Lessons of the Light
July 27, 2014
Topic: Matthew Passage: Matthew 16:1–16:20
“Matthew: Gospel of the Grace of God”
“LESSONS of the LIGHT”
In His ongoing CONFLICT with the religious LEADERS of Israel – the scribes & Pharisees – the Lord used many vivid, disturbing TERMS to DESCRIBE & DENOUNCE them.
The word He used the most OFTEN, obviously, was “HYPOCRITES.”
In Matthew 23, He CONTINUALLY CONDEMNS them as “scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”
In verse 27 of that chapter, He says, “you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”
But in Matthew’s gospel, in chapter 23 & elsewhere, our Lord often FOCUSED on the BLINDNESS of these religious leaders: 23:16-17, 19, 24, 26.
We recently read in chapter 15 where Jesus referred to the scribes & Pharisees as“blind guides” (v.14). As a RESULT of their blindness, Jesus said, they were the BLIND LEADING the blind - & the RESULT of that was the DESTRUCTION of both the LEADER & the FOLLOWER.
It is interesting to note the recurring EMPHASIS that scripture places on LIGHT vs. DARKNESS, & on BLINDNESS vs. SIGHT, to describe the 2 broad, basic categories of ALL people:
The LOST are BLIND to the LIGHT (light referring to the PERSON of God, & to the TRUTH of God); thus REMAINING in DARKNESS;
The SAVED have been given spiritual SIGHT, & thus they can see the LIGHT: John 3:19-21.
EVERY person born since Adam & Eve has been born BLIND, spiritually. Without Christ, they are “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Eph. 4:18)But when JESUS came, He came as the KING declaring the coming of His KINGDOM; akingdom of LIGHT.
When Christ RETURNS, the new Jerusalem will have “no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” (Rev. 21:23-24)
As we journey through Matthew, we see Jesus Christ, the LIGHT of the WORLD, INVADING the DARKNESS.
Gradually, slowly but surely, beginning with just 12 men, Jesus begins to REVEAL that light.
Like the SUN, gradually rising in the east, dispelling the DARKNESS by the growing EMERGENCE of its BRILLIANCE, the LIGHT begins to DAWN in the previously DARK hearts of men, & for the FIRST time, they can SEE.
This only INCREASES the vivid CONTRAST between those now walking IN the light, vs. the many who REMAIN in darkness.
In the first 20 verses of Matthew 16, we learn some LESSONS of the LIGHT:
We see the light RENOUNCED by Israel’s LEADERS;
We see that the light had been ANNOUNCED to the FOLLOWERS of Jesus; &
We see the light PRONOUNCED in a very VIVID & DRAMATIC way by one of the APOSTLES of Jesus.
The Light RENOUNCED
V.1 – this was not the FIRST time that Israel’s leaders had asked for a SIGN: 12:38-39.
These were odd bedfellows. Normally, the Pharisees & Sadducees were RIVALS & ANTAGONISTS. It was the RITUALISTS (Pharisees) vs. the RATIONALISTS (the Sadducees) – but they were now joined TOGETHER to fight a COMMON ENEMY: the Son of God.
This “sign” they were demanding was no ordinary, humdrum MIRACLE, such as expelling a DEMON or enabling a LAME man to walk.
They were demanding a uniquely MAGNIFICENT, COSMIC miracle; something SPECTACULAR – something, they were convinced, Jesus COULD NOT do.
Thus, He would finally be EXPOSED as a FALSE Messiah, & the THREAT to their preeminence would be ELIMINATED.
It is obvious, then, that this delegation was INSINCERE in seeking this sign.“miracles do not convince people of sin or give a desire for salvation. Miracles will give confirmation where there is faith, but not where there is willful unbelief.” (Warren Wiersbe)
Vs.2-3 – these men were better at METEOROLOGY than THEOLOGY!
Mark 8:12: “And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
V.3 – “you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” Why? Because they were BLIND.
