Title: The Invasion Plan
Text: Matthew 16:13-20
FCF: We often struggle with the balance between peacefully existing and preaching the gospel.
Prop: By Grace we can know and abide in Christ, inheriting heaven’s authority, so we must further His Kingdom.
Scripture Intro: NET
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 16. It was restful to have Jim Stamberg speak last week. Well it was restful for me. If you are getting tired of the book of Matthew, he didn’t really give you a break did he. I promise we didn’t plan that. In case you are wondering, strictly by verse count we are now officially over half way through the book of Matthew. And it has only taken us 53 sermons. Last time in Matthew we saw this trip to Bethsaida from Galilee, where the disciples forgot to bring bread. Jesus taught them to beware the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees, which of course they misunderstood. They thought He was angry because they forgot bread. They started wondering where they’d get some more. Of course this wasn’t at all what Jesus was saying. He was simply saying beware the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. And we identified that where the Sadducees and Pharisees were united in doctrine, was their focus on the earthly and physical nation of Israel. What we drew from this episode, was that the disciples and Pharisees and Sadducees had a very small view of the Kingdom of God. It was so small that petty things like bread and nationalism got in the way of them seeing the bigger picture. And now Jesus turns to teach His disciples the bigger view of the Kingdom. He will take them from worrying about bread… to showing them His invasion plan. Look with me at Matthew 16 starting in verse 13. I am reading from the NET but follow along in the version you prefer.
[Slide 2] This is the only time I will mention this… be warned, this sermon is long. There is nothing more I can cut. This text is difficult for several reasons, and I feel I should also warn you that the interpretation that I have come to from this text is not in conformity to many commentators or scholars. When you read in your study notes by MacArthur, Jeremiah or whoever – they will not explain this text the way I am about to. Am I so arrogant to think that I am smarter than they? Maybe. Mostly I am telling you this as a warning. The last thing I want to do is misrepresent what God desires to teach us through His servant Matthew. You can take what I am about to say with a grain of salt, but I’d ask you to be open to a different interpretation than you’ve ever heard on this passage. And I am going to do my best to prove it to you. Let’s start in verse 13.
I.) By grace alone, Jesus’ identity is revealed, so we must further His Kingdom. (13-17)
a. [Slide 3]13 – When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
i. There is a saying in hermeneutics (how to study the bible) which is that Context is King.
ii. That means of course that if you understand what is happening in the context of a passage, it is extremely likely that you will be able to ascertain the correct meaning of the passage.
iii. Now most of the time, that simply means understanding thought flow and word meanings. However, occasionally a passage requires a good deal of cultural understanding in order to expand upon what is being taught.
iv. In this passage, the fact that Jesus took these men to Caesarea Philippi is one that we just breeze right over. But where is this city? And why are they going there?
1. [Slide 4] See here on the map that Caesarea Philippi lay next to Mount Hermon, about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.
a. In the Old Testament this area was known as Baal Hermon or Baal Gad. Both names reflect the worship of the god Baal.
b. During Greek rule, the city was re-established and named Paneas. Its name reflects the purpose of its creation. It was a cult center for the worship of the Greek god Pan who was half goat and half man.
c. The worship of Pan among other gods was prevalent in the city and the forms of worship were some of the most debauched that our minds could imagine.
d. Thus this city had always been a center for worship of many competitors to Yahweh since Israel existed and even before.
e. In fact in Rabbinic teachings it is suggested that no good Jew would ever go willingly to Caesarea Philippi.
f. It was the red light district of Galilee. A spiritually dark place. A place of false worship. A place of heavy demonic activity. Now why do I say that?
i. In Deuteronomy, Psalms, and I Timothy there are relatively clear indications that not only do demons promote the worship of false gods, but that they, in fact, pretend to be deities worthy of worship.
ii. In Psalm 106 Israel is said to have worshiped their idols the idols of Canaan, and then the Psalmist identifies exactly what those idols were, almost unbeknownst to the Israelites… they were demons.
iii. These people weren’t stupid. They weren’t worshipping a statue. They were worshipping a god who they honestly believed in, represented by the statue. Even a god who showed them some measure of his power.
iv. This is why the children of Israel made a golden calf – Aaron comments on this in verse 5 of Exodus 32. He literally looks at the calf and says this is the god that brought you out of Egypt. And tomorrow is a feast day to YAHWEH and they rose up the next morning and offer burnt offerings and sacrifices to the calf – THAT THEY CALLED YAHWEH
v. Now why am I making a mountain of a mole hill here? Why am I trying desperately to prove that Caesarea Philippi was a place infested with demons posing as gods and acquiring worship from the people?
vi. For now, let me just say that if this does matter, if it is talking about this, Then the message that Jesus has for us here is 1000 times more powerful than we often think it is. So hang on, we’ll get there.
2. So why is Jesus taking His disciples here?
a. First, we have seen Jesus’ attention turn from Galilee to its surrounding regions. In the last 2 chapters alone we’ve seen Him go to Tyre and Sidon, Decapolis, and Bethsaida – all regions that are not affiliated with Galilee or even predominantly Jewish.
b. Second, Jesus has a tendency to do what Rabbis always taught not to do – like, ya know, not washing His hands before He ate.
c. Third, and perhaps it goes without saying – there is probably something Jesus wishes to teach to His disciples here. In fact, every place He has gone, He has taught something to His disciples there. The provision and power of God, the faith of the Canaanite woman, among other things. So as we enter this, we need to look for clues as to what Jesus is trying to teach them, in light of where they are.
v. [Slide 5] And in light of where they are, Jesus asks them a question. Who do people say the Son of Man is.
1. Some translations include the word I. Who do men say I, the son of man, am. The problem is that it simply is not in many manuscripts. Some include it, but probably to harmonize it with Luke and Mark where Jesus simply says, Who do men say that I am.
2. Still it is not like Jesus is asking a purely theological question. What is the people’s understanding of the Son of Man – the Messiah? In the book of Matthew, Jesus uses this title most, when referring to Himself, and as we’ll see later, it is obvious that He is doing this again.
3. So although the translations that add I to this probably shouldn’t – that is exactly what the passage intends.
vi. Finally we can go to verse 14 J
b. [Slide 6] 14 – They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
i. It is unclear what tone all this is taking. Are they laughing at absurdity or positing valid guesses. We know their faith is not sufficient.
ii. Each of these guesses puts Jesus in an eschatological timeline. Their answer is a HUGE clue as to what people were thinking about Jesus.
iii. John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, Prophets of old – all of these reflect the general feeling that Jesus was in some way connected to the end times. When God would raise up Israel, restore the temple to its glory, and rule as their King. Forever.
iv. Messiah? Maybe not. But connected to the Messiah? You bet.
v. Then comes the haymaker.
c. [Slide 7] 15 – He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
i. The you is emphatic. Jesus wants to see what they believe.
ii. Being God, He already knows. But this is more for them than anything else.
d. [Slide 8] 16 – Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
i. Ahh Peter. Impulsive, erratic Peter.
ii. We have already noted that Matthew presents Peter with High Highs and Low Lows. Rather than believing that is because Matthew had something against Peter, I think it is more likely that Peter was the best of them. He was their spokesman. What he said, they to the same or a lesser degree believed.
iii. What is Jesus’ identity to Peter? There is a formula we should pick up on, because Jesus is going to invert the formula.
1. First he gives Jesus a title. That title is The Christ. Now this is a definite article. Christ or Messiah simply means anointed or chosen of God. But putting a definite article in front of this title, refers to the role of God’s chosen to forever change the world. The seed promised to Eve that would crush the serpent’s head. The Seed that would bring blessing to all the nations promised to Abraham. The Scepter that would not depart from Judah. The King in David’s lineage that would rule forever. The servant who would take away the sins of man. THAT Messiah is in view here.
2. The second thing he says about Jesus is describing His pedigree or lineage. He calls Him the Son of God. Again a definite article. A son of God would mean a spiritual being of some sort, but The Son of God indicates a likeness or bearing of God’s image and attributes. Not literally His son – but Someone used of and like God.
3. Peter also confesses that God is living. Jews often would see Pagan gods as dead or dying. And in this place of many Pagan gods, Peter makes a stark contrast that their God is living.
4. We should be careful here to not give too much credit to Peter’s confession. Something of great difficulty for us is to identify exactly where these disciples are regenerated. One thing we have to remember is that they are still under the Old Covenant, because the New covenant was initiated by the blood of Christ and Ratified by the resurrection of Christ. All of which has not happened yet. So Peter’s confession is a great statement of faith, but in only 6 verses Peter will fail so badly that Jesus will call him Satan. So let’s temper our enthusiasm.
e. [Slide 9] 17 – And Jesus answered him, You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!
i. Now there is much more here, but we will save most of it for our next point in this text. All I really want to pick up first is what Jesus says first and why He says it. You are blessed, because my Father in heaven revealed this to you.
ii. Just as God is living, God is the giver of life and understanding. God has blessed Peter, or given Him favor, given Him grace to understand this truth. It was not from men – either himself or another that He learned this.
iii. And so in our evangelism we should not hope in clever words or convincing arguments but in the grace of God to explode the walls of unbelief and illuminate people to the truth. In fact every single one who has ever come to Christ, did not do so because someone convinced them – but that God brought to life what was dead so our ears could hear and so we might repent and believe.
iv. There is no understanding apart from God’s gifting of understanding. And that is an act of special grace.
v. We cannot rely on a formula, but instead the Sovereignty and Grace of God Almighty.
[Slide 10 (blank)] So in this very long first point, we have seen that God’s grace is necessary to understand who Jesus is. That through this gifted understanding to Peter, he is able to see, clearer than he ever has, who exactly Jesus is. And in that – he sees that Jesus is the Messiah of God, chosen and Like YAHWEH. But, Jesus has more to say to Peter – and more to say to the disciples – and more to say to us. Let’s look again at verse 17 to pick up what we missed there.
II.) Followers of Christ will be given the authority of heaven, so we must further His Kingdom (17-20)
a. [Slide 11] 17 – And Jesus answered him, You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!
i. So in Peter’s formula it was giving Jesus a title, and then describing his lineage or attributes.
ii. Jesus picks up this formula, turns it on its end and describes Peter.
iii. First He describes Peter’s lineage or pedigree. And something interesting is happening here. He calls him, son of Jonah. Here is the problem. John 1 clearly tells us that Peter’s father’s name, was John. So what is happening here? A contradiction? Two explanations
1. In Greek Son of Jonah is Bar-ee-oh-nah, Son of John is Bar-ee-oh-ahn-nes – So perhaps we are looking at a textual variant where either Jonah or John is the name of his father and the others are simply misspelled.
2. Perhaps Peter’s father, like Peter, was known by two names, John and Jonah.
3. Or, in light of Jesus’ 2 dealings with the sign of Jonah, and like Peter was describing attributes rather than lineage by calling Jesus son of God, perhaps Jesus is calling him son of Jonah, because like Jonah Peter would run from God – and like Jonah – Peter would preach and thousands would repent. When you read the story of the Ninevites response to the message of Jonah and the people’s response to the message of Peter in Acts – there are, striking similarities.
b. [Slide 12] 18 – And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
i. Then Jesus recognizes a title. Jesus does not give him the nickname here as many suppose. Peter has been referred to as Peter long before this, even as early as when Jesus called him from fishing in John 1. All Jesus is saying is that his name is Peter. Which means rock.
ii. Now what Jesus says next is debated endlessly because it is so weird of a saying.
iii. There is obvious word play going on. Jesus says you are rock and on this rock I will build my church. So… what is “this rock”
1. The obvious answer is Peter. Catholics go to this passage to “prove” That Peter was the first pope. I think because the Catholics went there, Evangelicals fought against it being Peter and came up with two other possibilities
2. Peter’s confession – so upon the truth that you believe I will build my church or
3. Jesus Himself – upon the object of that truth – myself – I will build my church.
4. The reason both of these exist is because theologically and historically – both of these are true, The problem with both of these is that there is no grammatical evidence to hold their case together.
5. So as a reaction, modern commentators, seeking to get back to the bible have taken their lumps and admitted that this is actually Peter Jesus is talking about, but it in no way substantiates the Catholics claims.
6. But… There remain theological and historical problems with the rock that Christ builds his church on being Peter.
a. The church is not built by men. It is built by God. And as much as Peter will have a role in its beginning, and assuming Jesus meant Peter and the rest of the apostles, they certainly were the foundation – to say that they are the rock, the same rock from Matthew 7 that the wise man built their house on… seems theologically fallacious. Especially when Jesus is called the chief cornerstone.
b. Not only that, but historically speaking, Peter may have had initial success in establishing the church, but by Acts 15 we see him submitting to James the Elder at Jerusalem and, if our timeline for Galatians was correct, he had just repented of borderline apostasy by disassociating with non-circumcised Gentile Christians. So if Peter is the rock – that is pretty shaky ground to say the least.
7. So what is the rock? How can we harmonize theological, historical and grammatical?
8. Can I suggest to you that the key to unlocking this passage for us has already been partially revealed by what we already discussed about the city of Caesarea Philippi. The other half of the key to unlock this passage’s meaning is found in what Jesus says next.
iv. [Slide 13] The gates of hades will not overpower it. What in the world does that mean? Actually I found a video of someone who got some real footage of the gates of hell. Are you ready to see it? Let’s watch.
vi. [Slide 14] Friends the Gates of hell was the temple to Pan. It was the place that demons and the forces of darkness the prince of the power of the air and the ruler of this world and all that are subservient to him – it is where the pagans believed they came from. These gods came out of this spring which they thought was the gate to the underworld.
vii. Jesus has taken His disciples to one of the darkest places on earth, a place long overwhelmed by demonic worship – far from God first to Baal and now to Pan.
viii. [Slide 15 – let it play] So what is the rock? The rock wall next to the gates of hell was known as “the rock of the gods” because in the cliff wall there were shrines to all sorts of deities. THIS IS THE ROCK. Not Peter, not Peter’s confession, Not Jesus Himself.
ix. Jesus uses Simon’s nickname to teach them something Mind-blowing.
x. We see something similar to how things are named in the Old Testament. The Israelites murmured and grumbled in a place so they named it grumbling. So like this, Jesus uses the meaning of Peter’s name to segue to talk about His Kingdom’s invasion.
xi. So Jesus says you are called rock and on this rock we are standing next to I will build my church and my church will take away the power of the kingdom of darkness while standing on its front porch.
xii. Jesus is issuing an invasion plan. More clearly than ever, Jesus is telling His disciples why they should be unconcerned about bread, and start seeking the Kingdom, because soon, the kingdom will invade the heart of the darkness and the darkness will not be able to abide the kingdom of light.
xiii. And Jesus is not done…
c. [Slide 16- let it play] 19 – I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.”
i. Looking at Peter, and probably meaning all the apostles and perhaps even the church at large, Jesus says I am giving you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
ii. The authority of the kingdom of heaven. The access, the knowledge, the secret, the rights and privileges to this spiritual awakening has been given to this church.
iii. Binding and loosing we’ll talk in just a second but after this comes the statement
iv. Will have been bound in heaven and will have been loosed in heaven. This is speaking to the reality of the Lord’s prayer where Jesus prayed “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That as it has been done in heaven so it will be done on earth.
v. The Kingdom of heaven is coming down. So then, what does it mean to bind and loose? Although in Jewish teaching these two words have to do with prohibiting and permitting, more is probably in view here than simply the establishing of a new or fuller law.
vi. Some commentators go to Matthew 18 and well they should, because in the context of Church discipline, Jesus says this phrase again. So commentators say that this is dealing with church admittance and/excommunication.
vii. In light of the identification of the gates of hades and the city of Caesarea Philippi, I’d like to suggest an alternate interpretation. Binding in the sense of the forces of darkness. Which includes sin, demonic activity, and generally speaking the kingdom and program of Satan. Loosing in the sense of righteousness, the Spirit of God, and generally speaking the spread of the kingdom and program of Christ. We are told later that if we submit to God and resist the devil he will what? Flee from us. Why? Submitted to Christ, He empowers us.
viii. In this interpretation we go back to the parable of the mustard seed, the yeast, and even the weeds, where two kingdoms exist, simultaneously. And before Jesus indicated that the weeds stayed until the harvest, but the influence and power of the Kingdom of God would permeate the entire loaf of bread. What Jesus is promising here is how that will be accomplished. That He will give the keys to this Kingdom to the apostles and all who come after them. To go out and stand on the porch of the kingdom of darkness and render it powerless against the Kingdom of light. Not because the Kingdom citizens are strong, but because Our King is strong. And our authority and power is from Him.
ix. And to a Jew this concept of the Kingdom would have blown their minds. That God would use such slow and non-definitive means to overcome the world and its dark system. Jews expected Him to show up and snap His fingers and fix everything… if they expected Him to show up at all.
x. Instead of that. Jesus describes a slow and fierce invasion of the forces of darkness by the Kingdom of light and His light bearers. Us.
d. [Slide 17] 20 – Then He instructed His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ.
i. Why? This is the gospel. But folks this is exactly what no wanted in the 1st century.
ii. If they told people He was the Christ – they surely would not think that He was there to establish this spiritual kingdom.
iii. They’d think that Rome’s days were numbered.
iv. And as we’ll learn next week – even the disciples – Even Peter, didn’t understand what being THE MESSIAH actually meant. But more on that next week.
[Slide 18 (blank)(end)] If you do not see the application, then let me help you. Because it isn’t that difficult.
If you are a follower of Christ you have not been kept on earth to sit and wait for the big bus to arrive to take you to heaven.
WE. ARE. AT. WAR.
And it is not a culture war like so many – EVEN WHO CALL THEMSELVES BAPTISTS – would like us to believe. We are not fighting against social evils and injustices. We are not called to wage war against racism and inequality. We are not called to tear down social ills like sex trafficking and abortion. We are not called to the culture wars against homosexuality, transgenderism and national defense.
These are only symptoms of the problem. These are the idols on display at the gates of hell. They are only the fake thing that has been made to represent the very real and dark power behind it. The principalities and powers that are at work in this world.
And their work is not to make the culture wicked or immoral – the culture will do that on its own. Their work is to convince everyone that love it or hate it, the culture, this world, is worthy of our exclusive attention. AND THEY ARE WINNING!
Just a couple weeks ago some very prominent and once biblically centered organizations chose to spend days writing a public apology for not allowing women to be in church leadership and not being more diverse in their leadership selection. Does the bible speak to sexism and racisim? You bet. But…
In a very real way, focusing on these social issues is the same as the Disciples focusing on where they’d get more bread. It is the same as the Pharisees and Sadducees focusing on the earthly future of national Israel.
This world is going to burn up. And that doesn’t mean that these social causes are unworthy of attention, or that we shouldn’t care about them. We weep for the culture. BUT THE ANSWER HAS NEVER BEEN TO TRY TO CHANGE IT. Why? Culture does not change. There is nothing new under the sun. As debauched as our nation is, Babylon, Greece, Rome, And countless other empires have been where we are – OR WORSE.
But do you know what fundamentally changed the Roman empire for a time? The church of Christ. How? They were willing to die for Him. They were willing to be put to death rather than to remain silent. They stood on the porch of the kingdom of darkness and SHOUTED the judgment and hope of God through its gates.
We. Are. At. War.
Against the army of the dead. Against the forces of darkness. Against the rulers and principalities of this world. And they fight ever stronger against us because they know their time is up. That soon they will be forced to cede their kingdoms to the King of Kings. And as is prophesied in Psalms – they will die like mortals. They will be cast into eternal death.
There is no time to waste. We have been given the authority of heaven. To bind the forces of darkness, first in our hearts, crucifying our flesh and submitting to the Spirit. Then to our assemblies, keeping one another accountable and growing. We have been given authority to loose the light upon the earth. First by displaying our good works before men so they might glorify God. And to plead with a perverse and wicked people that they must repent and believe.
We are salt and light my friends. We are ambassadors. We are Key holders. And make no mistake, living in this country, we are on the porch of the kingdom of darkness in this world.
We. Are. At. War.
Father help us to rise up. To not waste our energy fighting this social issue or that social cause. To not waste our time arguing and refuting wrong behavior, but instead to spend our time as living sacrifices, worshipping you with holy lives, showing others that you change us from the inside out. May the holiness that you raise in us be a rebuke to those who are self-righteous. That they may see their pride and be humbled before you.
God please help us. We need your Spirit’s moving on this land because we are in the heart of darkness here. You have promised us the keys of the kingdom and that we will not be overpowered by the gates of hell. Please God – Please fulfill your promise to us.
May we see people drawn to repentance and faith. May we see the darkness bound. May we see the kingdom of God flourish.