Matthew 16:1-4 "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 lowering. 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."
See also Mark 8:11-12.
The Pharisees also, and the Sadducees - See the notes at Matthew 3:7.
Tempting - That is, trying him - feigning a desire to see evidence that he was the Messiah, but with a real desire to see him make the attempt to work a miracle and fail, so that they might betray him and ruin him.
A sign from heaven - Some miraculous appearance in the sky. Such appearances had been given by the prophets; and they supposed, if he was the Messiah, that his miracles would not all be confined to the earth, but that he was able to give some signal miracle from heaven. Samuel had caused it to thunder (1 Samuel 12:16-18); Isaiah had caused the shadow to go back ten degrees on the dial of Ahaz (Isaiah 38:8); and Moses had sent manna from heaven, (Exodus 16:4; John 6:31). It is proper to say, that though Christ did not choose then to show such wonders, yet far more stupendous signs from heaven than these were exhibited at his death.
Matthew 16:2,3 "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 lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?"
He answered ... - The meaning of this answer is, There are certain indications by which you judge about the weather.
In the evening you think you can predict the weather tomorrow. You have evidence in the redness of the sky by which you judge. So there are sufficient indications on which you should judge concerning me and these times. My miracles, and the state of affairs in Judea, are an indication by which you should judge.
Is red - Almost all nations have observed this as an indication of fair weather.
In the morning ...the sky is red and lowering - That is, there are threatening clouds in the sky, which are made red by the rays of the rising sun. This, in Judea, was a sign of a tempest. In other places, however, the signs of a storm may be different.
The face of the sky - The appearance of the sky.
Matthew 16:4 "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."
A wicked and adulterous generation ... - See the notes at Matthew 12:38-40. Mark adds (Mark 8:12) that he signed deeply in spirit. He did not say this without feeling; he was greatly affected with their perverseness and obstinacy.
Matthew 16:5-12 "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."
The account in these verses is also recorded in Mark 8:13-21.
Matthew 16:5 "And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread."
And when his disciples were come to the other side - That is, to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
Mark says that he entered into a ship again, and departed to the other side. The conversation with the Pharisees and Sadducees had been on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. See the notes at Matthew 15:39. They crossed from that side again to the east.
Had forgotten to take bread - That is, had forgotten to lay in a sufficient supply. They had, it seems, not more than one loaf, (Mark 8:14).
Matthew 16:6-11 "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?"
Take heed ... - That is, be cautious, be on your guard.
The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees - Leaven is used in making bread.
It passes secretly, silently, but certainly through the mass of dough. See the notes at Matthew 13:33. "None can see its progress." So it was with the doctrines of the Pharisees. They were insinuating, artful, plausible. They concealed the real tendency of their doctrines; they instilled them secretly into the mind, until they pervaded all the faculties like leaven.
They reasoned ... - The disciples did not understand him as referring to the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees, because the word "leaven" was not often used among the Jews to denote doctrines, no other instance of this use of the word occurring in the Scriptures. Besides, the Jews had many particular rules about the leaven (yeast) which might be used in making bread. Many held that it was not lawful to eat bread made by the Gentiles; and the disciples, perhaps, supposed that he was cautioning them not to procure a supply from the Pharisees and Sadducees.
O ye of little faith! - Jesus, in reply, said that they should not be so anxious about the supply of their temporal wants. They should not have supposed, after the miracles that he had performed in feeding so many, that he would caution them to be anxious about procuring bread for their necessities. It was improper, then, for them to reason about a thing like that, but they should have supposed that he referred to something more important. The miracles had been full proof that he could supply all their wants without such anxiety.
Matthew 16:12 "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."
Then understood they ... - After this explanation they immediately saw that he referred to the doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Erroneous doctrines are like leaven in the following respects:
1. They are at first slight and unimportant in appearance, just as leaven is small in quantity as compared with the mass that is to be leavened.
