The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.Matthew 16:1. The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came — Notwithstanding the difference of their principles, and the alienation of their affections from each other, they now agreed to join in an attempt upon Christ; his doctrine being equally opposed to the errors and vices of both these sects; see the note on Matthew 3:7 : tempting, or, trying him, as πειραζοντες properly signifies; (see note on Matthew 4:1,) that is, making trial, in a crafty and insnaring manner, whether he was able to do what they required: desired a sign from heaven — Such a sign as they insinuated Satan could not counterfeit. They pretended they were willing to be convinced that he was the Messiah, could they see sufficient proofs of it: whereas they had already resisted the clearest evidence of it, and now indeed came with no design or desire of being convinced of his divine mission, but in order that, failing in the proof which they required, he might expose himself to general censure and contempt.
He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.Matthew 16:2-3. He answered, When it is evening, &c. — As if he had said, It is evident you ask this out of a desire to cavil rather than to discern the divine will, for in other cases you take up with degrees of evidence far short of those which you here reject: as for instance, you know that a red sky in the evening is a presage of fair weather, and a red and lowering sky in the morning, of foul weather; thus ye can discern the face of the sky, and form from thence very probable conjectures concerning the weather; but can ye not discern the signs of the times — The signs which evidently show that this is the time of the Messiah? The proofs which Jesus was daily giving them by his wonderful works, his holy and beneficent conduct, and heavenly doctrine, of his divine mission, were more than sufficient to establish it; and, had the Pharisees been possessed of any candour at all, or any inclination to know the truth, they could not have been at a loss to judge in this matter, especially, as in ordinary affairs they showed abundance of acuteness. The truth is, as our Lord here signified, their not acknowledging him as the Messiah was neither owing to want of evidence, nor to want of capacity to judge of that evidence; but to their self- confidence and pride, and their carnal and worldly spirit.
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?
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.Matthew 16:4. A wicked and adulterous generation — As if he had said, Ye would seek no further sign, did not your wickedness, and your love of the world, which is spiritual adultery, blind your understanding. There shall no sign be given, but — of the Prophet Jonas — Or the miracle of Christ’s own resurrection, a sign greater than any of those showed by the ancient prophets and messengers of God, and consequently a sign which proved Jesus to be superior unto them all. This sign our Lord had explained on a former occasion. See on Matthew 12:40.
And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.Matthew 16:5-12. When his disciples were come to the other side — Namely, of the sea of Tiberias, see Mark 8:13; they had forgotten to take bread — They had tarried so long in Dalmanutha, or Magdala, that they had consumed the seven baskets of fragments which they had taken up at the late miracle, recorded Matthew 15:32-39, and had no more than one loaf with them in the ship, Mark 8:14. Then Jesus said, Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees — That is, of their false doctrine; elegantly called leaven, for it spreads in the soul, or the church, as leaven does in meal. And they reasoned among themselves — What must we do then for bread, since we have taken no bread with us? Thus the slowness of their understanding showed itself on this occasion, as it had done on many others. “As they had forgotten to take bread, and had often heard the doctors prohibit the use of the leaven of heathen and Samaritans, they thought he forbade them to buy bread from bakers of either sect, lest it might be made with impure leaven, and so they looked on the advice as an indirect reproof of their carelessness.” Which when Jesus perceived — As he knew all the secret workings of their minds; he said, O ye of little faith, why reason ye? — Why are ye troubled about this? Why should your neglecting to bring bread with you make you put such an interpretation upon my words? Am I not able, if need so require, to supply you by a word? Observe, reader, to distrust Christ, and disquiet our own minds, when we are in straits and difficulties, is an evidence of the weakness of our faith, which, if it were in exercise as it should be would deliver us from the burden of care, by enabling us to cast it on the Lord, who careth for us. Do ye not understand — After having been so long with me, are ye still ignorant of my power and goodness? neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets, &c. — Certainly you are very stupid, if you have forgotten how that with five loaves I fed five thousand men, who, after being fully satisfied, left a great deal more than the quantity that was at first set before me to divide among them. Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand — An instance of a merciful and miraculous supply which happened so lately. How is it that ye do not understand? — How came ye not to know that he, who on those different occasions fed such multitudes with such a little quantity of food, can never be at a loss to provide a meal for twelve? The experience which they had so lately had of the power and goodness of Christ in providing for them, was a great aggravation of their distrust. Though they had no bread with them, they had Him with them who could provide bread for them. God’s people may well be ashamed of the slowness and dulness of their apprehensions in divine things; especially when they have long enjoyed the means of grace. As Christ’s disciples well deserved the sharp rebuke which their Master gave them on this occasion, so it had the designed effect; for it brought the disciples to understand that he designed to caution them against the corrupt doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees; the pernicious nature and tendency of which may be learned from many instances taken notice of and condemned by Jesus himself, in the course of his ministry.
