79. Matthew 16: “What Does Jesus Believe In?”
South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, NJ –Men’s Evening Chapel on 9/17/2017
(edited June 2021)
Verse 1: “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.”
The Ancient Jewish religious leaders had gathered around Christ. The Pharisees were the more conservative group at that time and the Sadducees more like the religious liberals of our day. Somehow, like today I would say, Jesus always would manage to offend both groups at once!
They all wanted to see, with their own eyes, a sign from Him. A miracle in the flesh! Not so they could believe in Him, but I think, so they could prove Him to be a fraud and get Him out of their way. A story was circulating that Jesus had recently fed over 4,000 people with only 7 loaves of bread and a “few little” fishes. Wow! If that was true the drudgery of the religion both the Pharisees and Sadducees could offer would pale by comparison in the minds and hearts of the people! And I believe this is what they feared would happen.
Verses 2-4: “He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 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? 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.”
Christ did NOT BELIEVE in pandering to the “important” people of His day. And, O my, that was starting to bother these religious leaders! His message, His mission to go the Cross and be raised from the dead, and everything He was saying about the Kingdom of God, was directed equally to everyone. You know, I was born into this world kind of a “nobody” (Tell you the truth, I still am!). But that doesn’t make me any less important to Christ. His Love for ALL of us is the greatest miracle and the only “sign” any of us should ever need concerning Him.
Verses 5-7: “And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.”
The Disciples were focusing on practical matters, the logistics of food, travel, and meetings. But not Christ. That was not His focus:
Verses 8-10: “Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?”
Christ BELIEVED IN . . . well, He believed in Christ, in Himself! He was not just a good teacher around Whom some supernatural legends were created. Jesus is not Johnny Appleseed! Christ Himself, spoke of His own miracles. So, if they never happened, He’s a liar. Now, here comes something else He believed:
Verses 11-12: “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? 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.”
Jesus BELIEVED that poor doctrine about God and poor religious practices were dangerous. That is what mattered to Him. More so than food and shelter, and schedules, etc.
Verses 13-17: “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? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 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.”
Christ BELIEVED, not so much in Peter’s faith or yours or mine, but in the faith that God can grant to a person who will take the time to listen to the Heavenly Father before they act or speak on their own.
Verses 18-19: “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 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.”
Jesus also BELIEVED in the Church, His Church, even before it existed in its present form! I think that Jesus has more confidence in His Church today than most of us who belong to it. You see, He BELIVES in us! As long as we heed the Word of God and remain sensitive to the daily leading of the Holy Spirit within each of us! O yes, maybe you don’t or I don’t, but Jesus still has high hopes for His Church, right now! And there’s more:
Verses 20-23: “Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. 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. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 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.”
Christ BELIEVES (and KNOWS) that even the most well-meaning believer can, at time, listen to and follow the wrong voice. Can we really blame Peter here? What would you have said differently if Jesus told you the way He was going to die? Peter’s just quoting common sense. But, according to Jesus, sometimes our common sense serves the Devil.
Verses 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.”
Christ also BELIEVES that EACH and EVERY BELIEVER must accept some suffering in this life. That is part of faith and the pathway to ETERNAL life.
Verses 25-27: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 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 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.”
This all goes against common sense, doesn’t it? It also goes against Satan and our own selfish nature. But Jesus BELIEVES that the ETERNAL REWARDS far outweigh the sacrifices required for RIGHTEOUS living.
Verses 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.”
It turns out that Christ does BELIEVE in giving signs and miracles. He just doesn’t BELIEVE in allowing us to coerce Him into doing it for our own, wrong, reasons. Three Disciples, three members of His team on Earth at that time, are about to have an amazing experience. It’s recorded in the opening nine verses of the next chapter, Matthew 17. Listen to this:
“And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.”
A clear sign and proof of THE KINGDOM to come! A glimpse of the HEAVENLY KING, Who had been present with them at that time only in His earthly form! Wow! I think this was done to help these three Disciples with their faith. I know Peter never forgot what he saw that day, even though it was totally beyond his understanding when it actually took place. Look what he said about it, years later, in the Second Letter of Peter, chapter 1, verses 11-18. Peter was then nearing the end of his life on earth:
“For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”
Signs and wonders aren’t bad. Miracles aren’t bad. And we need to look for them today, not the selfish stuff, but the TRUE MIRACLES that reveal CHRIST to the believer and to the world, and build TRUE FAITH within the CHURCH. That’s what they are intended to do. Let’s pray.