Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20
Epistle: Romans 11:33-12:8
Lesson: Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm: Psalm 138
CLB Commentary – Dr. Gaylan Mathiesen
Since Matthew’s gospel appears to be directed to the Jewish people, Matthew introduces Jesus to us as the new Moses leading a new Israel—the Church. With this primary audience in mind, Matthew gives attention to Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, and highlighted Christ’s role as the Son of David and the Son of Man. This new Moses is of course greater than the old Moses (Hebrews 3:3), and Christ’s Gospel is for all people, not just Israel. (For example, Matthew shows that Gentiles are present at the birth of Jesus, and he included four non-Israelite women in Jesus’ genealogy.)
This Jewish context is quite evident here in chapter 16, as the Pharisees and Sadducees once again (see Mt. 12:38) demand of Jesus “a sign from heaven.” (The “from heaven” wording is customary, demonstrating the Jewish reverential avoidance of using God’s name. They were specifically asking Him to perform a sign from God.) Had Jesus not already given many signs? Of course He had, but as Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says of this request: “they despised those signs which relieved the necessity of the sick and sorrowful, and called for something else which would gratify the curiosity of the proud” (http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=40&c=16). Obviously then, the religious powers of the day are demanding a sign of their own choosing.
Matthew is clear about the confusion regarding people’s perceptions of who Jesus is. They rejected Him in his hometown of Nazareth (Mt. 13), even John the Baptist had second thoughts (11:2-3) and the Pharisees are already plotting to kill Him (12:13). As the end of Jesus’ ministry now draws near, it is vitally important that the content of His message is getting across to these disciples who will one day lead His Church. First He asks them, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”— of course there has been much speculation: some say John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets come back from the dead. But more importantly, Jesus wants to know who His chosen disciples believe Him to be: “But what about you? Who do you say that I am?” This is always the critical question for all people in all times. It is the critical question that separates the biblical Gospel from every other message out there—who is Jesus?
Jesus surely rejoiced at Peter’s confession, as he answered that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. The Spirit of God has been at work creating saving faith in Peter’s heart and mind. Matthew gives Jesus’ insightful response to this confession as follows: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven” (verse 17). The knowledge of Jesus’ true identity is a gift of God’s grace. Here we see God preparing these disciples more fully to go on with Him in His mission of proclaiming the Son of God as glorious Savior, to all creation. How about you? Who do you say that Jesus is?