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.
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?
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.
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?Matthew 16:13-16. When Jesus came, &c. — There was a large interval of time between what has been related already, and what follows. The passages that follow were but a short time before our Lord suffered: came into the coasts of Cesarea Philippi — “This city, while in the possession of the Canaanites, was called Lesheim, Joshua 19:47; and Laish, Jdg 18:27. But when the children of Dan took it, they named it after their progenitor. In latter times it was called Paneas, from the mountain beneath which it stood. The situation of Paneas pleased Philip the tetrarch so exceedingly, that he resolved to make it the seat of his court. For which purpose he enlarged and adorned it with many sumptuous buildings, and called it Cesarea in honour of the Roman emperor. The tetrarch’s own name, however, was commonly added, to distinguish it from the other Cesarea, so often mentioned in the Jewish history, and in the Acts of the Apostles, which was a fine port on the Mediterranean sea, and had been rebuilt by Herod the Great, and named in honour of Augustus Cæsar.” — Macknight. Josephus gives Philip so good a character, that some have thought our Lord retired into his territories for security from the insults of his enemies elsewhere. He asked his disciples, Who do men (Luke says, the people,) say that I, the Son of man, am — Who do they take me to be, who am really a man, born of a woman, and in outward appearance a mere man? Or, as some understand the expression, Who do men say that I am? the Son of man? Do they say that I am the Son of man, the Messiah? So Macknight, with some others, thinks the words ought to be placed and pointed, to make them agree with the question which Christ afterward proposed to his disciples, namely, But who say ye that I am? words which imply that he had not yet directly assumed the title of the Messiah, at least in their hearing. Dr. Lightfoot, however, conjectures that Christ here inquires, not barely whether the people thought him to be the Christ, but what kind of person they thought him to be: the Jews then doubting concerning the original of him who was to be the Messiah, and whether he was to come from the living or the dead. And it must be acknowledged, that the word τινα, whom, often relates to the quality of the person spoken of. So John 8:53, τινα, whom makest thou thyself? Christ made this inquiry, not because he was ignorant what the people thought and spoke of him, for their thoughts and words were perfectly known to him, but that he might have, from themselves, a declaration of their faith, and might therefrom take occasion of confirming and strengthening them in it. In answer to the question concerning the people, the disciples reply, Some say, thou art John the Baptist — Namely, risen from the dead, and with an additional power of working miracles; some, Elias — That thou art Elijah the prophet, come to prepare the way of the Messiah; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets — There was at that time a current tradition among the Jews, that either Jeremiah, or some other of the ancient prophets, would rise again before the Messiah came. Most part of the people took Jesus for a different person from what he was, because he had nothing of the outward pomp or grandeur in which they supposed the Messiah was to appear. Therefore, that he might give his disciples, who had long been witnesses of his miracles, and had attended on his ministry, an opportunity of declaring their opinion of him, he proceeded to ask, But who say ye that I am? And Peter, who was generally the most forward to speak, replied in the name of the rest, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God — That is, his son in a peculiar sense, and therefore a person of infinitely greater dignity than either John the Baptist, or Elias, or Jeremiah, or any other prophet.
