“Emmanuel: Christ the Lord” – Matthew 16:13-20

December 24th, 2015 (Christmas Eve)

Matthew 16:13-20 & Matthew 1:18-25

(see also: Mk 8:27-30; Lk 9:18-21)

“Emmanuel: Christ the Lord”


Service Orientation:  Who is Jesus?  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.


Background Information:

  • For Jesus to claim that He fulfilled the prophecy of Isa 61:1-12, as He did in the synagogue in Nazareth (Lk 4:18-21), was unmistakably to claim messiahship. For Him to present Himself as the source of rest (Mt 11:28) was to present Himself as the source of holiness, and to claim lordship over the Sabbath (Mt 12:8) was to claim lordship over everything. . . .Jesus’ miracles were clear evidence of His messiahship, but His failure to use those powers to overthrow Rome and establish His earthly kingdom brought Jesus’ identity into question even with the godly, Spirit-filled John.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 21 & 23)
  • (v. 13) The area was scattered with temples of the ancient Syrian Baal-worship. W. M. Thomson in The Land and the Book enumerates no fewer than fourteen such temples in the near neighborhood.  Here was an area where the breath of ancient religion was in the very atmosphere.  Here was a place beneath the shadow of the ancient gods. . . . It is as if Jesus deliberately set himself against the background of the world’s religions in all their history and their splendor, and demanded to be compared with them and to have the verdict given in his favor.  There are few scenes where Jesus’ consciousness of his own divinity shines out with a more dazzling light.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 156, 158)
  • (v. 13) In this city, towering above Jesus as he spoke, was a massive, resplendent, white marble temple built in honor of the Emperor. Also in this city of great religious diversity was the temple to the Syrian god Baal and the Greek god Pan.  Here, in this “perfectly astounding setting”–in this global village, this city of syncretism, this pantheon of world religions–Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?”  And here Peter, with firmness of conviction, calls Jesus “the Christ.”  Jesus Christ!  But not, of course, as a swear word (as so many, too many, do today), but as a title of absolute lordship:  “You and you alone are King!”  Not Caesar.  Not Baal.  Not Pan.  Not any other so-called gods of this world.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 453)
  • (v. 13) Son of Man was Jesus’ most common designation of Himself and is used of Him some eighty times in the NT. It was clearly recognized by Jews as a title of the Messiah (see Dn 7:13); but because it emphasized His humanness, many Jews preferred not to use it.  No doubt it was for that reason that Jesus did prefer it–to focus on the humiliation and submission of His first coming and His work of sacrificial, substitutionary atonement.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 19)
  • (v. 14) The disciples answered Jesus’ question with the common view that Jesus was one of the great prophets who had come back to life. This belief may have stemmed from Dt 18:18, where God said he would raise up a prophet from among the people.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 323)
  • (v. 14) Because of a legend preserved by the Jews, some people thought that Jesus was Jeremiah. According to the legend Jeremiah, by God’s command, had hidden the tabernacle, the ark, and the altar of incense in a cave on mount Pisgah.  This cave would not be located until the time came for God to restore glory to Israel.  Appended to the legend was a prophecy that Jeremiah would rise from the dead to reveal this cave and its contents.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 347)
  • (v. 14) Did they imagine that, in the person of Jesus, Jeremiah had returned in order to bring back the tent, the ark, and the altar of incense, which, according to a legend recorded in II Macc 2:4-8, that prophet had hid in a cave? (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 642)
  • (v. 15-16) The “you” is emphatic and plural (v. 15). Therefore, at least in part, Peter serves as spokesman for the Twelve (as he often does: cf. 15:15-16; 19:25-28; 26:40; Mk 11:20-22; Lk 12:41; Jn 6:67-70; cf. Acts 2:37-38; 5:29).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 365)
  • (v. 16) This passage is one of the storm centers of NT interpretation. It has always been difficult to approach it calmly and without prejudice, for it is the Roman Catholic foundation of the position of the Pope and of the Church.  It is taken by the Roman Catholic Church to mean that to Peter were given the keys which admit or exclude people from heaven, and that to Peter was given the power to absolve or not to absolve people from their sins.  It is further argued by the Roman Catholic Church that Peter, with these tremendous rights, became the Bishop of Rome; and that this power descended to all the Bishops of Rome; and that it exists today in the Pope, who is the head of the Church and the Bishop of Rome.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 162)
  • (v. 18) One thing is clear. To call anyone a rock was the greatest of compliments; and no Jew who knew the OT could ever use the phrase without thinking of God, who alone was the true rock of his defense and salvation.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 163)
  • (v. 18) Augustine took the rock to mean Jesus himself. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 163)
  • (v. 18) The second explanation is that the rock is the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 164)
  • (v. 18) The third explanation is that the rock is Peter’s faith. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 164)
  • (v. 18) The last interpretation is still the best. It is that Peter himself is the rock, but in a special sense.  He is not the rock on which the Church is founded; that rock is God.  He is the first stone of the whole Church.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 164)
  • (v. 18) As for myself, I could believe that Jesus called Peter the rock in the careful and limited sense that many evangelical scholars suggest. But what persuades me that this third interpretation is right–that Jesus is the rock–is Peter’s own testimony in his first letter.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 306)
  • (v. 18) In the whole of the NT the word “rock” is used only twelve times, and it is never used of any person other than Jesus. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 450)
  • (v. 18) It is in Jesus, not Peter, the apostles, or the prophets, that Christians are “being built together.” Who is the rock in Peter and Paul’s letters?  Jesus!  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 451)
  • (v. 18) Then came the memorable words, “Thou are Peter [petros], and upon this rock [petra] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The two Greek words are distinct.  Petros is in the masculine gender and denotes a loose stone or pebble.  Petra is in the feminine gender and denotes a rock or a cliff, firm and immovable.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 348)
  • (v. 18) We must remember that the Lord was talking to His disciples who as Hebrews were rooted and grounded in the OT Scriptures. They would have known that in the OT the word “rock” is never used symbolically of man; it is used figuratively only of God and Christ.  Christ is the foundation stone (Isa 28:16) and the rejected stone (Ps 118:22).  The Lord Jesus did not trifle with symbols.  He took up the well-understood Hebrew symbol of deity, the rock (Dt 32:31), and declared, “Upon this rock [upon God, upon Himself as God] I will build my church.”

