Paul Transported to Caesarea – Acts 23-24

The high priest (in Acts 23) unlawfully ordered him to be struck. Paul predicted Ananias’ demise in verse 3, and he actually was killed by his own people at the start of the Jewish war. Paul”s accusers were to point out Paul’s disrespect for him, yet ignored the willful violation made against Paul. At that point, he would have no question about whether he would receive a fair hearing from them.

The excution of the Pharisees by Alexander Jan...

The excution of the Pharisees by Alexander Jannaeus, by Willem Swidde, 17th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul then played the Pharisees and Sadducees against each other — with the truth. The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, but the Pharisees did. Paul’s statement in verse 6 makes that division so sharp that it became violent. The Roman tribune then feared that Paul would be torn to pieces, and had the soldiers remove him and take him to the barracks. Paul’s statement that set it in motion was “brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” Paul had been raised a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5-9), and it was indeed because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the hope, that he was on trial. The following night, the Lord stood by him for encouragement and told him that he must go to Rome to testify the facts about Him (verse 11).

The Jews then feared that Paul’s fate was slipping away. More than forty of them conspired to kill him, taking an oath not to eat or drink until they had done so. In verse 14, we learn that the chief priests and elders were involved in this despicable plot. But Paul’s sister learned of the plot and sent her son to warn him. Paul then sent his nephew to tell the tribune (whose name was Claudius Lysias). Lysias then composed a letter to Felix the governor (verse 26-30), putting himself in a favorable light. At his orders, Paul gets an escort of two hundred soldiers to deliver him and the letter to Antipatris by the dark of night. Upon reading the letter and questioning Paul as to his birthplace, he ordered Paul held in Herod’s praetorium (one of Herod’s palaces that the governor used for his quarters).

In chapter 24, Paul had been escorted to Caesarea. He finally appeared before Felix after Ananias and the rest of his accusers arrived.  When Felix gave Paul his turn to speak, he laid out his defense, disputing the accusations with the obvious truth – which his accusers were unable to counter.  In verse 14, he “confessed” that he is a part of “the Way” (which Tertullus called “the sect of the Nazarenes,”), through which he worships “the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.”   Thus, Paul not only makes the case that he is a “good Jew,” but that Christianity is God’s divine will.

Felix seemed to be aware of Paul’s innocence. But he was more interested in the possibility of getting some money from him over a period of time (verse 26), as well as garnering support from the Jews.  After two years had passed, he left Paul in prison as a favor to them when he was replaced by Porcius Festus.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Acts 23, Acts 24, Acts 25, Acts 26, Acts 27

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

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Church Growth Picks Up Momentum – Acts 6

Line of Jewish high priests. Woodcut from the ...

Line of Jewish high priests. Woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once the deacons were appointed, the apostles were free to concentrate their efforts on delivering the word is God. Verse 7 says that the number of disciples multiplied greatly and that among those were even priests that were converted. This was significant for a couple of reasons. First, having priests converted into the church demonstrated the validity of the gospel in a big way. These men of God knew His word, and by becoming Christians they were telling the world that they believed the Messiah had come and that salvation was freely available to all.

The other side of that coin is that the priests who did not convert (particularly the Sadducees and Pharisees who were already hostile to Jesus and now to His apostles) were already jealous of the attention and reverence that was given to the apostles. Add to this the “loss” of priests to Christianity, and the hostility would work them up to a frenzy in belief that something had to be done to stop these followers of Jesus.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Please check out my Books and my Facebook Author’s Page. You will find the links at this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books“.

 

The Arrest of the Twelve – Acts 5

Verses 17-26 are some of the most truly remarkable verses of the Book of Acts. When we last left the apostles, they were teaching in the temple at Solomon’s Portico — the very same place where Peter and John had been arrested for teaching about Jesus. In verse 17, we find the high priest (and the Sadducees with him) “filled with jealousy” toward the apostles for the esteem with which the people held them. So they arrested them, and put them in prison.

English: Illustration in 1883 encyclopaedia of...

English: Illustration in 1883 encyclopaedia of the ancient Jewish Sanhedrin council (from Greek synedrion, synhedrion) Русский: Иллюстрация в старинной энциклопедии заседание Синедриона (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But during the night, Luke tells us in verses 19-20, an angel of the Lord came and opened the doors to the prison. He told them to go back to the temple and “speak to the people all the words of this Life.” “This Life,” of course, means of salvation and eternal life. So they are to go back and do the very thing that got them thrown into this prison in the first place. Of course, the apostles did not question the wisdom of this, but went at daybreak and did exactly that.

