Sunday, April 20, 2008

Matthew 16:13-20


13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ``Who do people say that the Son of Man is?'' 14 And they said, ``Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah ; but still others, Jeremiah , or one of the prophets.'' 15 He said* to them, ``But who do you say that I am?'' 16 Simon Peter answered, ``You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'' 17 And Jesus said to him, ``Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 ``I also say to you that you are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 ``I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.'' 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

Years ago when working on university campuses, we made it our goal to do whatever we could to make Jesus the issue on the campus. We did this by speaking to the needs of the students and then relating Jesus as the solution to those needs. This was the atmosphere during the times of Jesus in the 1st Century. He was the issue that everyone was talking about and everyone had an opinion about Him.

Jesus asked "What are people saying out there?" Then, turns the corner and asks, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter came through with the answer: "YOU ARE THE CHRIST (Messiah), the Son of the living God!" Just when Peter was about to take credit for this observation, Jesus points out that His Father gave him that insight.

Then Jesus makes one of the most important statements of His early ministry. "You are Peter (little rock) and upon this rock (big ledge) I will build My church." He refers to some sort of huge rock or ledge upon which Jesus will build His church. Here are the most common options: FIRST-He is speaking of Peter as the foundation of the church. (This would place Peter as THE leader-even the Pope of the church. This would give great power to the leadership of man and especially those who are successors of Peter.)

SECOND-He is speaking of the words Peter spoke-the confession of who indeed Jesus is-the Messiah, the Son of the living God. (This would place words and theology as the governing foundation and force of the church of Jesus.)

I have difficulty accepting either of these explanations of Jesus' words. And, in fact, at the rate of 70+ churches shutting down in the USA every week, it seems that the gates of Hades may be overpowering them. These are not the churches of Jesus. They are based upon man's leadership and man-made theological structures. I think the best is the third option.

THIRD-He is speaking of the actual living confession of Peter to make this testimony and assessment of Jesus. The church of Jesus that will not be destroyed by the gates of Hades is the testimony of the followers of Jesus as they speak of Him. It is the beauty of people from a variety of backgrounds and status who are given by the Father the power and courage to confess that they are followers of Messiah Jesus, the Son of the living God.

NOTE that Jesus says that He will build His church. That's the only kind of church that will not be overpowered, or more accurately here, this is the kind of church that cannot be stopped. So if Jesus is building the church (His movement of followers on earth), what does He want us who follow Him to do? Let's get it straight: HE BUILDS THE CHURCH. WE ARE TO BE THE CHURCH. We are to be the movement of people who are gathered to follow this irresistible Jesus. Nothing can stop that!

Matthew 16:5-12


5 And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 And Jesus said to them, ``Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'' 7 They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, ``He said that because we did not bring any bread.'' 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, ``You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? 9 ``Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? 10 ``Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? 11 ``How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'' 12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Wow! This story almost hits too close to home! Jesus is speaking about spiritual things while the disciples are thinking about the physical. Jesus was dealing with something that mattered-very important. The disciples were thinking in terms of something that didn't matter and not very important in the scheme of things. In the presence of Jesus bread was simply not a problem. He had proven this in a dramatic way a couple of times earlier.

How many times do we find ourselves worried about or fussing over things that just don't matter while something very serious is going on?

Leaven has a second meaning which is metaphorical and not literal and physical. It was the Jewish metaphorical expression for an evil influence. To the Jewish mind leaven was always symbolic of evil. It is fermented dough; the Jew identified fermentation with putrefaction; leaven stood for all that was rotten and bad. Leaven has the power to permeate any mass of dough into which it is inserted. Therefore leaven stood for an evil influence liable to spread through life and to corrupt it.

Jesus was probably referring to the leaven in these ways: 1-With the Pharisees. Their leaven that is bad and dangerous was their negativity, filled with "thou shalt nots" and their emphasis upon the external actions over that of a person's heart.

2-With the Sadducees. Their leaven was their emphasis upon their wealth-their material perspective of life. They were wealthy and political and therefore cared a lot about positions and prosperity.

The true blessings are the blessings of the heart; and the true change is not the change of outward circumstances but the change of the hearts of men. The warning here is to not get caught up in externals, positions and prosperity, but be people of the heart, bent toward God Himself. That's the way of Jesus!