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.Matthew 16:17. Jesus answered, Blessed [or happy, as μακαριος signifies] art thou, Simon Bar-jona, (or the son of Jonas,) namely, in being brought thus firmly to believe and confess this most important truth, on believing and confessing which the present and everlasting salvation of mankind depends. For flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee — “Thou hast not learned it by human report, or the unassisted sagacity of thy own mind; but my Father in heaven has discovered it to thee, and wrought in thy soul this cordial assent, in the midst of those various prejudices against it which present circumstances might suggest.” Our Lord proceeds, and promises, (alluding to his surname of Peter, from πετρα, a rock,) that he should have a principal concern in establishing Christ’s kingdom. Thou art Peter — As if he had said, “Thou art, as thy name signifies, a substantial rock; and as thou hast shown it in this good confession, I assure thee that upon this rock I will build my church. Faith in me as the Son of God shall be its great support, and I will use thee as a glorious instrument in raising it: yea, so immoveable and firm shall its foundation be, and so secure the superstructure, that though earth and hell unite their assaults against it, and death in its most dreadful forms be armed for its destruction; the gates of hell, or the unseen world, shall not finally prevail against it to its ruin: but one generation of Christians shall arise after another, even to the very end of time, to maintain this truth, and to venture their lives and their souls upon it, till at length the whole body of them be redeemed from the power of the grave.” See Doddridge, who further observes, “This is one of those scriptures, the sense of which might be most certainly fixed by the particular tone of voice and gesture with which it was spoken. If our Lord altered his accent, and laid his hand on his breast, it would show that he spoke, not of the person, but of the confession of Peter, (as most Protestant divines have understood it,) and meant to point out himself as the great foundation.” Compare 1 Corinthians 3:10-11. In confirmation of this sense, it may be observed, that when our Lord says, Upon this rock, he does not make use of the word πετρος, as if he referred to Peter himself, but πετρα, which is an appellative noun, and immediately refers to Peter’s confession. “But if, when our Lord uttered these words, he turned to the other apostles, and pointed to Peter, that would show he meant to intimate the honour he would do him, in making him an eminent support to his church. This is the sense which Grotius, Le Clerc, Dr. Whitby, and L’Enfant defend. But to be a foundation in this sense, was not Peter’s honour alone; his brethren shared with him in it, (see Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14,) as they did also in the power of binding and loosing, Matthew 18:18; John 20:23. — On the whole, how weak the arguments are which the Papists draw from hence, to support the supremacy of Peter in their wild sense of it, is sufficiently shown by Bishop Burnet On the Articles, p. 196; Dr. Barrow On the Creed, sermon twenty- eight; Dr. Patrick in his sermon on this text, and many more not necessary to be named. There seems a reference in this expression to the common custom of building citadels upon a rock.” The gates of hell — As gates and walls were the strength of cities, and as courts of judicature were held in their gates, this phrase properly signifies the power and policy of Satan and his instruments: shall not prevail against it — Not against the church universal, so as to destroy it. And they never did, for there hath been a small remnant in all ages. And they never will, for faithful is he who hath made this promise, and he will certainly fulfil it.