Peter understood the Lord’s utterance correctly (1 Pt 2:6-8).  The view that Peter is the rock on which the church is built is false.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 349)

  • (v. 18) Nevertheless, as has already been shown, the influence of Peter was outstanding. By means of the preaching of the gospel he was opening the doors to some (Acts 2:38, 39; 3:16-20; 4:12; 10:34-43), closing them to others (3:23).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 650)
  • (v. 18) Had the Twelve understood Jesus’ teaching about the rock and the keys of the kingdom (Mt 16:18-19) as referring exclusively to Peter, they would hardly have asked who was greatest in the kingdom. Or, had they forgotten or misunderstood Jesus’ previous teaching, He would have answered by naming Peter as the greatest and probably would also have chided them for not remembering or believing what He had already taught (cf. Mt 14:31; 26:24; Jn 14:9).

A short while after that, the mother of James and John asked Jesus to give her sons the chief places of honor in His kingdom, one on His left and the other on His right (Mt 20:20-21).  We learn from Mk 10:35-37 that James and John were themselves directly involved in the request, one they would never have made had they understood Peter to have been given primacy as Christ’s successor.  Or, as with the previous incident, had James and John misunderstood His teaching about the foundation rock of the church and the keys of the kingdom, Jesus would have taken the occasion to restate and underscore Peter’s supremacy.

Although Peter recognized himself as an apostle (see, e.g., 1 Pt 1:1; 2 Pt 1:1), he never claimed a superior title, rank, or privilege over the other apostles.  He even referred to himself as a “fellow elder” (1 Pt 5:1) and as “a bond-servant” of Christ (2 Pt 1:1).  Far from claiming honor and homage for himself, he soberly warns his fellow elders to guard against lording it over those under their pastoral care (1 Pt 5:3).  The only glory he claimed for himself was that which is shared by all believers and which is yet “to be revealed,…when the Chief Shepherd appears” (vv. 1, 4).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 29-30

  • (v. 19) To loose and to bind were very common Jewish phrases. They were used especially of the decision of the great teachers and the great Rabbis.  Their regular sense, which any Jew would recognize, was to allow and to forbid.  To bind something was to declare it forbidden; to loose was to declare it allowed.  These were the regular phrases for taking decisions in regard to the law.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 169-70)
  • (v. 20) Although it certainly had already crossed all of their minds that Jesus might be the Messiah (otherwise they probably would not have been following him–see Jn 1:41, 45, 49), they still needed to learn about their role as agents of the promised Messiah and their role in his kingdom. They did not yet fully understand the kind of king Jesus would be.  Peter, and indeed all Israel, expected the Messiah to be a conqueror-liberator who would free the nation from Rome.  Jesus would be a totally different kind of conqueror-liberator, and he would conquer sin and death and free people from sin’s grasp.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 324-5)
  • (v. 20) If his own disciples did not yet understand fully what messiahship entailed, how quickly would others of the Jewish faith rush to make him the fulfillment of their nationalistic hopes and dreams? Ill-informed action like this would make his role that much more difficult.  Better to keep silent for now.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 163)


The question to be answered is . . . So what is the big deal about the birth of the baby Jesus?


