactly the opposite of what you believe you have seen. This will test your faith in the revelation of God in your life. If exactly the opposite is to happen, then no doubt the disciples would surely question whether or not Peter (or Jesus for that matter) got it right.
What was the reason that Jesus would give the disciples insights regarding Himself that were so opposite in nature to what Peter had by revelatory insight understood and declared? Because we see in v. 22 Peter now is rebuking Jesus and correcting Jesus as a manifestation of Satan himself. In other words, when God shows you something by revelation, he will then tell you to be quiet about it, he will expose you to exactly the opposite circumstance, in order to uncover in your character, as is uncovered in Peter’s character things that are totally opposed to what God has revealed that if they go undealt with will exclude you from the blessing intended to come to you when God shows you these things in the first place.
By way of commentary, and explanation to His bewildered disciples, in v. 24 Jesus expounds to them that following Him requires taking up the cross and denying self. What is the context? It is Jesus dealing with the self-aggrandizement and personal agendas of the 12 to capitalize and take advantage of the revelation given by God to Peter regarding who Jesus is. Think about what must have been running through the minds of the 12 at this time:
- Thomas was thinking that at last he had an insight by which he could overcome his own unbelief and distinguish himself among men.
- Peter is thinking about the overthrow of the government.
- Judas was thinking about the establishing of a new economic engine of prosperity in Jerusalem that he would no doubt be the superintendent of.
Each disciple in turn was dreaming about what the implications for their personal lives regarding who Jesus was (is) and what it meant for themselves, their families and their fortunes. Jesus is correcting their thinking in v. 25 saying that if they were to save themselves they must first be willing to lose their agendas and follow Him for His name’s sake only and not for the sake of whatever gain would accrue to them. That is not to say that there is no gain in the kingdom of God, because in v. 26 Jesus declares that it is possible even to gain the whole world, but it must be done with right priorities of serving God, loving people and subjugating one’s life to claims of Christ and the Lordship of Christ dictating your life by the mandates of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He isn’t saying in v. 26 that we must give up on gain, because that would be contrary to John 10:10 “life and life more abundantly”. God intends to give you revelatory insight, and that revelatory insight, focused on and wrapped around who He is to you will have profound implications for you in terms of blessing and benefit but it must be done in the context of accountability as a completely servant, sold out and spendable in life to the mandates of the kingdom of God under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
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