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.Matthew 16:19. I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven — This expression is metaphorical. As stewards of great families, especially of the royal household, bore a key or keys in token of their office, the phrase of giving a person the keys naturally grew into use, as an expression significative of raising him to great authority and power. See note on Isaiah 22:22. The meaning of the promise here is, that Christ would give Peter, (but not to him alone, for similar promises are made to all the apostles,) power to open the gospel dispensation, (which he did, both to Jews and Gentiles; see Acts 3:14; Acts 10:34; being the first who preached the gospel to them;) and to declare authoritatively the laws thereof, and the terms of salvation, as also to exercise discipline in the Christian Church, namely, to refuse admission into it to all those who did not comply with those terms, and to exclude from it all such as should violate those laws. According to this sense of the words, the power of binding and loosing, added to the power of the keys, may be considered as partly explicatory thereof. “It can be no objection,” says Dr. Macknight, “against this interpretation, that it connects the idea of binding and loosing with that of the keys, contrary to the exact propriety of the two metaphors; for all who have studied the Scriptures know, that in many passages the ideas and expressions are accommodated to the subject matter, rather than to the precedent metaphor.” In further proof that the power of binding and loosing, now conferred on Peter, and afterward on all the apostles, chap. Matthew 18:18, included a power of declaring the laws of the gospel and the terms of salvation, as well as all those acts of discipline which Peter and his brethren performed as apostles, it may be observed, that “in the Jewish language, to bind and loose were words made use of by the doctors, to signify the unlawfulness or lawfulness of things, as Seldon, Buxtorf, and Lightfoot have proved. Wherefore our Lord’s meaning, at least in part, was, Whatever things thou shalt bind up from men, or declare to be forbidden to them, on earth, shall be forbidden by Heaven; and whatever things thou shalt loose to men, or permit to be done, shall be lawful and obligatory in the esteem of Heaven. Accordingly the gender made use of in both passages agrees to this interpretation.” There are some, however, who by the power of binding and loosing understand the power of actually remitting and retaining men’s sins; and in support of their opinion they quote John 20:22. But it may be justly doubted whether our Lord ever bestowed on his apostles, or any other of his ministers, any other power of remitting or retaining men’s sins, than, 1st, the power of declaring with authority the Christian terms of pardon, that is, whose sins are remitted and whose are retained; as is done in the form of absolution contained in the Liturgy: and, 2d, a power of inflicting and remitting ecclesiastical censures, that is, of excluding from and readmitting into a Christian congregation; together with a particular power of remitting and retaining, in certain instances, the temporal punishment of men’s sins, which it is evident from some passages of the Acts and the Epistles, the apostles occasionally exercised. “This high power of declaring the terms of salvation and precepts of the gospel, the apostles did not enjoy in its full extent till the memorable day of pentecost, when they received the Holy Ghost in the plenitude of his gifts. After this their decisions, in points of doctrine and duty, being all given by inspiration, were infallible definitions, and ratified in heaven. Here then was an immense honour conferred on the apostles, and what must yield great consolation to the pious. There is nothing doubtful in the gospel, much less false: but we may safely rest the salvation of our souls on the discoveries there made to us, since they have all come originally from God.”
Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.Matthew 16:20. Then charged he his disciples — Greek, διεστειλατο, he strictly charged them: (Luke says, επιτιμησας αυτοις, παρηγγειλε, having severely charged, or charged with threats, he commanded to tell this to no one:) that he was Jesus the Christ — The word Jesus is omitted here in many MSS., some of which are of great authority and great antiquity, and in several ancient versions, and the omission is approved of by some eminent critics. Certainly the insertion of it is superfluous, and apparently improper: for the context shows, that what our Lord forbade them to tell was simply that he was the Christ, that is, the Messiah, or, as Luke expresses it, the Christ of God. This truth, however important to be known and believed, the disciples were not to announce to the people till the grand proof of it was given, namely, his resurrection. Then they were by office to be his witnesses, and to declare openly and publicly that he was the Christ, because then they could do it, not only without suspicion of confederacy, but with greater advantage and better success, as Christ would then be no longer subject to those humbling circumstances and sufferings, and that death, which could not fail to be a great obstruction to men’s receiving him as the Messiah, as well as a great stumbling-block in the way of his disciples, but would have taken possession of his kingdom, and given evidence of it, by sending down upon his followers the Holy Ghost, in his extraordinary gifts and operations, to enable them to confirm this testimony. Whereas, had his own disciples publicly declared him to be the Messiah, the king of the Jews, and the Son of God, while he was on earth, as this would have looked like a confederacy between them and their Master, so, on the one hand, it would have encouraged the attempt of a part of the Jews to come and take him by force to make him a king, John 6:15, and, on the other, would have provoked both the Jewish rulers and the Roman government. “Certainly,” says Mr. Locke, “the Romans would not have suffered him, if he had gone about preaching that he was the king whom the Jews expected; and such an accusation would have been forwardly brought against him by the Jews, if they could have heard it out of his own mouth, and if that had been his public doctrine to his followers, which was openly preached by his apostles after his death. For though the magistrates of this world paid no great regard to the talk of a king who had suffered death, and appeared no longer anywhere; yet if our Lord had openly declared this of himself in his lifetime, with a train of disciples and followers, everywhere owning and crying him up for their king, the Roman governors of Judea could not have forborne to take notice of it, and to make use of their force against it. The Jews well understood this, and therefore they made use of it, as the strongest accusation, and likeliest to prevail with Pilate against him for the taking away his life, it being treason, and an unpardonable offence, which could not escape death from a Roman deputy, without the forfeiture of his own life.”
