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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Matthew 16



Verses 13-16

Matthew 16:13-16

I. According to the reply of Peter to Christ's general question, the impression which Christ made upon the various classes with whom He came in contact was, with rare exceptions, that He was a Personage far surpassing, in greatness, and truth, and grace, all whom they had ever seen or known. His contemporaries, dull, and selfish, and worldly as many of them were, felt instinctively that He was one for whom they could find no just comparison. (1) His miracles declared His power, and fanned the widespread enthusiasm into an intense flame. (2) His teaching was new, original, and authoritative. With astonishment and delight the multitudes confessed, "He teaches with authority, and not as the scribes." (3) On down-trodden, guilty outcasts Christ looked with Divine compassion, and declared that He had come to seek and to save that which was lost. He drew them to Him, and spake words to them the like of which they had never heard before. Thus He became the centre of almost universal wonder, and trust, and worship.

II. The popular conception concerning Christ was a very exalted one; nevertheless, He put it aside as incomplete, as short of the truth. "The people say of Me that I am John the Baptist, or Elias, or one of the prophets; but whom say ye that I am?" "Thou art Christ, Son of the living God." To that belief in Him Christ gave His sanction and approval. To that He set His seal that it was true. This is an important consideration. There are those who think of Him as the Prophet, the tender, loving Brother, the purest and loftiest Soul that has ever lived in our world—but no more. Christ everywhere claimed to be more than simply a good man. A hearty belief in Christ as the Son of God is, in my judgment, a matter of supreme importance to any one who aims at the full mastery of his sins, and who aspires to complete vigour and fulness of religious life and character.

III. The great confession, "Thou art the Son of God," came from the lips of a disciple. It is ever so. The knowledge of Christ—His saving might, His inspiring energy, the riches of His love—can only be possessed by him who has entered into close and loving fellowship.

T. Hammond, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 33.

References: Matthew 16:13.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 132. Matthew 16:13-16.—J. C. Jones, Studies in St. Matthew, p. 235. Matthew 16:13-19.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 457; J. Hiles Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 30; Expositor, 2nd series, vol. vi., p. 430. Matthew 16:13-20.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 164. Matthew 16:13-23.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. iii., p. 2. Matthew 16:15.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 112; H. Wace, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 200.

Verses 15-17

Matthew 16:15-17, Matthew 16:21

Peter's Confession of Faith, and Christ's Prediction of His Passion.

I. At the end of the second year of His ministry, Christ wrought the astounding miracle of multiplying the loaves for the five thousand persons. That miracle led to the no less wonderful discourse which St. John relates in his sixth chapter, and to the withdrawal of many of our Lord's followers. The crisis had arrived, and naturally, while His enemies drew their bands of union more closely together against Him, He turned to test the fidelity of His friends, and to develop His views more explicitly to them. From the time of Peter's confession He began to prepare them for His cross and passion.

II. Consider what practical effect the faith in Christ's Divinity has upon us, and what is its connection in our own minds with His passion and with His death upon the cross for us. (1) It sets the seal on the deep foundation of God's immutable will; it gives us a rock of everlasting strength to rest on; it spreads those everlasting arms beneath us, which hold us up in deep assurance that His love is most patient and His endurance eternal. (2) There is another feeling set deep in your heart—the desire to be known of those you love, without secrets, without dissimulation, without error or defect. Where will you look for this but in the presence of Him who is invisible and comprehendeth all things? No knowledge of the heart is so searching as His omniscience; no hatred of evil is so pure as His, who is perfect goodness; and while He knows, while He hates all, then His love is most consoling. We can fling ourselves at His feet, because He knows us thoroughly and already. (3) As our Lord's Divinity gives infinite worth to all His human sufferings which are past, so does it ensure the endurance of His human sympathy for all our needs in the present and in the future.

C. W. Furse, Sermons at Richmond, p. 22.

References: Matthew 16:15-18.—W. Spensley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 268. Matthew 16:16.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xvi., p. 333. Matthew 16:17.—G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 108. Matthew 16:17-23.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 344.

Verse 18

Matthew 16:18

The Unity of the Church.

I. That all Christians are, in some sense or other, one, in our Lord's eyes, is plain, from various parts of the New Testament. It is to this one body, regarded as one, that the special privileges of the Gospel are given. It is not that this man receives the blessing, and that man, but one and all; the whole body as one man, one new spiritual man, with one accord, seeks and gains it.

