The Demand for a Sign
Once again the Pharisees and the Sadducees came forward to test Jesus by asking Him for a sign from heaven. However, Jesus knew their intentions and denied a sign other than that of Jonah’s. He said that if they knew how to interpret the sky to predict the weather then the signs that He had already performed was enough. The sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:38-45) was for people to know that just as Jonah was in the belly for three days, Jesus will also be in the heart of the earth and will be risen on the third day, defeating death.
Sometimes we also ask God for signs as proof, but is that wrong? We see a lot of people in the bible asking for signs and God graciously provided them with signs. As long as our intentions are pure, God would be happy to help us if that leads us to understand His will.
The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees
After finishing the conversation with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Jesus and His disciples went across the lake when he told His disciples to be careful against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. What does that mean? The disciples did not understand this phrase and started discussing among themselves if yeast had something to do with the bread that they had forgotten to bring along.
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?Matthew 16:8
Jesus reminded them about the recent incidents where He fed five thousand with five loaves and four thousand with seven loaves and still had basketfuls of leftovers. Jesus seemed disappointed with the disciples for not understanding Him. After Jesus told them to be careful of these religious leaders again, they understood that the yeast meant the teachings of the Pharisees which swayed people away the love of God.
We might think why couldn’t the disciples understand what seems to be quite obvious. But often times we are also like the disciples, we do not understand what God is trying to tell us (though we would have had recent interactions or might have seen Him work in our lives) and just keep thinking in a completely opposite direction. Now we have the Holy Spirit to help us understand, yet we are have trouble understanding the heart of our father. We need to evaluate ourselves and honestly come before God and not casually profess something we do not believe.
Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah
Jesus and His disciples moved to the region of Caesarea Philippi and there Jesus asked His disciples “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The disciples replied that people think that He could be one of the prophets like John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or so. Jesus did not stop with that, He wanted to know what the disciples thought of Him.
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”Matthew 16:16
Jesus made it clear to Peter that this revelation was by His Father. Jesus was interested to know what the disciples thought of Him, the ones who were the closest to Him. Just like them, Jesus is surely interested to know what we think of Him and whether we are in accordance with Him, but are we ready to recognize Him?
Jesus told Peter that He will build His church on him and evil will not prevail against it. He also told him that whatever will be bound on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever loosened in the earth will be loosened in heaven. Many a times this verse is understood just in the opposite way of how Jesus intended it to be (like how the disciples mistook yeast of the leaders as forgetting bread). Jesus tries to tell us that if we bind ourselves to Him on the earth, we will remain bound to Him in heaven also but if we choose to loose Him from our lives, we will end up loosing heaven.
Similar to Peter, it has also been revealed to us that Jesus is the Messiah who came to this world to save us. Not only Peter but each of us who have accepted Him to be the Messiah, will be the rock for His church. We are the means to take the message of the kingdom of God to those who are in the dark. We have been given authority (Luke 10:19) and moreover, His Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12) to guide us at every point of time.
Jesus further told His disciples to not tell anyone that He is the Messiah. Perhaps so that this doesn’t spread and reach the ears of the religious leaders who in turn would arrest Him ahead of time. Jesus had been very cautious that His mission on the earth was complete before He got arrested. Also, the disciples still needed Jesus to understand what He was trying to teach them.
Jesus Predicts His Death
After that, Jesus spoke for the first time to His disciples about the sufferings and death He would have to undergo for our sake at the hands of the religious leaders and also about His resurrection on the third day. Peter literally rebuked Jesus that this would never happen to Him. Peter was looking at Jesus as his friend and not as the one sent by God to die for our sins. He had just confessed that Jesus was the Messiah but did not understand what that actually meant. He was still thinking that he could help Jesus and protect Him if and when that hour came.
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”Matthew 16:23
A complete u-turn from the last chapter where Jesus called Peter the foundation of the body of Christ to now where he is being called satan for his interference in God’s plan. Jesus responding in such a manner may seem rude but Jesus made it clear that any hindrance in fulfilment of the will of God is from Satan. We could think that it is natural to think in such a way for someone we love, but we forget that we discredit the love of God when we let our human emotions become a hindrance to His will by letting satan have his way. The evil one uses our weaknesses, and human emotions could be the easiest thing for him to play on. We need to make sure that we are deep rooted in Christ to avoid being used by satan as an interference in God’s plan.
Jesus then told them that to be His disciples, they should deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him. Similarly, we also need to deny ourselves and commit to Him if we want to be His disciples. By losing our lives in this world for His sake, we save our eternal life and what is the point of living life to the fullest on this earth if it would lead us to eternal death.
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”Matthew 16:28
In the above verse, Jesus was probably talking about the time of His resurrection, when His kingdom was established in full glory and He defeated death. Not everyone was there to see this, we know for sure that Judas was not there (Matthew 27:5).
Let us be on our guard against the evil and depend on God for anything and everything. Jesus gave enough evidence of Him being the Messiah and it is up to us to either accept or reject this Great Proof of Concept.