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.Matthew 16:21. From that time forth — When they had made that full confession of Christ that he was the Messiah, the Son of God; began Jesus to show unto his disciples — Another most important point, namely, that he must suffer and be put to death, as a malefactor. If they had not been well grounded in their belief of Christ’s being the Son of God, it would have been a great shock to their faith to be informed that he must suffer and die. Some hints, indeed, our Lord had already given of his sufferings, as when he said, Destroy this temple, and spoke of the Son of man being lifted up, and of eating his flesh and drinking his blood; but hitherto he had not spoken plainly and expressly of the subject, because the disciples were weak, and could not have borne the notice of a thing so very strange and so very melancholy. But now, as they were more advanced in knowledge and stronger in faith, he began to reveal this to them: for he declares his mind to his people gradually, and lets in light as they can bear it, and are prepared to receive it. How that he must go unto Jerusalem — The holy city, the royal city, and suffer there. Though he had lived most of his time in Galilee, he must die at Jerusalem; there all the sacrifices were offered; and there, therefore, He must die who was to be the great sacrifice. Thither he was to go within the short space of a few months, this declaration being made in the last year of his life: and instead of being owned, under the royal character he bore, and submitted to by the princes and people, must suffer many things from the elders — The most honourable and experienced men; from the chief priests — Accounted the most religious, and the scribes — The most learned body of men in the nation. These made up the great sanhedrim, which sat at Jerusalem, and was had in veneration by the people: and these one would have expected to have been the very first to receive him. But instead of this, they were the most bitter in persecuting him! Strange, indeed, that men of knowledge in the Scriptures, who professed to expect the Messiah’s coming, and sustained a sacred character, should use him with such contumely and cruelty when he came! It was the Roman power, indeed, that condemned and crucified Christ; but the principal share of the guilt of the whole business lies at the door of the chief priests and scribes, who were the first and principal movers in it. From them he suffered many things, things which manifested their insatiable malice, and his invincible patience, and in the issue was killed: for nothing short of his death would either satisfy the malice of his enemies, or render him a proper sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Our Lord, however, while he brought to his disciples these melancholy tidings, added, for their support and encouragement under this gloomy prospect, that in the third day he should be raised again. And thus, as all the prophets had done, when he testified beforehand his sufferings, he bore witness likewise to the glory that should follow, 1 Peter 1:11. His rising again the third day proved him to be the Son of God, notwithstanding his sufferings, and therefore he mentions it in order that the faith of the disciples might not fail.
Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.Matthew 16:22. Then Peter took him — Προσλαβομενος αυτον. What the evangelist meant precisely by this expression, commentators are not agreed. Dr. Doddridge renders it, taking him by the hand; Mr. Wesley, taking hold of him: others again render it, embracing him; and others, interrupting him. Dr. Campbell renders it, taking him aside, a translation which, he observes, evidently suits the meaning of the verb in other places, and is necessary in Acts 18:26, which cannot be interpreted otherwise. And began to rebuke [or reprove] him — So the expression, ηρξατο επιτιμαν αυτω, properly signifies. “Some interpreters, indeed, to put the best face on Peter’s conduct on this occasion, render the words thus, Began to expostulate with him. But when the verb, επιτιμαν, relates to any thing past, it always implies a declaration of censure or blame; and if it be thought that this would infer great presumption in Peter, it may be asked, Does not the rebuke which he drew on himself, Matthew 16:23, from so mild a Master, evidently infer as much? When we consider the prejudices of the disciples in regard to the nature of the Messiah’s kingdom, we cannot be much surprised that a declaration, such as that in Matthew 16:21, totally subversive of all their hopes, should produce, in a warm temper, a great impropriety of behaviour, such as (admitting the ordinary interpretation of the word) Peter was then chargeable with.” Be it far from thee, Lord — Or, ιλεως σοι seems to be more accurately rendered in the margin, Pity thyself or be merciful to, or favour, thyself — “The advice of the world, the flesh, and the devil,” says Mr. Wesley, “to every one of our Lord’s followers.” The common use of this phrase, however, in the LXX., would lead one to understand it as signifying, absit, God forbid. In this sense, also, it is used in the Apocrypha, thus, 1Ma 2:21, ιλεως ημιν καταλιπειν νομον, God forbid that we should forsake the law. Peter, to whom the power of the keys, or place of high-steward, in the kingdom, as he would understand it, was promised, could not help being very much displeased to hear his Master talk of dying at Jerusalem, immediately after he had been saluted Messiah, and had accepted the title. Therefore he rebuked, or reproved him, as has been just observed.