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”(2 Cor. 4:4)
The Light ANNOUNCED
Jesus was WARNING against the LEGALISM of the Pharisees & the MODERNISM of the Sadducees.
The Pharisees erred in ADDING to scripture; the Sadducees erred in taking AWAY from it.
It surely must have FRUSTRATED & even GRIEVED Jesus to see how DULL they still were.
The LIGHT was DIM with these men – but it was THERE! And it was INCREASING.
John 8:12b: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
That LIGHT was THEIRS - & it would NOT be EXTINGUISHED.
The Light PRONOUNCED
V.13a – finally, there were no CROWDS. Soon Jesus & His disciples would be heading for Jerusalem. But NOW was a very SIGNFICANT time for them.
This was a region that was RIFE with RELIGION: it had been a center for BAAL worship; the Greek god PAN had shrines there; & Herod the Great had built a TEMPLEthere for Augustus Caesar.
Vs.13b-14 - it is surprising that NO ONE had speculated that Jesus could be the MESSIAH, although some had said that about John the Baptist.
But of course, one can never make a TRUE decision about Christ by taking a POLL.
Vs.15-16 – there had been OTHER confessions of faith prior to this one. For example:Matt. 14:33.
It had taken them 2 ½ years to come to this point, but it was the FULLEST & therefore the most SIGNIFICANT confession that had been made about Jesus.
PETER said it, but he was probably the SPOKESMAN, as usual, for the other apostles.
V.17 – Peter was indeed “BLESSED” – that is, God had greatly BLESSED him by REVEALING to him that Jesus was indeed the Christ.
His great words were not the result of EFFORT or INTELLECT, but of DIVINE REVELATION.
By God’s GRACE, as later with the Apostle Paul, God “was pleased to reveal his Son to” (Gal. 1:16a) to Peter.
Vs.18-19 – over the past 2,000 years, there has been much MISUNDERSTANDING & DISAGREEMENT about the meaning of these verses.
There are 2 key QUESTIONS to correctly answer:
WHO (or what) is the ROCK?
Who HOLDS the KEYS of the KINGDOM?
V.18 – “Peter” (Petros) means SMALL STONE, while “rock” (Petra) means a FOUNDATION BOULDER.
Therefore, the “ROCK” is CHRIST. Eph. 2:20 says that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.”
The FOUNDATION of the CHURCH is the CONFESSION that Jesus Christ is LORD;
And the LORD of the church is the CORNERSTONE of its foundation.
The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.
PETER never believed for a moment that he was the FOUNDATION of the church! 1 Pet. 2:4-8.
1 Cor. 3:11: “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Peter NEVER claimed to be anything MORE than an APOSTLE, an ELDER, & a SERVANT of Jesus Christ.
V.19 – KEYS are a symbol of 2 basic things:
Of ADMITTING people;
Of AUTHORITY - & the RELIGIOUS LEADERS of Israel did not POSSESS those keys! Matt. 23:13.
V.19; 18:18 – simply put, the TRUTH that Peter, the Apostles, & the church since them has declared will be BACKED by HEAVEN ITSELF.
John MacArthur: “When believers are in agreement with God’s Word, God is in agreement with them.”
V.18b – simply & wonderfully put, DEATH & SATAN do not have the POWER to OVERCOME the CHURCH. Rom. 8:38-39.
The CHURCH, therefore, CANNOT FAIL.
Mid toil and tribulation and tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore;
Till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.
V.20 – if the apostles had gone out declaring that Jesus was the MESSIAH, the crowd would have had the WRONG understanding. It was ONE thing to CLAIM that He was the Messiah; it was ANOTHER thing to UNDERSTAND what was MEANT by “Messiah.”
2 closing, critically IMPORTANT questions:
What do YOU say about Jesus Christ? V.15b.
WHO will you TELL about Jesus Christ?
“Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isa. 2:5b)