In the morning, the Sanhedrin council convened, with everyone in their places of authority, and sent for the prisoners. What they found was that the doors to the prison were still locked, with guards outside – but no prisoners! So they returned and reported this to the council. Imagine their incredulity at this disappearing act right under the noses of the guards! They were at a loss at what to do. One might think that at some point here they would realize that they were fighting against the Lord. But remember this the next time you think that a miracle might convince someone of the truth, when the word of God itself does not.

Instead, they sent the captain of the temple with the officers back to the temple, as someone had come and told them where the apostles were. But verse 26 says that they did not bring them back by force because “they were afraid of being stoned by the people.” They should have been afraid of God!

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week

Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Please check out my Books and my Facebook Author’s Page. You will find the links at this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books“.

Apostles Arrested! – Acts 4

sadducees_100714In the opening verses of chapter 4, we find Peter and John still speaking to the people who had witnessed the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate. But Luke tells us that the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees “came upon them.” The “captain” of the temple was not a military figure or anything like that. It was simply a term used to denote someone in a supervisory role to the priests and Levites in the temple.

The text says that they were greatly annoyed because Peter and John “were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” This would be particularly annoying to the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:8). So they arrested the two apostles, and kept them for the night, as it was already late in the day.

But it was too late to stop what had obviously been God’s purpose that day. Verse 4 makes it pretty clear that the two apostles had not simply drawn the attention of a couple of dozen of temple-goers. Luke says that many believed as a result of their preaching and the miracle, and that the number of men came to about five thousand. So we can assume that upwards of 10,000 men and women had been persuaded in the gospel by that incident. Jesus’ church was growing very quickly indeed.

Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

The God of the Living – Luke 20

Jewish leaders of Jesus' time were mostly Pharisees, Sadducees, or Scribes. They were against Jesus, hating him so much that they wanted to kill him, for they were afraid they would lose their authority and their jobs.

Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time were mostly Pharisees, Sadducees, or Scribes. They were against Jesus, hating him so much that they wanted to kill him, for they were afraid they would lose their authority and their jobs.

In verse 27, the Sadducees get in on the act of trying to best the Lord with their questions. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection.  So they pose a question designed to prove that point where God’s own word is concerned. Had they known they were speaking to “the word” (John 1:1-2;14), they would have realized how futile the attempt was.

The “trick question” concerned a woman whose husband had died. According to the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 25:5):

“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.”

So the Sadducees extend that scenario out into the realm of absurdity. In their story, the man who died had six brothers. Each one took the woman as his wife and died without giving her a child. So after the resurrection, whose wife would she be – seeing that all seven brothers had been her husband? They were sure they had Him on this point, because none of the brothers would have a greater claim on the woman than any of the others. Surely that proves by God’s own law that there is no resurrection.

Three angels visiting Abraham

Three angels visiting Abraham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus ignores the absurdity, and addresses the crux of the matter. He explains that “the sons of this age” (and daughters) marry and are “given in marriage,” but those who “attain to that age”- and to the resurrection – do neither. He says that they can no longer die, and are equal to angels in that respect. Notice He does not say that they are angels. Nowhere does the Bible teach that we become angels after we die. They are separate and distinct beings. But we become Sons of God and sons of the resurrection.

He goes on to assure them that there is a resurrection according to the word of God. He points out that even Moses said in the passage about the burning bush (Exodus 3-4:17) that the Lord is the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. The Sadducees could only then say that Jesus had answered very well.

They had taken their best shot, and came up empty.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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Acts 23 – A Plot to Kill Paul

Paul appeared before the Jewish council

Paul had just begun to speak to the Sanhedrin council, when the high priest unlawfully ordered him to be struck (it was unlawful to strike a man who had not yet been condemned).  Paul correctly predicts Ananias’ demise in verse 3, as he will be killed by his own people at the start of the Jewish war.  There are a lot of theories (total speculation, of course) about verses 4-5 and Paul’s disrespect for Ananias, but whatever the case, we should take Paul at his word that he did not know who he was addressing.  It is noteworthy, however, how quick they were to point out that fact, yet ignore the willful violation made against Paul.  At that point, he would have no question (if there was doubt before) about whether he would receive a fair hearing from them.