II. When asked why we Christians must unite into a visible body or society, I answer (1) that the very earnestness with which Scripture insists upon a spiritual unseen unity at present, and a future unity in heaven, of itself directs a pious mind to the imitation of that unity visible on earth; for why should it be so continually mentioned in Scripture, unless the thought of it were intended to sink deep into our minds and direct our conduct here? (2) But again, our Saviour prays that we may be one in affection and in action; yet what possible way is there of many men acting together, except that of forming themselves into a visible body or society, regulated by certain laws and officers? and how can they act on a large scale and consistently, unless it be a permanent body? (3) I might rest the necessity of Christian unity upon one single institution of our Lord's, the sacrament of baptism. Baptism is a visible rite, confessedly; and St. Paul tells us that by it individuals are incorporated into an already existing body. But if every one who wishes to become a Christian must come to an existing visible body for the gift, it is plain that no number of men can ever, consistently with Christ's intention, set up a Church for themselves. All must receive their baptism from Christians already baptized; and thus we trace back a visible body or society even to the very time of the Apostles themselves. (4) One other guarantee, which is especially suggested by our Lord's words in the text, for the visible unity and permanence of His Church, is the appointment of rulers and ministers, entrusted with the gifts of grace, and these in succession. The ministerial orders are the ties which bind together the whole body of Christians in one; they are its organs, and they are, moreover, its moving principle.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vii., p. 230.

References: Matthew 16:18.—S. G. Green, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 49; L. Abbott, Ibid., vol. xxxii., p. 362; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 103; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 58; E. W. Shalders, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 152; J. C. Jones, Studies in St. Matthew, p. 255; W. Anderson, Discourses, p. 66; C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 309. Matthew 16:18, Matthew 16:19.—Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 1.

Verses 21-26

Matthew 16:21-26

Great Purposes and Interruptive Voices. "From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples how that He must go." Special emphasis should be laid upon the word "must," in order to discover the depth and range of the idea which the speaker seeks to convey. The emphasis, so placed, gives us the utterance of a great purpose. "Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him." This is an interruptive voice. Christ and Peter set before us the broadest contrasts in human development.

I. The majesty of a purpose imparts to its possessor tranquillity in anticipation of the severest trials. What are the constituent elements of heroism? I answer, a great purpose, and faith in it. Given the purpose and the faith, and you have strength, and patience, and hope, and surest victory.

II. Superficial natures cannot interpret the majesty of a great purpose. Did ever a great idea realize its "must go" without having to encounter interruptive Peters? Little ideas, respectable enterprises, decent actions have passed along the world's highway without much incommodation; but the ideas that have given love to the heart and direction to the understanding, of an age or an empire, have had to fight their way to Jerusalem step by step.

III. Great purposes are necessarily associated with self-sacrifice. (1) Whoso follows a great leader must expect great sacrifices. (2) The spirit and example of a great moral leader must ever be reproduced.

IV. Great purposes always correctly estimate the value of material possessions.

V. Superficial natures always proceed on a self-defeating policy. Christ's testimony is clear: "For whosoever shall save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it."

Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 361; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 177.

References: Matthew 16:21.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 271; R. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 376. Matthew 16:21-23.—C. Morris, Preacher's Lantern, vol. iii., p. 47. Matthew 16:21-26.—Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 61. Matthew 16:21-28.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 173. Matthew 16:22.—J. Keble, Sermons from Lent to Passiontide, p. 376. Matthew 16:23.—W. H. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 345.

Verse 24

Matthew 16:24

One of the proofs of the truth and of the Divine origin of our religion is that it gives such a distinct notice of the difficulties which its followers will have to encounter. What other religion could afford to speak like this?

I. "Deny himself." As in the natural character selfishness and affection are two such opposite principles that the man that is selfish can never be truly affectionate, and the man that is affectionate will never be long selfish, so in the spiritual life self and the Divine love are the two great antagonists which do battle in a man's heart. Between these two, from the moment that any one is really in earnest in religion, there is contest, severe and unceasing, even to death, till ultimately either self, being allowed, stifles grace, or grace, being cherished, gradually swallows up self, till all self loses itself in Jesus.

II. "Daily." What is the cross? What is it that a man is to take up? Not some very great thing which is to come by-and-by. Against that idea Christ appears especially to have guarded us when He added the word "daily." The cross must be a trial which has something humiliating in it, something which brings a sense of shame, something which lingers, something which is painful to the old nature, for that is exactly what the cross was.

III. "Follow Me." What is it worth to deny one's self how much soever, or to take up a cross however hard, if it be not done in reference to Christ—with an express intention towards Christ? But to do all these things with the eye only to Jesus as all our righteousness and peace; to do them because He wishes it and as He did it, that He may be magnified—this is to obey a doctrine while we fulfil a command, and therefore this is in the spirit of the requisition to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 282.

The command which the text contains is based upon the great principle of the imitation of Christ. Unlike all other legislators, His life is the law of His people.

If we would gain the root of the matter, then we must contemplate suffering as manifested in Christ Himself.

I. The great primary fact, upon which all the essential peculiarities of our religion are founded, is that God became strangely, inconceivably connected with pain; that this Being, whose nature is inherent happiness, by some mysterious process entered the regions of suffering, crossed the whole diameter of existence, to find Himself with His own opposite; bore, though incapable of moral pollution, the dark shadow of pollution, even anguish unspeakable; and though unsubdued by the master, Sin, exhibited Himself, to the wonder of the universe, clad in the weeds of the servant, Death.

The main reason of this fact is to be found in the necessity of atonement. But the Divine Person also visited the regions of pain in such a sense as to be our Example; for so the text presents Him.

II. Must we not think that there is something in the sorrow, thus cordially and perpetually chosen by our Master, that is eminently adapted to elevate and purify our being? Must there not be something divinely excellent in that which was deliberately chosen by a Divine nature as its peculiar tabernacle out of all the world afforded, the sad but awful cloud above the mercy-seat in which, while among us, His glory was to dwell? This special excellence is not hard to discover. Humbleness of spirit, the most pervading and universal of all graces, is in the Christian code the very essence of perfection, and sorrow borne with resignation has a direct tendency to produce it. Now, because our Redeemer knew, what it is so hard to persuade even His avowed followers, that in this direction lies the true perfection of man—that a gentle, unmurmuring submission is his truest, brightest heroism—therefore did He, in His own person, adopt the way that leads to it. He daily suffered, because suffering subdues the pride of human hearts, and He would teach us to accomplish that conquest.

W. Archer Butler, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, p. 27.

References: Matthew 16:24.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 394; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 36; vol. ii., p. 44; H. G. Bird, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 151; J. M. Nelson, Ibid., vol. xxxi., p. 200.

Verses 24-28

Matthew 16:24-28

The Eucharist considered as a participation in the unselfish life of Christ.

I. From the day of his temptation, when He refused to prove Himself the Son of God by doing any work to support Himself, or to make His power manifest, or to take possession of His kingdom—from that day forward to His death, He was practising self-denial, and so was revealing the Father to men. The cross was the gathering up of all that previous sacrifice. And having proved this to be the true life of man, the law of human life, He called upon men to enter into it with Him. Self-denial was not to be an occasional act; it is the ground of man's existence, for it is the ground of His.

II. The words, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you," remind us of the daily, hourly temptation to be seeking a life of our own, to be forgetting that we are bound by the eternal law of God, by the unchangeable conditions of our own being, to our fellows, and to their Father and ours, in the well-beloved Son. These words remind us that the selfish life is in truth no life at all, but death; that to choose it is to choose death. They remind us that we are not bound to choose it; that in doing so we are renouncing our true human state, we are trying to cast off bonds which are actually holding us, we are resisting God's Spirit. They remind us that the common life is still with us; that the Son of man is still the same; that His flesh and His blood were really given for the life of the world; that our spirits groan for that life, groan to be delivered from the death into which they have fallen through self-pleasing, self-seeking. Christ bids my spirit partake of the flesh and blood which He shed for the world, as my body partakes of the bread and wine. It is what I need. It takes away the selfish glory which I have coveted; it invests me with the human glory which I have renounced. It bids me cast away that weight of cares about my body and soul which have become intolerable; it bids me throw myself upon that sacrificing love which provides for all and for each, which seeks to make me its minister to others, which can never bless me so much as by forming me after its own likeness.

F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 127.

References: Matthew 16:24-26.—W. Hay Aitken, Mission Sermons, 2nd series, p. 125. Matthew 16:24-28.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. iii., p. 10.

Verse 26

Matthew 16:26

I. Our Lord tells us in the text that our choice of a principle and end of living involves an exchange. You get nothing in life, good or bad, without cost. No man ever leaped into a success of any kind without cost to himself. Success is always paid for with some coin or other. Do you expect you will win moral success, spiritual victory, on any other terms?

II. Look at the nature of the exchange in this particular case. If you buy the world you pay a definite price for it, a price from which there is no discount to the most favoured buyer, and that price is your life.

Our Lord states it as a principle, a universal fact, that the man who takes the world takes it at the price of his life.

III. Suppose we go the whole length of our Lord's words. Suppose you gain the whole world, everything the world has to give you. I submit (1) that you have gotten something perishable; (2) your interest in it will not last. "The world passeth away, and the desire of it." (3) It will not satisfy you. (4) You have gotten something dangerous. When you buy the world you buy a master at the price of your life. (5) You come to the line at last, and pass over. Whatever price you pay for the world, you leave the world behind you when you pass the gate of death. The only thing that has any hold on the future is the Christlike self, and if you have not that, if you have parted with that for the world, what have you?