Answer:  If you do not know the answer to this question, it reveals several things about yourself.   1)- You are clueless as to Who Jesus is.  2)- That God has not supernaturally revealed Jesus’ identity to you.  And 3)- That you are unable to perceive the supernatural benefits that come with this revelation.


This passage represents the climax of Jesus’ teaching ministry.  It was, in effect, the apostles’ final examination, consisting of but one question, the ultimate question that every human being must face:  Who is Jesus Christ?  A person’s answer is of the most monumental importance, because on it hinges his eternal destiny.  It is a question that no one can escape or avoid.  Every soul, as it were, will be pinned against the wall of eternity and forced to answer that question.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 17)



I-  The baby born in a manger is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Son of Man. (Mt 16:13-16; see also: Isa 7:14; 9:1-7; Mt 1:18-25; Jn 1:1-14; Heb 1:1-4)


The answer was marvelous in its conciseness and comprehensiveness.  Peter acknowledged Jesus to be both human and divine; he recognized that the Son of man is the Son of God.  By saying, “Thou art the Christ,” Peter put Him on the throne of Israel as the Lord’s anointed Prophet, Priest, and King.  By saying, “Thou art…the Son of the living God,” Peter put Him on the throne of the universe.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 348)


When Peter declares Jesus to be “the Christ” he means the long awaited Anointed One, the One who as Mediator was set apart or ordained by the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit, to be his people’s chief Prophet (Dt 18:15, 18; Isa 55:4; Lk 24:19; Acts 3:22, 7:37); only High priest (Ps 110:4; Rom 8:34; Heb 6:20; 7:24; 9:24); and eternal King.  (Ps 2:6; Zech 9:9; Mt 21:5; 28:28; Lk 1:33; Jn 10:38; Eph 1:20-23; Rv 11:15; 12:10, 11; 17:14; 19:6).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 643)


It is only ten words, but in it the definite article occurs four times, like this:  “You are the Christ, the Son of God, the living One.”  This was so true and so important a confession that Jesus pointed out that it was not in the same category as other things Peter was in the habit of blurting out, most of which were wrong.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 305)


The first and most important thing any person needs to understand about Jesus is that he is the Son of God, “very God of very God,” as one of the ancient creeds puts it.  That is because the value of his work, dying for sin, depends on who he is.  If he is not God, his death would have no more value than any other person’s death.  But because he is God his death has infinite value and is able to take away sins.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 305)


Once Napoleon gave his verdict on Jesus.  “I know men,” he said, “and Jesus Christ is more than a man.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 161)


II-  Understanding the identity and mission of Jesus, whose birth tonight we celebrate, takes supernatural revelation.  (Mt 16:17; see also: Mt 11:27; 13:1; Jn 6:44; 1 Cor 1:18-2:16; 15:50; Gal 1:15-16;  Eph 2:8; Jam 2:5-8)


What Jesus says here to him is this:  “Simon, you didn’t come to understand who I am through your dad’s teaching you about me.  In fact, this is not a flesh-and-blood thing.  No earthly father or mother or rabbi or teacher could have opened your heart to understand my identity.  It’s a God thing.  It’s a heavenly Father thing.  It’s a work of God.  It’s a revelation of God.  It’s a blessing of God.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 447)


Peter was not emboldened to declare Jesus to be the Messiah, son of the living God, on the basis of human information.  It came in response to direct revelation from God himself.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 161)


When Jesus heard Peter’s confession, He pronounced him blessed because God the Father had done a wonderful thing for him.  God had revealed truth to Peter.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 494)


Our knowledge of Jesus must never be at second hand.  We might know every verdict ever passed on Jesus; we might know every Christology that human minds have ever thought out; we might be able to give a competent summary of the teaching about Jesus of every great thinker and theologian–and still not be Christians.  Christianity never consists in knowing about Jesus; it always consists in knowing Jesus.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 161)


III-  With this supernatural revelation of Jesus’ identity comes supernatural resiliency and authority.  (Mt 16:18-20; see also: Jn 10:10; 16:33; Rom 8:18-25; 16:20; 1 Cor 15; 2 Cor 4:7-5:10; Eph 6:10-13; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 1 Jn 4:4; Rv 12:13-16; 17:14; 20:7-10)