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.Matthew 16:23. But he turned and said unto Peter — Mark reads, When he had turned about and looked on his disciples, (who by the air of their countenances, probably, seemed to approve what they had heard Peter say to him,) he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan — That is, out of my sight. “He looked at him,” says Baxter, “with displeasure, and said, I say to thee as I did to the devil when he tempted me, Get thee behind me, for thou doest the work of Satan, the adversary, in tempting me, for self-preservation, to violate my Father’s command, and my undertaking, and to forsake the work of man’s redemption and salvation. As thy counsel savoureth not the things that be of God, (namely, his will, work, and glory,) but the things that be of men, (or the love of the body and this present life,) so it signifies what is in thy heart; take heed lest this carnality prevail.” Our Lord is not recorded to have given so sharp a reproof to any other of his apostles, on any occasion. He saw it was needful for the pride of Peter’s heart, puffed up with the commendation lately given him. Perhaps the term Satan may not barely mean, Thou art my enemy, while thou fanciest thyself most my friend; but also, Thou art acting the very part of Satan, both by endeavouring to hinder the redemption of mankind, and by giving me the most deadly advice that can ever spring from the pit of hell. Thou savourest not — Dost not relish or desire. We may learn from hence, 1st, that whosoever says to us in such a case, Favour thyself is acting the part of the devil: 2d, that the proper answer to such an adviser is, Get thee behind me: 3d, that otherwise he will be an offence to us, an occasion of our stumbling, if not falling: 4th, that this advice always proceeds from the not relishing the things of God, but the things of men. Yea, so far is this advice, Favour thyself, from being fit for a Christian either to give or take, that if any man will come after Christ, his very first step is, To deny or renounce himself: in the room of his own will, to substitute the will of God, as his one principle of action. We see in this example of Peter, how soon a person favoured with the peculiar approbation of the Lord Jesus may, through pride and self-confidence, fall under his heavy displeasure, and incur a severe rebuke from him. “Our Lord, immediately after pronouncing Peter blessed, on account of his faith and the noble confession which he made of it, and after conferring on him the high dignity before mentioned, did openly, in the hearing of all the disciples, call him Satan, or adversary, and declare that he had then no relish for the divine appointments, but was influenced merely by human views and expectations of worldly interest. If the papists rightly attended to this passage of the history, they would see their fancies about the primacy of Peter, which they build upon it, in a better light than they now seem to do.”