2. They are insinuated into the soul unawares and silently, and are difficult of detection.
3. They act gradually.
4. They act most certainly.
5. They will pervade all the soul, and bring all the faculties under their control.
Matthew 16:13-20 "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."
See also Mark 8:27-29, and Luke 9:18-20.
Cesarea Philippi - There were two cities in Judea called Caesarea. One was situated on the borders of the Mediterranean (See the notes at Acts 8:40), and the other was the one mentioned here. This city was greatly enlarged and ornamented by Philip the tetrarch, son of Herod, and called Caesarea in honor of the Roman emperor, Tiberius Caesar. To distinguish it from the other Caesarea the name of Philip was added to it, and it was called Caesarea Philippi, or Caesarea of Philippi. It was situated in the boundaries of the tribe of Naphtali, at the foot of Mount Hermon. It is now called Panias or Banias, and contains (circa 1880's) about 200 houses, and is inhabited chiefly by Turks. The word "coasts" here now usually applied to land in the vicinity of the sea - means "borders" or "regions." He came into the part of the country which appertained to Cesarea Philippi. He was passing northward from the region of Bethsaida, on the coasts of Magdala (Matthew 15:39), where the transactions recorded in the previous verses had occurred.
When Jesus came - The original is, "when Jesus was coming." Mark says Mark 8:27 that this conversation took place when they were in the way, and this idea should have been retained in translating Matthew. While in the way, Jesus took occasion to call their attention "to the truth that he was the Messiah." This truth it was of much consequence that they should fully believe and understand; and it was important, therefore, that he should often learn their views, to establish them if right, and correct them if wrong. He began, therefore, by inquiring what was the common report respecting him.
Whom do men say ... - This passage has been variously rendered. Some have translated it, "Whom do men say that I am? the Son of man?" Others, "Whom do men say that I am - I, who am the Son of man - i. e., the Messiah?" The meaning is nearly the same. He wished to obtain the sentiments of the people respecting himself.
Matthew 16:14 "And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets."
And they said ... - See the notes at Matthew 11:14. They supposed that he might be John the Baptist, as Herod did, risen from the dead. See Matthew 14:2. He performed many miracles, and strongly resembled John in his manner of life, and in the doctrines which he taught.
Matthew 16:16 "And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
And Simon Peter answered ... - Peter, expressing the views of the apostles, with characteristic forwardness answered the question proposed to them by Jesus: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
The Christ - The Messiah, the "Anointed" of God. See the notes at Matthew 1:1.
The Son - That is, the Son by way of eminence - in a special sense. See the notes at Matthew 1:17. This appellation was understood as implying divinity, (John 10:29-36).
Of the living God - The term "living" was given to the true God to distinguish him from idols, that are dead, or lifeless blocks and stones. He is also the Source of life, temporal, spiritual, and eternal. The word "living" is often given to him in the Old Testament, (Joshua 3:10; 1 Samuel 17:26, 1 Samuel 17:36; Jeremiah 10:9-10), etc. In this noble confession Peter expressed the full belief of himself and of his brethren that he was the long-expected Messiah. Other people had very different opinions of him, but they were satisfied, and were not ashamed to confess it.
Matthew 16:17 "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, Blessed art thou ... - Simon Bar-jona is the same as Simon son of Jona. Bar is a Syriac word signifying son. The father of Peter, therefore, was Jona, or Jonas, (John 1:42; John 21:16-17).
Blessed - That is, happy, honored, evincing a proper spirit, and entitled to the approbation of God.
For flesh and blood - This phrase usually signifies man (see Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 6:12), and it has been commonly supposed that Jesus meant to say that man had not revealed it, but he seems rather to have referred to himself. "This truth you have not learned from my lowly appearance, from my human nature, from my apparent rank and standing in the world. You, Jews, were expecting to know the Messiah by his external splendor; his pomp and power as a man; but you have not learned me in this manner. I have shown no such indication of my Messiahship. Flesh and blood have not shown it. In spite of my appearance, my lowly state - my lack of resemblance to what you have expected, you have learned it as from God." They had been taught this by Jesus' miracles, his instructions, and by the direct teachings of God upon their minds. To "reveal" is to make known, or communicate something that was unknown or secret.
Matthew 16:18 "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, That thou art Peter - The word "Peter," in Greek, means "a rock." It was given to Simon by Christ when he called him to be a disciple, (John 1:42).
Cephas is a Syriac word, meaning the same as Peter - a rock, or stone. The meaning of this phrase may be thus expressed: "Thou, in saying that I am the Son of God, hast called me by a name expressive of my true character. I, also, have given to thee a name expressive of your character. I have called you Peter, a rock, denoting firmness, solidity, stability, and your confession has shown that the name is appropriate. I see that you are worthy of the name, and will be a distinguished support of my religion."
And upon this rock ... - This passage has given rise to many different interpretations. Some have supposed that the word "rock" refers to Peter's confession, and that Jesus meant to say, upon this rock, this truth that thou hast confessed, that I am the Messiah and upon confessions of this from all believers, I will build my church. Confessions like this shall be the test of piety, and in such confessions shall my church stand amid the flames of persecution, the fury of the gates of hell. Others have thought that Jesus referred to himself. Christ is called a rock, (Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:8). And it has been thought that he turned from Peter to himself, and said, "Upon this rock, this truth that I am the Messiah - upon myself as the Messiah, I will build my church." Both these interpretations, though plausible, seem forced upon the passage to avoid the main difficulty in it. Another interpretation is, that the word "rock" refers to Peter himself.
This is the obvious meaning of the passage; and had it not been that the Church of Rome has abused it, and applied it to what was never intended, no other interpretation would have been sought for. "Thou art a rock. Thou hast shown thyself firm, and suitable for the work of laying the foundation of the church. Upon thee will I build it. Thou shalt be highly honored; thou shalt be first in making known the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles." This was accomplished. See Acts 2:14-36, where he first preached to the Jews, and Acts 10, where he preached the gospel to Cornelius and his neighbors, who were Gentiles. Peter had thus the honor of laying the foundation of the church among the Jews and Gentiles; and this is the plain meaning of this passage. See also Galatians 2:9. But Christ did not mean, as the Roman Catholics say he did, to exalt Peter to supreme authority above all the other apostles, or to say that he was the only one upon whom he would rear his church. See Acts 15, where the advice of James, and not that of Peter, was followed. See also Galatians 2:11, where Paul withstood Peter to his face, because he was to be blamed - a thing which could not have happened if Christ (as the Roman Catholics say) meant that Peter was absolute and infallible. More than all, it is not said here, or anywhere else in the Bible, that Peter would have infallible successors who would be the vicegerents of Christ and the head of the church. The whole meaning of the passage is this: "I will make you the honored instrument of making known my gospel first to Jews and Gentiles, and I will make you a firm and distinguished preacher in building my church."
Will build my church - This refers to the custom of building in Judea upon a rock or other very firm foundation. See the notes at Matthew 7:24. The word "church" literally means "those called out," and often means an assembly or congregation. See Acts 19:32, Greek; (Acts 7:38). It is applied to Christians as being "called out" from the world. It means sometimes the whole body of believers, (Ephesians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 10:32). This is its meaning in this place. It means, also, a particular society of believers worshipping in one place, (Acts 8:1; Acts 9:31; 1 Corinthians 1:2), etc.; sometimes, also, a society in a single house, as Romans 16:5. In common language it means the church visible - i. e., all who profess religion; or invisible, i. e., all who are real Christians, professors or not.
And the gates of hell ... - Ancient cities were surrounded by walls. In the gates by which they were entered were the principal places for holding courts, transacting business, and deliberating on public matters. See the notes at Matthew 7:13. Compare the notes at Job 29:7. See also Deuteronomy 22:4; 1 Samuel 4:18; Jeremiah 36:10; Genesis 19:1; Psalm 69:12; Psalm 9:14; Proverbs 1:21. The word "gates," therefore, is used for counsels, designs, machinations, evil purposes.
"Hell" means, here, the place of departed spirits, particularly evil spirits; and the meaning of the passage is, that all the plots, stratagems, and machinations of the enemies of the church would not be able to overcome it a promise that has been remarkably fulfilled.
Matthew 16:19 "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 ... - A key is an instrument for opening a door.
He that is in possession of it has the power of access, and has a general care of a house. Hence, in the Bible, a key is used as a symbol of superintendence an emblem of power and authority. See the Isaiah 22:22 note; Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7 notes. The kingdom of heaven here means, doubtless, the church on earth. See the notes at Matthew 3:2. When the Saviour says, therefore, he will give to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he means that he will make him the instrument of opening the door of faith to the world the first to preach the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. This was done, Acts 2:14-36; 10. The "power of the keys" was given, on this occasion, to Peter alone, solely for this reason; the power of "binding and loosing" on earth was given to the other apostles with him. See Matthew 18:18. The only pre-eminence, then, that Peter had was the honor of first opening the doors of the gospel to the world.
Whatsoever thou shalt bind ... - The phrase "to bind" and "to loose" was often used by the Jews. It meant to prohibit and to permit. To bind a thing was to forbid it; to loose it, to allow it to be done. Thus, they said about gathering wood on the Sabbath day, "The school of Shammei binds it" - i. e., forbids it; "the school of Hillel looses it" - i. e., allows it. When Jesus gave this power to the apostles, he meant that whatsoever they forbade in the church should have divine authority; whatever they permitted, or commanded, should also have divine authority - that is, should be bound or loosed in heaven, or meet the approbation of God. They were to be guided infallibly in the organization of the church:
1. by the teaching of Christ, and,
2. by the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
This does not refer to persons, but to things - "whatsoever," not whosoever. It refers to rites and ceremonies in the church. Such of the Jewish customs as they should forbid were to be forbidden, and such as they thought proper to permit were to be allowed. Such rites as they should appoint in the church were to have the force of divine authority. Accordingly, they commanded the Gentile converts to "abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood" Acts 15:20; and, in general, they organized the church, and directed what was to be observed and what was to be avoided. The rules laid down by them in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, in connection with the teachings of the Saviour as recorded in the evangelists, constitute the only law binding on Christians in regard to the order of the church, and the rites and ceremonies to be observed in it.
Matthew 16:20 "Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ."
Then charged ... - That is, he commanded them.
Mark 8:30 and Luke (Luke 9:21) say (in Greek) that he strictly or severely charged them. He laid emphasis on it, as a matter of much importance. The reason of this seems to be that his time had not fully come; that he was not willing to rouse the Jewish malice, and to endanger his life, by having it proclaimed that he was the Messiah. The word "Jesus" is wanting in many manuscripts, and should probably be omitted: "Then he charged them strictly to tell no man that he was the Christ or Messiah."
Matthew 16:21-23 "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."
See also Mark 7:31-33; Luke 9:22. "From that time forth." This was the first intimation that he gave that he was to die in this cruel manner. He had taken much pains to convince them that he was the Messiah; he saw by the confession of Peter that they were convinced, and he then began to prepare their minds for the awful event which was before him. Had he declared this when he first called them they would never have followed him. Their minds Were not prepared for it. They expected a temporal, triumphant prince as the Messiah. He first, therefore, convinced them that he was the Christ, and then, with great prudence, began to correct their apprehensions of the proper character of the Messiah.
Elders - The men of the great council or Sanhedrin. See the notes at Matthew 5:7.
Chief priests and scribes - See the notes at Matthew 3:7.
Matthew 16:22 "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 - This may mean either that he interrupted him, or that he took him aside, or that he took him by the hand as a friend.
This latter is probably the true meaning. Peter was strongly attached to him. He could not bear to think of Jesus' death. He expected, moreover, that he would be the triumphant Messiah. In his ardor, and confidence, and strong attachment, he seized him by the hand as a friend, and said, "Be it far from thee." This phrase might have been translated, "God be merciful to thee; this shall not be unto thee." It expressed Peter's strong desire that it might not be. The word "rebuke" here means to admonish or earnestly to entreat, as in Luke 17:3. It does not mean that Peter assumed authority over Christ, but that he earnestly expressed his wish that it might not be so. Even this was improper. He should have been submissive, and not have interfered.
Matthew 16:23 "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."
Get thee behind me, Satan - The word "Satan" literally means "an adversary," or one who opposes us in the accomplishment of our designs.
It is applied to the devil commonly, as the opposer or adversary of man; but there is no evidence that the Lord Jesus meant to apply this term to Peter, as signifying that he was Satan or the devil, or that he used the term in anger. He may have used it in the general sense which the word bore as an adversary or opposer; and the meaning may be, that such sentiments as Peter expressed then were opposed to him and his plans. His interference was improper. His views and feelings stood in the way of the accomplishment of the Saviour's designs. There was, undoubtedly, a rebuke in this language, for the conduct of Peter was improper; but the idea which is commonly attached to it, and which, perhaps, our translation conveys, implies a more severe and harsh rebuke than the Saviour intended, and than the language which he used would express.
Thou art an offence - That is, a stumbling-block. Your advice and wishes are in my way. If followed, they would prevent the very thing for which I came.
Thou savourest not - Literally, thou thinkest not upon; or your language and spirit are not such as spring from a supreme regard to the will of God, or from proper views of him, but such as spring from the common views entertained by people. You think that those things should not be done which God wishes to be done. You judge of this matter as people do who are desirous of honor; and not as God, who sees it best that I should die, to promote the great interests of mankind.
Matthew 16:24-28 "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."
This discourse is also recorded in Mark 8:34-38; Mark 9:1; and Luke 9:23-27.
Let him, deny himself - That is, let him surrender to God his will, his affections, his body, and his soul. Let him not seek his own happiness as the supreme object, but be willing to renounce all, and lay down his life also, if required.
Take up his cross - See the notes at Matthew 10:38.
Matthew 16:25 "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."
Whosoever will save his life ... - See the notes at Matthew 10:39.
Matthew 16:26 "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 ... - To gain the whole world means to possess it as our own - all its riches, its honors, and its pleasures.
"To lose his own soul" means to be cast away, to be shut out from heaven, to be sent to hell. Two things are implied by Christ in these questions:
1. That they who are striving to gain the world, and are unwilling to give it up for the sake of religion, will lose their souls; and,
2. That if the soul is lost, nothing can be given in exchange for it, or that it can never afterward be saved. There is no redemption in hell.
Matthew 16:27 "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 ... - That is, he will return to judge the world.
He will come in glory the glory of his Father the majesty with which God is accustomed to appear, and which befits God. He will be attended by angels. He will judge all people.
Reward - The word "reward" means recompense. He will deal with them according to their character. The righteous he will reward in heaven with glory and happiness. The wicked he will send to hell, as a reward or recompense for their evil works. This fact, that he will come to judgment, he gives as a reason why we should be willing to deny ourselves and follow him. Even though it should be now attended with contempt and suffering, yet then he will reward his followers for all their shame and sorrow, and receive them to his kingdom. He adds Mark 8:38, that if we are ashamed of him here, he will be ashamed of us there. That is, if we reject and disown him here, he will reject and disown us there.
Matthew 16:28 "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 ... - To encourage them, he assured them that, though his kingdom was now obscure and despised - though he was cast out and little known - yet the time was near when he would be regarded in a different manner, and his kingdom be established with great power.
This cannot refer to the end of the world, and there is no need of referring it to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Taste of death - That is, die. Before they die they shall see this.
Son of man coming in his kingdom - Mark and Luke have explained this: (Mark 9:1), "Until they have seen the kingdom of God come with power;" (Luke 9:27), "Till they see the kingdom of God." The meaning evidently is, "till they shall see my kingdom," i. e., my church, now small, feeble, and despised, greatly enlarged, established, and spreading with great rapidity and extent. All this was accomplished. All these apostles, except Judas, lived to see the wonders of the day of Pentecost; some of them, John particularly, saw the Jewish nation scattered, the temple destroyed, the gospel established in Asia, Rome, Greece, and in a large part of the known world.
Remarks On Matthew 16
1. People will often judge far more correctly about natural than about spiritual things, (Matthew 16:1-3). In respect to natural objects they are watchful. In them they feel a deep interest, and they watch for every sign that may affect their interest. They are too much concerned to judge falsely. But they feel no such interest in religious things. Hence, it happens that people who have good sense and much wisdom in regard to worldly concerns, are often exceedingly foolish in regard to religion. They believe reports respecting religion, revivals, and missions, which they would despise on any other subject. They read and believe newspapers and other publications, which they would hold in contempt on any other topic but religion. They give a degree of weight to arguments against the Bible, and against the doctrines of the gospel, to which they would attach little or no importance on any other subject. They sustain themselves in infidelity by arguments which they would regard as of no force if the same kind of reasoning was urged in defense of anything else.
2. It is of importance to watch the signs of the times, (Matthew 16:3). In the days of Christ it was the duty of the people to look at the evidence that he was the Messiah. The proofs were clear that he was the Messiah. It is also important to look at the signs of the times in which we live. They are clear also. Much is doing; and the diffusion of the Bible, the labors among the pagan, the distribution of tracts, and perhaps, above all, the institution of Sunday schools, betoken an eventful age, and are an indication that brighter days are about to dawn on the world. We should watch these signs that we may rejoice; that we may pray with more fervor, and that we may do our part to advance the kingdom of God. Little children should grow up believing that they live in an important age; that they enjoy many special privileges, and that they may and must do much to spread the gospel through the earth. Even in childhood, they should pray, and they should give to benefit others; and, most of all, they should give themselves to Christ, that they may benefit others with a right spirit.
3. Sinners should be addressed with deep feeling and faithfulness, (Mark 8:12). Jesus sighed deeply. So should we. We should not be harsh, or sour, or cold and unfeeling when we address our fellow-men about eternity. We should weep over them, and pray for them, and speak to them, not as if we were better than they, but with an earnest desire for their salvation. Compare Acts 20:31; Philemon 3:18.
4. People easily mistake plain instruction, (Matthew 16:7). And especially is this the case where there is any chance of giving a worldly turn to the instruction. If people's thoughts - even those of Christians were more off from the world, and they thought less of the supply of their temporal wants, they would understand the truths of religion much better than they do. No man can understand the doctrines of religion aright whose principal concern is what he shall eat, and drink, and wear. Hence, even Christians are often strangely ignorant of the plainest truths of religion; and hence the importance of teaching those truths to children before their thoughts become engrossed by the world; and hence, too, the importance of Sunday schools.
5. We should not have undue anxiety about the supply of our wants. Christ supplied many thousands by a word, and he can easily supply us, (Matthew 16:9-12).
6. We should learn, from his past goodness, to trust him for the future, (Matthew 16:9-12).
7. We should be on our guard against error, (Matthew 16:11). It is sly, artful, plausible, working secretly, but effectually. We should always be cautious of what we believe, and examine it by the word of God. False doctrines are often made as much like the truth as possible, for the very purpose of deceiving. "Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light," (2 Corinthians 11:14).
8. It is important to ascertain our views of Christ, (Matthew 16:13-15). Our all depends on this. If we do not think and feel right respecting him we cannot be safe. We should often, then, ask ourselves - we should ask one another - what we think of Christ.