It should hardly be necessary to add that such authority over faith and morals, and consequently also over the membership, can be exercised only when this is done in thorough harmony with the teachings of Jesus, or, phrasing it differently, with the Word of God.  Jesus definitely condemned any arbitrary blinding and loosing, such forbidding and permitting, such excluding and admitting or re-admitting, as amounts to a transgression of the commandment of God (15:1-20; 23:13).  When a person is unjustly excommunicated the Lord welcomes him (Jn 9:34-38).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 652)


Hades is the realm of the dead, and the gates perhaps symbolize the entrance to that realm.  The Lord was declaring that death will not triumph over His church.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 349)


The meaning of the original Greek is that the disciples would be so led by the Spirit that they would follow the divine or heavenly format.  That is, what they would “bind” or “loose” on earth would be consistent with the divine pattern.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 351)


What we have here is an oft-repeated promise of the victory of Christ’s church over the forces of evil.  See Jn 16:33; Rom 16:20; Eph 6:10-13; Rv 12:13-16; 17:14; 20:7-10.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 649)


Because the church is the assembly of people Jesus Messiah is building, it cannot die.  This claim is ridiculous if Jesus is nothing but an overconfident popular preacher in an unimportant vassal state of first-century Rome.  It is the basis of all hope for those who see Jesus as the Messiah who builds his people.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 370)


The person with the keys has power to exclude or permit entrance (cf. Rv 9:1-6; 20:1-3).  There may be an allusion here to the chief stewards of monarchs (Isa 22:15, 22).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 370)


What is in view here is the church’s ministry of discipline.  (v. 19) (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 495)



Another view is that since “the gate” was the place where the rulers of an oriental city met (Gn 19:1; Ruth 4:1), the “gates of hell” symbolize the place where Satan and his fallen angels take counsel against the Spirit-born, Spirit-built church.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 350)


John’s witness is surely sound:  the disciples began following Jesus in the hope that he was the Messiah (Jn 1:41, 45, 49).  But their understanding of the nature of Jesus’ messiahship was hindered by their own expectations (see on 16:21-23); and they did not come into a full “Christian” understanding till after Easter.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 367)


MEDITATION:  The faith and the knowledge of knowing Who Christ is and what He has come to accomplish is real power for living life to the fullest.  (Jn 10:10; Rom 1:16-17; 1 Cor 1:18; Eph 1:3-2:10; 3:14-21; Col 2:1-5, 9-15). 


Who you say Jesus is will determine everything about how you follow Him.  If you think Jesus was a good teacher, then you will follow Him like you would a good teacher.  If you think Jesus merely had some good ideas, then you will listen to what He says every once in a while.  If you think Jesus was a good example, then you will try to follow His example.

However, if you believe that Jesus was and is the promised Messiah who came to the earth to save us from our sins, to conquer sin and death, and to reign and rule over all as Lord, then that changes everything about how you live.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 216)


“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:  ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a Great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God:  or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.” (C. S. Lewis;   Mere Christianity, pgs. 55-56)


Jonathan Edwards summarizes this concept in two of my favorite quotes from him.  First, “To take on yourself to work out redemption, is a greater thing than if you had taken it upon you to create a world.”  Second, “I am bold to say, that the work of God in the conversion of one soul…is a more glorious work of God than the creation of the whole material world.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 447)


Jesus: “King me or kill me.  I will not be liked.”


LEADER:             On the eve of the day in which we celebrate the Birth of Jesus of Nazareth;  Who do you say Jesus is?



WHO BELIEVE:  Jesus is the Christ.  The Son of the Living God.




Quotes to Note:

At the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, as new churches and communions were emerging, a very important question arose:  “What are the marks of an authentic church?”  In response, the Reformers identified three essential marks.  They said a true church is a place where the gospel is truly preached, the sacraments are properly administered, and discipline is practiced.  That third mark is rarely handled correctly.  Sometimes churches are harsh and judgmental, punishing members for small infractions.  Other churches permit almost anything.  But a true church is involved in godly discipline of its members, instructing them in how to grow in their walks with Christ and calling them to repentance when they fall into very serious sin.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 495-6)


Jesus declared to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (Jn 18:36).  When Christians mix their faith with politics and various humanitarian causes, they run the risk of losing their spiritual focus and their spiritual power.  Although human government is divinely ordained by God (Rom 13:1-7; Ti 3:1; 1 Pt 2:13), the state is no more to be an instrument of the church’s program than the church is to be an instrument of the state’s.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 34)







Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply