Matthew Chapter 16
The Pharisees ask for a sign

1 The Pharisees and Saddu cees ap peared. They wanted to put Jesus to the test and asked him for some heavenly sign.

2 Jesus answered, ※(When eve ning comes, you say: &It will be a good day for the sky is red.*

3 And in the morning you say: &Stormy weather today, for the sky in the east is red.* If you know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, why can*t you interpret the signs of the times?)

4 An evil and unbelieving people want a sign, but no sign will be given them except the sign of Jonah.§
So Jesus left them and went away.

5 When the disciples went to the other side, they forgot to take bread.

6 It was then that Jesus said to them, ※Beware and do not trust the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.§

7 And the disciples said to one another, ※He means the bread we did not bring.§

8 Jesus was aware of this, so he said to them, ※You of little faith! Why do you speak about the bread you haven*t got?

9 Do you still not understand? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand and how many baskets you gathered?

10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand and how many wicker baskets you gathered?

11 How can you fail to understand that I was not talking of bread when I told you: Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sad ducees?§

12 Then they understood that he was not talking of yeast for bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sad ducees.

Peter*s faith; Jesus* promises

13 After that Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked his disciples, ※Who do people say the Son of man is?§

14 They said, ※For some of them you are John the Baptist, for others Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets.§

15 Jesus asked them, ※But you, who do you say I am?§

16 Peter an swered, ※You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.§

17 Jesus replied, ※It is well for you, Simon Bar jona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.

18 And now I say to you: You are Peter (or Rock) and on this rock I will build my Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it.

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.§

20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

Jesus predicts his death

21 From that day Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem; he would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

22 Then Peter took him aside and began to reproach him, ※Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to you.§

23 But Jesus turned to him and said, ※Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.§

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ※If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.

25 For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it.

26 What will one gain by winning the whole world if he destroys himself? There is nothing you can give to recover your own self.

27 Know that the Son of Man will come in the Glory of his Father with the holy angels, and he will reward each one according to his deeds.

28 Truly, I tell you, there are some here who will not die before they see the Son of Man coming as king.§


Comments Mathew, Chapter 16

• 16.1 They asked for some heavenly sign. They want a miracle that will undoubtedly be the work of God.

No sign will be given to them. Jesus refuses to prove his authority by multiplying miracles. People who love truth and seek what is right will recognize the seal of God in the deeds of Jesus 每 and of his fol lowers 每 no matter how many speak ill of them.

The sign of Jonah is the resurrection of Jesus (see 12:40). Yet this resurrection that is the most decisive sign, will be understandable only to the believers. Thus people who de mand miracles before they will believe, receive no answer.

Verses 2-4: the sentences we put in parenthesis are lacking in the oldest manuscripts.

• 5. The Gospel has kept very little of all that would have been exchanged between Jesus and his apostles over the long months of their life together. How fortunate that at least they recorded here one of the many stupid things uttered in his presence! If they misunderstood his warning, it was that they were over concerned with important matters that it would be better for everyone to leave in the hands of God.

Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Saddu cees. See commentary on Mark 8:11.

Very often the Gospel associates these two names. We have already seen that the Sadducees were the party of the chief priests. They were by family right, responsible for the national and religious life of the people of God. The Pharisees for their part were a party devoted to defending the law of God. They were enemies of the Sadducees. Let us not say: ※They were perverse people.§ Opposition to Jesus came quite naturally from the civil and religious authorities of his people. How could God visit his people and be welcomed by the majority of its leaders, if they feel and act as owners of their titles, of their authority, of their own merits?

• 13. One parable of the kingdom of God already foretold the Church (Mt 13:31-33). This present text openly refers to the Church:

每 it tells us what its foundation is: faith in Jesus, the Christ and Son of God;

每 it focuses on the primacy of Peter among all the apostles;

每 it suggests that the Church will always need a visible head. This is the successor of Peter, the pope.

