Saint Matthew – Chapter 16

The Bible – New Testament

Saint Matthew

Chapter 16


1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came and, to test him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven.


2 He said to them in reply, «(In the evening you say, ‘Tomorrow will be fair, for the sky is red’;


and, in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to judge the appearance of the sky, but you cannot judge the signs of the times.)


An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah.» 3 Then he left them and went away.


In coming to the other side of the sea, 4 the disciples had forgotten to bring bread.


Jesus said to them, «Look out, and beware of the leaven 5 of the Pharisees and Sadducees.»


6 They concluded among themselves, saying, «It is because we have brought no bread.»


When Jesus became aware of this he said, «You of little faith, why do you conclude among yourselves that it is because you have no bread?


Do you not yet understand, and do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many wicker baskets you took up?


Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up?


How do you not comprehend that I was not speaking to you about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.»


Then they understood 7 that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.


8 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi 9 he asked his disciples, «Who do people say that the Son of Man is?»


They replied, «Some say John the Baptist, 10 others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.»


He said to them, «But who do you say that I am?»


11 Simon Peter said in reply, «You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.»


Jesus said to him in reply, «Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood 12 has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.


And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, 13 and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.


I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. 14 Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.»


15 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.


16 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he 17 must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.


18 Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, «God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.»


He turned and said to Peter, «Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.»


19 Then Jesus said to his disciples, «Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, 20 take up his cross, and follow me.


For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 21


What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?


22 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.


23 Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.»

1 [1] A sign from heaven: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 12:38-42.
2 [2-3] The answer of Jesus in these verses is omitted in many important textual witnesses, and it is very uncertain that it is an original part of this gospel. It resembles ⇒ Luke 12:54-56 and may have been inserted from there. It rebukes the Pharisees and Sadducees who are able to read indications of coming weather but not the indications of the coming kingdom in the signs that Jesus does offer, his mighty deeds and teaching.
3 [4] See the notes on ⇒ Matthew 12:39, ⇒ 40.
4 [5-12] Jesus’ warning his disciples against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees comes immediately before his promise to confer on Peter the authority to bind and to loose on earth (⇒ Matthew 16:19), an authority that will be confirmed in heaven. Such authority most probably has to do, at least in part, with teaching. The rejection of the teaching authority of the Pharisees (see also ⇒ Matthew 12:12-14) prepares for a new one derived from Jesus.
5 [6] Leaven: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 13:33. Sadducees: Matthew’s Marcan source speaks rather of «the leaven of Herod» (⇒ Matthew 8:15).
6 [7-11] The disciples, men of little faith, misunderstand Jesus’ metaphorical use of leaven, forgetting that, as the feeding of the crowds shows, he is not at a loss to provide them with bread.
7 [12] After his rebuke, the disciples understand that by leaven he meant the corrupting influence of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The evangelist probably understands this teaching as common to both groups. Since at the time of Jesus’ ministry the two differed widely on points of teaching, e.g., the resurrection of the dead, and at the time of the evangelist the Sadducee party was no longer a force in Judaism, the supposed common teaching fits neither period. The disciples’ eventual understanding of Jesus’ warning contrasts with their continuing obtuseness in the Marcan parallel (⇒ Matthew 8:14-21).
8 [13-20] The Marcan confession of Jesus as Messiah, made by Peter as spokesman for the other disciples (⇒ Mark 8:27-29; cf also ⇒ Luke 9:18-20), is modified significantly here. The confession is of Jesus both as Messiah and as Son of the living God (⇒ Matthew 16:16). Jesus’ response, drawn principally from material peculiar to Matthew, attributes the confession to a divine revelation granted to Peter alone (⇒ Matthew 16:17) and makes him the rock on which Jesus will build his church (⇒ Matthew 16:18) and the disciple whose authority in the church on earth will be confirmed in heaven, i.e., by God (⇒ Matthew 16:19).
9 [13] Caesarea Philippi: situated about twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee in the territory ruled by Philip, a son of Herod the Great, tetrarch from 4 B.C. until his death in A.D. 34 (see the note on ⇒ Matthew 14:1). He rebuilt the town of Paneas, naming it Caesarea in honor of the emperor, and Philippi («of Philip») to distinguish it from the seaport in Samaria that was also called Caesarea. Who do people say that the Son of Man is?: although the question differs from the Marcan parallel (⇒ Mark 8:27: «Who . . . that I am?»), the meaning is the same, for Jesus here refers to himself as the Son of Man (cf ⇒ Matthew 16:15).
10 [14] John the Baptist: see ⇒ Matthew 14:2. Elijah: cf ⇒ Malachi 3:23-24; ⇒ Sirach 48:10; and see the note on ⇒ Matthew 3:4. Jeremiah: an addition of Matthew to the Marcan source.
11 [16] The Son of the living God: see ⇒ Matthew 2:15; ⇒ 3:17. The addition of this exalted title to the Marcan confession eliminates whatever ambiguity was attached to the title Messiah. This, among other things, supports the view proposed by many scholars that Matthew has here combined his source’s confession with a post-resurrectional confession of faith in Jesus as Son of the living God that belonged to the appearance of the risen Jesus to Peter; cf ⇒ 1 Cor 15:5; ⇒ Luke 24:34.
12 [17] Flesh and blood: a Semitic expression for human beings, especially in their weakness. Has not revealed this . . . but my heavenly Father: that Peter’s faith is spoken of as coming not through human means but through a revelation from God is similar to Paul’s description of his recognition of who Jesus was; see ⇒ Gal 1:15-16, «. . . when he [God] . . . was pleased to reveal his Son to me. . . .»
13 [18] You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: the Aramaic word kepa – meaning rock and transliterated into Greek as Kephas is the name by which Peter is called in the Pauline letters (⇒ 1 Cor 1:12; ⇒ 3:22; ⇒ 9:5; ⇒ 15:4; ⇒ Gal 1:18; ⇒ 2:9, ⇒ 11, ⇒ 14) except in ⇒ Gal 2:7-8 («Peter»). It is translated as Petros («Peter») in ⇒ John 1:42. The presumed original Aramaic of Jesus’ statement would have been, in English, «You are the Rock (Kepa) and upon this rock (kepa) I will build my church.» The Greek text probably means the same, for the difference in gender between the masculine noun petros, the disciple’s new name, and the feminine noun petra (rock) may be due simply to the unsuitability of using a feminine noun as the proper name of a male. Although the two words were generally used with slightly different nuances, they were also used interchangeably with the same meaning, «rock.» Church: this word (Greek ekklesia) occurs in the gospels only here and in ⇒ Matthew 18:17 (twice). There are several possibilities for an Aramaic original. Jesus’ church means the community that he will gather and that, like a building, will have Peter as its solid foundation. That function of Peter consists in his being witness to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it: the netherworld (Greek Hades, the abode of the dead) is conceived of as a walled city whose gates will not close in upon the church of Jesus, i.e., it will not be overcome by the power of death.
14 [19] The keys to the kingdom of heaven: the image of the keys is probably drawn from ⇒ Isaiah 22:15-25 where Eliakim, who succeeds Shebnah as master of the palace, is given «the key of the house of David,» which he authoritatively «opens» and «shuts» (⇒ Isaiah 22:22). Whatever you bind . . . loosed in heaven: there are many instances in rabbinic literature of the binding-loosing imagery. Of the several meanings given there to the metaphor, two are of special importance here: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication. It is disputed whether the image of the keys and that of binding and loosing are different metaphors meaning the same thing. In any case, the promise of the keys is given to Peter alone. In ⇒ Matthew 18:18 all the disciples are given the power of binding and loosing, but the context of that verse suggests that there the power of excommunication alone is intended. That the keys are those to the kingdom of heaven and that Peter’s exercise of authority in the church on earth will be confirmed in heaven show an intimate connection between, but not an identification of, the church and the kingdom of heaven.
15 [20] Cf ⇒ Mark 8:30. Matthew makes explicit that the prohibition has to do with speaking of Jesus as the Messiah; see the note on ⇒ Mark 8:27-30.
16 [21-23] This first prediction of the passion follows ⇒ Mark 8:31-33 in the main and serves as a corrective to an understanding of Jesus’ messiahship as solely one of glory and triumph. By his addition of from that time on (⇒ Matthew 16:21) Matthew has emphasized that Jesus’ revelation of his coming suffering and death marks a new phase of the gospel. Neither this nor the two later passion predictions (⇒ Matthew 17:22-23; ⇒ 20:17-19) can be taken as sayings that, as they stand, go back to Jesus himself. However, it is probable that he foresaw that his mission would entail suffering and perhaps death, but was confident that he would ultimately be vindicated by God (see ⇒ Matthew 26:29).
17 [21] He: the Marcan parallel (⇒ Mark 8:31) has «the Son of Man.» Since Matthew has already designated Jesus by that title (13), its omission here is not significant. The Matthean prediction is equally about the sufferings of the Son of Man. Must: this necessity is part of the tradition of all the synoptics; cf ⇒ Mark 8:31; ⇒ Luke 9:21. The elders, the chief priests, and the scribes: see the note on ⇒ Mark 8:31. On the third day: so also ⇒ Luke 9:22, against the Marcan «after three days» (⇒ Mark 8:31). Matthew’s formulation is, in the Greek, almost identical with the pre-Pauline fragment of the kerygma in ⇒ 1 Cor 15:4 and also with ⇒ Hosea 6:2 which many take to be the Old Testament background to the confession that Jesus was raised on the third day. Josephus uses «after three days» and «on the third day» interchangeably (Antiquities 7, 11, 6 #280-81; 8, 8, 1-2 #214, 218) and there is probably no difference in meaning between the two phrases.
18 [22-23] Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus’ predicted suffering and death is seen as a satanic attempt to deflect Jesus from his God-appointed course, and the disciple is addressed in terms that recall Jesus’ dismissal of the devil in the temptation account (⇒ Matthew 4:10: «Get away, Satan!»). Peter’s satanic purpose is emphasized by Matthew’s addition to the Marcan source of the words You are an obstacle to me.
19 [24-28] A readiness to follow Jesus even to giving up one’s life for him is the condition for true discipleship; this will be repaid by him at the final judgment.
20 [24] Deny himself: to deny someone is to disown him (see ⇒ Matthew 10:33; ⇒ 26:34-35) and to deny oneself is to disown oneself as the center of one’s existence.
21 [25] See the notes on ⇒ Matthew 10:38, ⇒ 39.
22 [27] The parousia and final judgment are described in ⇒ Matthew 25:31 in terms almost identical with these.
23 [28] Coming in his kingdom: since the kingdom of the Son of Man has been described as «the world» and Jesus’ sovereignty precedes his final coming in glory (⇒ Matthew 13:38,  41), the coming in this verse is not the parousia as in the preceding but the manifestation of Jesus’ rule after his resurrection; see the notes on  Matthew 13:38,  41.