Paul then uses the fact that the Sanhedrin council was made up of both Pharisees and Sadducees to his advantage.  The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, but the Pharisees did – and the division between them because of it was great.  Paul’s statement in verse 6 makes that division so sharp that it became violent.  The Roman tribune then feared that Paul would be torn to pieces, and had the soldiers remove him and take him to the barracks.  Paul’s statement that set it in motion was “brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial;” and every word of it was true.  Paul had been raised a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5-9), and it was indeed because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the hope, that he was on trial.  The following night, the Lord stood by him for encouragement and told him that he must go to Rome to testify the facts about Him (verse 11).

Antipatris was the Old Testament Philistine city of Aphek (1 Samuel 4: 1; 29: 1). The New Testament city was built by Herod the Great in 9 BC. Antipatris was named for Antipater, Herod the Great’s father. Ras el-‘Ain is the site of the ruins of the ancient city. The spring at Antipatris is the source of the River Auja. Paul was taken here (Acts 23: 31) on the way to his imprisonment in Caesarea.

The Jews then sensed that Paul’s fate was slipping away, so more than forty of them conspired to kill him, taking an oath not to eat or drink until they had done so.  Such an oath was a serious matter – not made flippantly (and reminds us of Jezebel in 1 Kings 19:2).  Verse 14  leaves no doubt of the extent of corruption there, as we learn that the chief priests and elders were involved in this despicable plot.  But Paul’s sister learned of the plot and sent her son to warn him.  Paul then sends his nephew to tell the tribune (whose name we learn in verse 26 is  Claudius Lysias).  Lysias then composed a letter to Felix the governor (verse 26-30), putting himself, of course, in a favorable light.  At his orders, Paul gets an escort of two hundred soldiers to deliver him and the letter to Antipatris by the dark of night.  Upon reading the letter and questioning Paul as to his birthplace, he ordered Paul held in Herod’s praetorium (one of Herod’s palaces that the governor used for his quarters), as he awaits his accusers for a hearing.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Acts 5 – Ananias and Sapphira

The Death of Ananias, by Raphael

The Death of Ananias, by Raphael (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As is often the case with Scripture, context is everything in this chapter.  As chapter 4 closes, the young church was growing with the Apostles leading them; and the unity among the believers was amazing.  People were selling their own possessions, and bringing the proceeds to the Apostles to help provide for others who were in need.  It was in that spirit that we were introduced to Barnabas of Cyprus in Acts 4:36 (we will read more about Barnabas in later chapters).  As Peter makes clear, the property that had belonged to Ananias and Sapphira was theirs to do as they wished.  Their sin was in trying to fraudulently claim that they had sold land and were giving the entire proceeds to the apostles to help those in need.  The lie would certainly be found out. The credibility of the Apostles would be harmed – how can they be said to be guided by the Holy Spirit and not know these people were perpetrating such fraud?  The unity of the believers would certainly suffer.  God would not allow this to happen.

Verse 12 lets us know that the Apostles had worked many signs and wonders.  Note that the verse does not refer to 120 people having done so, again affirming that it was the twelve who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in chapter 2.  And despite Peter and John’s earlier arrest, they were all together in Solomon’s Portico again. Verse 13 simply means that even the non-believers that did not join them held them in high esteem.  But verse 14 declares that the church was growing faster than ever, with both men and women.  People were also bringing their loved ones from all around to be healed.

The high priest and the rest of the Sadducees were jealous of the attention and the esteem everyone had for the apostles, and had them arrested.  But in verse 19, an angel of the Lord let them out and told them to go teach – this time in the Temple.  They did exactly that at daybreak.  The words the angel used were “…speak to the people all the words of this Life”  – the eternal life that Jesus spoke of in John 17:1.  There are some who believe that early Christianity may have been referred to as both “the Life” and “the Way.”  The former is unsure, but we do know that the latter is true.  It is first mentioned in Acts 9:1-2.

Apostles Peter and John by Pieter Aertsen (157...