M. R. Vincent, God and Bread, p. 21.

Every one of us is able fluently to speak of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and is aware that the knowledge of it forms the fundamental difference between our state and that of the heathen. And yet, in spite of our being able to speak about it, there seems scarcely room to doubt that the greater number of those who are called Christians in no true sense realize it in their own minds at all. It is a very difficult thing to bring home to us and to feel that we have souls; and there cannot be a more fatal mistake than to suppose we see what the doctrine means as soon as we can use the words which signify it.

I. To understand that we have souls is to feel our separation from things visible, our independence of them, our distinct existence in ourselves, our individuality, our power of acting for ourselves this way or that way, our accountableness for what we do. We feel that while the world changes, we are one and the same; we are led to distrust it, and are weaned from the love of it, till at length it floats before our eyes merely as some idle veil, which, notwithstanding its many tints, cannot hide the view of what is beyond it; and we begin, by degrees, to perceive that there are but two beings in the whole universe—our own soul, and the God who made it.

II. We never in this life can fully understand what is meant by our living for ever, but we can understand what is meant by this world's not living for ever, by its dying never to rise again. And learning this, we learn that we owe it no service, no allegiance; it has no claim over us, and can do us no material good or harm. On the other hand, the law of God, written in our hearts, bids us serve Him, and partly tells us how to serve Him, and Scripture completes the precepts which nature began. And both Scripture and conscience tell us we are answerable for what we do, and that God is a righteous Judge; and above all, our Saviour, as our visible Lord God, takes the place of the world as the only-begotten of the Father, having shown Himself openly, that we may not say God is hidden. And thus a man is drawn by all manner of powerful influences to turn from things temporal to things eternal, to deny himself, to take up his cross and follow Christ.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. i., p. 15.

I. Man has a soul. You may call it mind, or spirit, or will, or affection, or reason, even as the sea washing different continents has various names. It includes all these. Scripture reveals to us its independent creation and existence. The great difference between the soul of man and the soul and being or substance of all other creatures is that they are made out of the kingdom of nature. The soul is not created; it is derived, and its derivation is Divine.

II. Consider the value of the soul. (1) Its power. It can sin; it can suffer; it can think. (2) Its duration. For ever; no cessation. "I am, and I can never cease to be."

III. A soul may be lost. Man's greatest danger is his perverted will. But I may mention four causes of the loss of the soul: (1) ignorance; (2) error; (3) passion; (4) a perverted will, which underlies the whole. Thy soul is not truly thine till it is given to God. If you look beneath you, behold your life lying there, it is not your own; it is Satan's.

IV. The soul may be saved. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."

E. Paxton Hood, Sermons, p. 291.

Let us consider why the saying of our Lord in the text, while generally admitted to be true, is yet so little laid to heart.

I. Because we are accustomed to admit freely the incomparable worth of the soul, but without a clear perception of that in which its worth consists. We feel the unique dignity of our own position in creation. We can compare ourselves with the world around us; and it and all that it can offer of possession and power, of enjoyment and honour, is beneath the soul. But in what does this incomparable worth of the soul consist? The only true answer is this: The incomparable value of the soul consists in its being capable of and destined for communion with God in the direct meaning of the word. How few have any definite conception of this. There is but one way in which we can learn it, in the contemplation of Christ.

II. Because we have usually no clear idea of the injury which may happen to our souls. It is not sufficiently clear that there really do exist permanent consequences of a single sinful deed, even of a sinful disposition of mind. That such consequences do exist, we can plainly see in such frightful developments of sin as we find in the hardened criminal. But we do not sufficiently grasp the truth of the words, "He that committeth sin is the servant of sin."

III. Because we so often fail to perceive clearly how we can and ought to care for the salvation of our soul, and because the only successful mode of doing so is not usually pleasing to us. We do not like to admit that the care for our soul must begin with the care for its recovery, because by nature it is diseased. The care for our soul must be a care for our soul's salvation. It consists simply in turning to Christ, in accepting Him by faith, in giving ourselves up to Him in love, and in obedience to the workings of His Word and of His Spirit. By such care for our souls life will not become more painful, it will only be elevated.

R. Rothe, Nachgelassene Predigten, p. 37.

References: Matthew 16:26.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 269; J. W. Burgon, Ninety-one Short Sermons, p. 78; S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 14; S. Cox, Expositions, vol. ii., p. 149. Matthew 16:27.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 554; B. F. Westcott, The Historic Faith, p. 87; J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 108. Matthew 16:28.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 594.


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Matthew 16:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

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