9. It is our duty to profess attachment to Christ. It should be done boldly, and always, (Matthew 16:16). We should never be ashamed of him. And to do this, we should always, in our own hearts, believe that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
10. We should esteem it a great happiness and honor to be enabled thus to show our attachment to him. The world may not honor us, but God will, and He will pronounce us blessed, (Matthew 16:17).
11. God only reveals to people right views of Christ, (Matthew 16:17). This he does by his word and Spirit. We should, then search the Bible; and we should pray much that God would reveal his Son in us, and enable us boldly to confess him before people.
12. The church is safe, (Matthew 16:18). It may be small - it may be feeble - it may weep much - it may be much opposed and ridiculed - it may have mighty enemies - the rich and the great may set themselves against it - but it is safe. It is founded upon a rock. Its enemies shall never be able to overcome it. Jesus has promised it, and in all ages he has shown that he has remembered his promise. It has not been suffered to become extinct. It has been persecuted, opposed, ridiculed, and almost driven from the world; but a few have been found who have loved the Lord; and soon the flame has kindled, and the church has shone forth "fair as the sun, clear as the moon, and terrible as any army with banners." So it is still. Feeble churches may mourn much - iniquity may abound - the few pious people may weep in secret places, but Jesus hears their groans and counts their tears, and they and the church are safe. He is their friend, and all the powers of hell shall not prevail against his church.
13. The importance of prudence in delivering truth, (Matthew 16:21). It should be well-timed - it should be when people are prepared to receive it. Especially is this true of young converts. They have need of milk, and not of strong meat. They should not be surprised that many doctrines of the Bible are mysterious now, but they will fully comprehend them hereafter. Peter, a young convert, did not understand the plain doctrine that Jesus must die for sin, yet it was made clear to him later, and, most cordially, he loved it.
14. It is highly wicked and improper to attempt to counsel God, or to think that we understand things better than he does, (Matthew 16:22-23). God's plan is the best plan; and though it does not fall within our views of "wisdom," yet we should be still. It is all wise. What He does we do not know now, yet we shall know hereafter.
15. We see what religion requires, (Matthew 16:24). We must deny ourselves. We must submit to trials. We must do our duty. We must welcome persecution, (Matthew 5:10). We must be, in all places, among all people, and in every employment, Christians, no matter what may happen. Come poverty, disease, persecution, death, it is ours to take up the cross and do our duty. So, apostles, and martyrs, and the Saviour himself have gone before us, and we must follow in their steps:
"Shall I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
And sailed through bloody seas?
"Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord,
To bear the cross, endure the shame,
Supported by Thy Word."
16. How foolish are the people of this world! (Matthew 16:26). In a little time how worthless will be all their wealth! It is gained by anxiety, and toil, and tears. It never satisfies. It harasses them with constant care. It smooths no wrinkles on their brow, alleviates no pain when they are sick, saves no friend from death, gives no consolation in regard to the future, and may be left at any moment. Others will soon possess, and perhaps scatter in dissipation, what they have obtained by so much toil. See Psalm 39:6. And while they scatter or enjoy it, where shall the soul of him be who spent all his probation to obtain it? Alas! Lost, lost, lost - forever lost! And no wealth, no man, no devil, no angel, can redeem him, or be given for his soul. The harvest will be past, the summer ended, and he not saved. In gaining the world he made two things certain - disappointment and trouble here, and an eternity of woe hereafter. How foolish and wicked is man!
17. The righteous should rejoice that Jesus will come again to our world. He will reward them, (Matthew 16:27). He will come as their friend, and they shall ascend with him to heaven.
18. The wicked should weep and wail that Jesus will come again to our world. He will punish them for their crimes, (Matthew 16:27). They cannot escape. See Revelation 1:7.
19. It will not be long before he will come, (Matthew 16:28). At any rate, it will not be long before we shall meet him. Death is near; and then we must stand before him, and give an account of the deeds done in the body.
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