Matthew 16

Matthew 16

The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs

16 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”


Matthew 16 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

The Pharisees and Sadducees (who demanded signs in this chapter) were two of the five major political parties during the time of Jesus. There were also the Herodians, the Zealots,  and the Essenes.

The Herodians

The Herodians were loyal defenders of the status quo. They supported Roman policy and feared being overrun by the Roman military. They were resistant to any sort of change, and eventually joined forces with other parties in the plot to eliminate Jesus.

The Zealots

The Zealots were revolutionary nationalists who looked for every opportunity to overthrow the Roman government. They sided with the Pharisees on religious law, and opposed the Sadducees and Herodians in most political matters.

The Essenes

The Essenes were detached purists. They lived in societies that held common property and believed in celibacy, pacifism, opposition to slavery, and caring for the sick/elderly. They paid more attention to ceremonial purity than even the Pharisees, and established many cultural practices and rituals.

The Sadducees

The Sadducees were the urban elitists. They represented aristocrats, priests, merchants, and other elite individuals in Judea. They denied the supernatural (resurrection, angels, etc.) as well as everlasting punishment and focused on free will and the responsibility of people to make wise choices according to the law. They held only to the Law of Moses.

The Pharisees

Finally, there were the Pharisees – the religious legalists. They were basically a more socialized version of the Essenes. They differed from the Sadducees in that they believed in the resurrection, but understood the coming kingdom as a literal fulfillment to the promise to David – that a king would reign over Israel forever.

Jesus’ Response

How did Jesus handle these political institutions in His time? Was He involved or disinterested? Did He endorse certain people/parties, or not?  While it is impossible to know exactly where He stood, it is clear how He dealt with and reacted to politically charged situations. First, He was keenly aware of exactly what these institutions stood for, and what they ultimately wanted. Almost everything these institutions stood for was leading people in the opposite direction from Jesus – and that’s interesting to me. Of course, there were exceptions.

Jesus himself chose two Zealots to be His disciples. Eventually, they would learn that their worldview was not a proper understanding of what God’s kingdom would accomplish. Jesus always directed their preconceived ideas back to the reality of God’s plan. His will would trump all politics. The Pharisees and Sadducees’ demand for a test would be thrust back as a lack of spiritual discernment. Jesus knew their hearts.

For believers today, we must wrestle with our allegiance. We can uncover someone’s allegiance in many different ways. Most commonly, we can view their social media posts and look at where they spend their time and money. Is it for a political party or candidate? Is it for sports? Is it for themselves? Do those preconceived ideas make us “demand for a sign?” Are we putting our need to be “right” above the commandments of Christ? Are we using Jesus’ name as an endorsement for our political or social ideas?

All of these questions bring pause. What have we pledged our allegiance to over Jesus? More importantly, if Jesus asked us to leave them behind, would we?

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