Faith in the Son of God, which Peter, among the apostles is the first to proclaim, really comes from God. This faith is not a human opinion, or a sentimental attachment. It does not come from flesh and blood, an expression that for the Jews meant what is purely human, what a human being does and understands by his own capacity. The words with which Jesus greets Peter, happy are you, Simon, are true for all the believers. For it is the Father who has chosen us and has brought us to Christ: see John 6:37; 6:44.

Next the primacy of Peter is emphasized. His name was Simon, but Jesus gave him this surname of Rock, foreseeing that he would be for his Church a foundation rock (Jn 1:40). This change of his name attests that a mission is given to him as happened to Abraham and Jacob (Gen 17:5 and 32:19). Other texts attest to the leadership and faith of Peter: Mt 10:2; 14:28; 17:25; Lk 5:8-10; 22:32; Jn 6:68; 21:15-19.

Is what Jesus tells Peter true also of his successors? No one can deny that even in the Old Testament God wanted his people to have a visible head. Jerusalem and the nation had as their center the Temple and the kings, sons of David. When God chose David, the first king of Israel, he promised him that his sons would rule the Kingdom of God forever: this promise was fulfilled in Christ. Now Jesus chooses Peter to be forever the visible foundation of the building. In the future his successors will be for the Church, what Peter was in the early Church.

For the Jews, to bind and to unbind (v. 19) meant to state what is forbidden and what is allowed. So Peter and his successors will have the last word about what is, or is not, the faith of the Church. The history of the primitive Church shows that already in the first centuries the local churches were conscious of the supreme authority of the bishop of Rome, successor of Peter. His role could not but develop in the course of history, which was all the more necessary because of the growing tensions between Christians, and diverse continents and cultures endlessly divided in their religious expressions. In spite of the fact that as humans Peter*s successors can commit mistakes, Christ does not ignore what they ultimately decide on: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.

The recognition of this mission of Peter*s successor, however, does not mean that his word drowns all other voices in a silent Church, or that his authority justifies a structure that might crush life.

This text does not contradict other statements of the Gospel that are equally important, where the basis of the Church is a ※college§ of apostles, where nothing is done without dialogue. Peter is the ※door keeper§ (Mk 13:34) but he is neither ※master§ nor ※Father§ (Mt 23:9).

His authority is only genuine in a Church where all have the right to express themselves, where the leaders are not only imposed, but also accepted.

The powers of death (v. 18). The text says ※the gates of Hades.§ ※Gates§ here signifies ※Power§; as for Hades, it designates the nether world, the world of the dead and demonic powers. Even if deathly strength tried to crush the Church, or sow there the seed of corruption it would not be prevented from accomplishing its mission of salvation. A part of Revelation (Rev 12每17) depicts such a confrontation.

The fact that Peter is the foundation of the Church does not contradict other verses that say that its basis is the Twelve Apostles (Eph 2:20 and Rev 21:14). They also receive the power to bind or loose in John 20:21, but in this case it refers clearly to the forgiveness of sins.

Upon reading the narratives in Mk 8:27 and Lk 9:18, some questions regarding Peter*s faith arise: see commentary on Lk 9:18.

Jesus, Rock and Foundation: Mk 12:10; 1 Cor 3:11; 1 P 2:6.

• 21. See commentary on Mark 8:31.

Get behind me, Satan# (v. 23). When Peter stands in front of Jesus to block the way to the cross, Jesus recognizes in his words the same spirit that tempted him in the desert. Jesus calls him Satan, meaning tempter. Let Peter get behind Jesus and follow him as is proper for a disciple.

Whoever chooses to save his life will lose it. Jesus draws attention to the great option of every human life: we cannot discover God; we cannot make a success of life without sacrificing it. All the rest is idle talk. The option terrifies us in the same measure that life for us seems promising. It is also the reason why marriage and family frighten many.

He will find his life (v. 25). In 10:39 we translated this phrase: ※benefit one*s life§.