Apostles Peter and John by Pieter Aertsen (1575). Oil on wood, 55.5 76 cm. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the council sent men to bring the Apostles to them from prison, they returned to let them know that they not only were not in the prison – but they were teaching in the Temple.  When they brought them from the Temple, they did it quietly.  The popularity of the Apostles made the officers afraid of the people.  At the Sanhedrin, the high priest reminded them that they had been warned not to teach in the name of Jesus, saying “you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”   But Peter and the Apostles again boldly declare that they will obey God – that He raised Jesus, whom they had killed, and that they are witnesses, as is the Holy Spirit.  The council was furious, wanting to kill them all.  But Gamaliel, a Pharisee, reminded them that two others had gathered a following, but had died and the movement fizzled.  His argument was that they should let this one fizzle out as well – either it would do so, or it was indeed from God.

Gamaliel’s advice was taken, but the Apostles were beaten (verse 40) before they were released.  This would have been a brutal beating – probably less severe that the scourging Jesus had received, but likely would have been the traditional 39 stripes for each of them.  Upon release, the attitude of the Twelve was to rejoice.  Verse 42 confirms “…every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Acts 4 – Peter and John Before the Council

While Peter and John were still speaking to the people who had flocked to hear, the priests and the Sadducees became “greatly annoyed” (verse 2).  There were several reasons for them to be disturbed over this sermon.  To begin with, the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection at all (Acts 23:8).  Secondly, they had themselves condemned Jesus to death.  As Campbell wrote in his commentary: “the great popularity of the gospel message threatened their political base, promised to hold them up before the people as murderers, as ignoramuses concerning the Holy Scriptures, and as deserving of universal contempt.”  Peter and John were arrested and put into custody until the next day.  But verse 5 says that many more who had heard “the word” believed. “The word” was the same as it is today: Jesus, the Son of God, has risen from the dead, and it is only through Him “by which we must be saved!”  The number of men alone in the Lord’s church now came to about 5,000.

Sanhedrin, Jewish high council chambers.

The next day, Peter and John faced Annas the high priest, Caiaphas and the rest of the Sadducees, and the elders and scribes, who asked them by what power or what name they had acted. Peter, who had earlier feared these men enough to deny that he even knew the Lord, was now filled with the Holy Spirit.  In verses 8-11, with respect but also with boldness of conviction, he eloquently told them that the lame man had been healed by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom they crucified. The reference to Jesus being the cornerstone, rejected by the builders (them) was from Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16.

After deliberating, the council knew they had no just charge to bring against them, but they warned them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus any more.  The truth still meant nothing to the Sanhedrin.  But Peter and John would only say that they would have to judge whether it is right to listen to God or the council.  They would speak the truth.  The council gave them another warning before releasing them.  God, through Peter and John, had given these men the chance to repent and they chose to reject the Lord again.

Back with their friends they lifted their voices in prayer to God, quoting Psalm 2:1-2 in verses 25-26 and asking God to “look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.”  In verse 31, when they finished praying “the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”  God had given His response.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Luke 20 – The Wicked Tenants

In Jesus’ parable; wicked vineyard tenants murdered servants the owner had sent, and eventually murdered the owner’s son. This was an illustration of the wicked leaders who would murder God’s own Son, Jesus (Matthew 21:33-46).

In the parable of the wicked tenants in verses 9-16 , the word for owner in the “owner of the vineyard” is the same as “lord.”  The three servants he sent to the tenants represent the prophets.  The fruit of the vineyards they are seeking represents Israel’s obedience to God.  Then, sending his “beloved son” reminds us of what God said (“This is my beloved Son…”) at Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:17.  The tenants killing the owner’s son alludes to His coming death.  When Jesus says that the vineyard owner would come and destroy those tenants, it seems likely to be referring first to the destruction of Jerusalem that will come in A.D. 70. But in a larger sense, it speaks to the final judgment.  Those hearing the parable say “Surely not!” as they perceive that the parable applies to the people of Israel.  Would God take away the land and give it to other people?  But He looks directly at them and says ““What then is this that is written:
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone?”
This is from Psalm 118:22, referred to as well in Isaiah 28:16, and is quoted by Peter in Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7.

A denarius minted circa 18 BC. Obverse: CAESAR...

A denarius minted circa 18 BC. Obverse: CAESAR AVGVSTVS; reverse: DIVVSIVLIV(S) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In verse 19, the scribes and chief priests were predictably angry, as they knew the parable was directed at them.  So they sent people to try to trap him with sedition against the Roman government.  Jesus’ answer in verse 25 was “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” This can be read in different ways, given that He had asked whose image was on the denarius.  One interpretation is that we are made in God’s image, and thus we must render ourselves to God’s service.

The Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection, so they try to test him in verses 27-33 with a scenario revolving around the teaching of Moses.  But in verse 37 (and in Matthew 22:31-32) Jesus quotes Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush in Exodus 3:6, explaining that God is the God of the living.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Matthew 16 – Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

The Pharisees and the Saduccees Come to Tempt ...

The Pharisees and the Sadducees Come to Tempt Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Normally, the Pharisees and Sadducees were at odds, and had little to do with each other.  But Jesus was perceived by both groups as a threat to their power.  That is why they came together in verse one asking him for a sign – in order to try to get something to use against him as the Pharisees and scribes had done earlier.  Jesus points out their ability to understand meteorological signs (verse 2), but they are unable to understand the signs that He has done (because they choose not to).  In verse 4, he says that no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah  (a repeat of His earlier statement in the encounter in Matthew 12:38-40).  He had told them of His coming death and resurrection already, but they had not understood that either.

In verse 5, the disciples caught up with Him (Jesus had gone over on the boat without them after feeding the four thousand in chapter 15) and realized they had forgotten to bring any bread.  So when He tells them to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,”  they still have their minds on bread; and they do not properly understand the statement.  Jesus is using the word “leaven” in the sense of something that influences another – in this case, the corrupt doctrine and hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  It is their (the disciples) faith (verse 8) that is preventing them from understanding the way He wants them to understand Him.  Jesus focuses their minds by reminding them of the miracles of feeding the two groups of thousands and the abundant left-overs, and repeating the warning.  That has the desired effect, and they finally “get it.”

After they arrive in the district of Caesarea Philippi, Peter answers Jesus’ question of verse 15 with the knowledge that He is the son of God. Jesus declares that he was blessed to have such knowledge revealed to him by God Himself (verse 17).  Unfortunately, verses 18-19 are the subject of much confusion and controversy.  Many people get lost in scrutinizing the Greek and Aramaic words for rock, but the simple fact is that Jesus uses a play on words, as scripture very often does, with Peter’s name.  And despite his flaws (and maybe even because of them), most of us really just like Peter.  But the gospel is not about the glory of Peter.  It is about Jesus, and our hope of salvation through Him.

The two verses are not so difficult to understand when you put them in context with verse 20, with the preceding verses, and with Jesus’ previous words about building a house on the rock (Matthew 7:24)  The rock that Jesus is building on is the foundation of the son of God and His teachings; and his church or kingdom (Greek “ekklesia” – congregation or assembly) is the collection, or body, of people who have been saved by their obedience and faithfulness (Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Corinthians 12:13).  When Jesus says that He will give him the keys to the kingdom (in contrast to the scribes and Pharisees who cause people to be shut out – see Matthew 23:13), He is speaking of the divine revelation of His word, that will be given to the apostles by the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15) to impart to us to be saved.  That is when they will truly “get it.”  The next part of verse 19 is best translated in the New American Standard Version, which in the correct tense says  “and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”  Binding and loosing refer to forbidding and permitting, and the authority for their knowledge of it will be given to them.   This is repeated to all of them in Matthew 18:18.

Jesus then tells them to tell no one that He is the Christ.  Like Peter in verse 22, nobody would understand that the Christ has not come to rule as their earthly king anyway.  Only after He offers Himself in death will that understanding come.  Verse 21 (“From that time…”) is the first of four times from then until His arrival in Jerusalem, that He will tell them in Matthew of His imminent death and resurrection.  We tend to forget that as Jesus was also a man, Peter’s sentiment for keeping Jesus alive would be a temptation, knowing what He has to suffer.  It is in that light that we better understand His strong words to Peter in verse 23.

Verses 24-27 are the essence of what it means to be a Christian.  The knowledge of what the salvation of our souls means to us eternally should be enough to cause us to deny ourselves the worldly pleasures everyone finds so important – those things that would stand in the way of salvation.  If we do not, and we “gain the world,” we still will have lost everything.  The meaning of verse 28 is said by some to be that some of those present will see the Him come into His kingdom at His death and resurrection, which makes sense.  Others believe that it is the Transfiguration that comes in chapter 17, and is a preview of His divine glory to come.  Both answers have merit; and both may well be correct.  The point is that the time is coming soon.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.