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.Matthew 16:24. Then said Jesus unto his disciples — In Mark we read, When he had called the people unto him, and his disciples also, he said unto them; and in Luke, He said to them all, If any man will come after me — Ει τις θελει, If any man be willing, no one is forced: but if any will be a Christian, it must be on the following terms. Let him deny himself — A rule that can never be too much observed: let him in all things deny his own will, however pleasing, and do the will of God, however painful. And take up his cross — Of the origin and meaning of this phrase, see note on Matthew 10:38. And we may here further learn, that after having undergone many afflictions and trials, the disciples of Christ may still look for more, which, when laid upon them, they must endeavour, by the grace of God, to sustain with equal patience, following their Master in the footsteps of his sufferings. This, indeed, is a very hard and difficult lesson, but at the same time it is absolutely necessary. Because if we grow impatient under sufferings, and endeavour to avoid the crosses which God is pleased to lay upon us, we shall displease God, grieve his Spirit, and bring ourselves under guilt and condemnation. And should we not consider all crosses, all things grievous to flesh and blood, as what they really are, as opportunities of embracing God’s will, at the expense of our own? and consequently as so many steps by which we may advance in holiness? We should make a swift progress in the spiritual life, if we were faithful in this practice. Crosses are so frequent, that whoever makes advantage of them will soon be a great gainer. Great crosses are occasions of great improvement: and the little ones which come daily, and even hourly, make up in number what they want in weight. We may, in these daily and hourly crosses, make effectual oblations of our will to God: which oblations, so frequently repeated, will soon amount to a great sum. Let us remember, then, (what can never be sufficiently inculcated,) that God is the author of all events: that none is so small or inconsiderable as to escape his notice and direction. Every event, therefore, declares to us the will of God, to which, thus declared, we should heartily submit. We should renounce our own to embrace it. We should approve and choose what his choice warrants as best for us. Herein should we exercise ourselves continually; this should be our practice all the day long. We should in humility accept the little crosses that are dispensed to us, as those that best suit our weakness. Let us bear these little things, at least, for God’s sake, and prefer his will to our own in matters of so small importance. And his goodness will accept these mean oblations; for he despiseth not the day of small things.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.Matthew 16:25-27. Whosoever will save his life — At the expense of his conscience: whosoever, in the very highest instance, that of life itself, will not renounce himself, shall be lost eternally. But can any man hope he should be able thus to renounce himself, if he cannot do it in the smallest instances? And whosoever will lose his life, shall find it — What he loses on earth he shall find in heaven. See note on Matthew 10:39, where this sentence is explained more at large. For what is a man profited, &c. —
“To carry home the argument more closely, he puts them in mind of the method according to which men estimate things. If God should offer the riches of Solomon, the strength of Samson, the policy of Ahithophel, the beauty of Absalom, the eloquence of Apollos, universal monarchy, and all kinds of pleasures, and should say, Take them for one hour, and then die; who is the man that would not immediately reject the proposed condition, and reply, that life is better than them all? But will men forego every earthly thing for life, the life of the body? and will they not part with them, nay, and with life itself, for their souls? since the longest any one can enjoy this life with its pleasures, is, in comparison of eternity, no longer than he enjoys the good things mentioned, who dies in the same hour he receives them.” — Macknight. Or, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul — Namely, at the day of judgment? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father — For you may certainly depend upon it that, howsoever he may be now despised and rejected of men, there is a day appointed when he will come in all the glory of the Godhead, encircled in the most pompous manner with his holy angels: and then shall he convene the whole world before him, that he may determine the final happiness or misery of each, and recompense every man according to his conduct. Thus, “that the argument, by which the necessity of self-denial is so clearly established, might have the greater weight, our Lord speaks more particularly concerning the rewards and punishments of a future state, assuring his disciples that they are all to be distributed by himself, the Father having appointed him the universal Judge, so that his enemies cannot flatter themselves with a hope of escaping condign punishment, nor his friends be in the least afraid of losing their reward.”
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.
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.Matthew 16:28. Verily, there be some standing here, &c. — And that you may not doubt that there shall be a day of judgment, when I shall come clothed with divine majesty, to render unto men according to their actions in this life, let me assure you there are some here present that shall not die till they shall see a faint representation of this, in events which will soon take place, especially in my coming to set up my mediatorial kingdom with great power and glory, in the increase of my church, and the destruction of mine enemies. Accordingly the disciples saw their Master coming in his kingdom, when they were witnesses of his transfiguration, resurrection, and ascension, and the miraculous gifts of his Spirit conferred upon them; and lived to see Jerusalem, with the Jewish state, destroyed, and the gospel propagated through the greatest part of the then known world.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
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