Lesson 65: Another Trip up North
Matt. 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30, Luke 9:18-20
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is lesson # 65. Our course is half over. May I congratulate you on your hard work and your ability to study. Have you enrolled others? If you need enrollment cards, let us know. Please enroll others and encourage others to study, also. In our last two lessons Jesus made a circuit up through the coasts of Tyre and Sidon and back around through the Tetrarchy of Philip swinging down possibly as far as the north part of Decapolis and then back around to the Sea of Galilee which was more or less his home base. Jesus would not walk in Judea according to John 7:1. The reason is plainly stated; "because the Jews sought to kill him." How many weeks that circuit took; we don't know. The whole trip was possibly 80 to 100 miles. When Jesus came back to his home base around the Sea of Galilee; the Pharisees and the Sadducees were ready to tangle and wrangle again. So, Jesus took another circuit up into the northern Jordan valley. By that I mean, that part of the Jordan River north of the Sea of Galilee. Let's begin by reading one verse in Mark ch. 8. The reference is Mark 8:27. Please turn there. Let's read Mark 8:27. "And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?" Alright, the place mentioned here is city # 19 on your MAP-WORKSHEET. As one traveled up the Jordan valley from the Sea of Galilee maybe 10 or 15 miles; there is another small lake called Lake Huleh. Do you see that? You may want to write that on your map, Lake Huleh, spelled H-U-L-E-H. North of Lake Huleh, the Jordan valley breaks up into a number of smaller tributaries that come down from Mt. Hermon. Caesarea Philippi was located about 10 miles FURTHER UP on one of those tributaries that make up the head-waters of the Jordan. The spelling for city # 19 is in the verse we read, Mark 8:27. So, get that posted. You will remember in discussing the first verse of Luke ch. 3; Herod the Great had another son named Philip, a half brother of Archelaus Herod mentioned in Matt. ch. 2 and also a half brother of Herod Antipas who was the tetrarch of Galilee the one that beheaded John the Baptist. Luke 3:1 mentioned this Philip as tetrarch of Trachonitis which is marked on your map. Now, this was NOT the Philip that Herod Antipater took his wife (that was another Philip). But Caesarea Philippi was a resort city built by Philip the tetrarch of Trachonitis and named of course for Caesar. Philip added his own name to the name of the city to distinguish it from the capital city named Caesarea also and located on the sea coast of the Great Sea, which was in the province of Samaria on your map. I DID NOT enter the larger capital city called Caesarea on your map for the simple reason that it is not mentioned in the four gospels. However, if you should look at another map in the back of your bible, it could cause some confusion. So, we've taken care of that! Right?
Now, let's get down to the question that Jesus asked his twelve apostles. "Who do men say that I am?" That is the last part of the verses we just read from Mark. The interesting thing here is this: Jesus was teaching his apostles in privacy. We have NOT LEARNED MUCH with respect to Jesus' private teachings to the apostles; with the exception of some parables Jesus explained in Matt. ch. 13 and the teaching Jesus did in Matt, ch.10 about the limited commission. But, those occasions were very revealing. So, the setting here; where Jesus took the apostles alone for private tutoring is a great opportunity for us to gain more insight into Jesus' teachings. Matthew, Mark and Luke all three record this. Matthew gives us the longest treatment. Mark uses 4 verses. Luke uses 3 verses. But, Matthew uses 8 verses. So, while you have your bible open to Mark; let's read Mark's three more verses. Then we'll move to Luke and then go back to Matthew, in that order. O.K. Mark 8:28-29-30. Are you ready? Let's read. "And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elijah; and others One of the prophets. And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, thou are the Christ. And he charged them that they should tell no man of him." Alright, Luke 9:18-20. Luke ch. 9, beginning in v.18. Got it? Let's read. "And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him; and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? They answering said, John the Baptist? but some say, Elijah; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God." O.K. now, you observe that Luke didn't say anything about where this took place. But, get the dialogue in mind. Then, let's go back to Matthew. This follows our LAST READING in Matthew. Matt. ch. 16, beginning in v.13. Are you ready? Matt. 16:13, let's read. "When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am? And they said, Some say that thou are John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ."
O.K. very good! Very interesting! And very revealing! On this occasion, Jesus was alone praying, according to Luke 9:18. His disciples were with him, i.e. the twelve. Jesus asked them a question, "Whom say the people that I am?" In other words Jesus was asking what was the opinion of the general public concerning himself. They replied that there was difference in opinion. Some though Jesus was John the Baptist come back from the dead. That included Herod Antipater, you'll remember (Matt. 14:2). And there's a good chance that Herod got this information through his advisors and others. If that was the consensus in the king of Galilee's castle; there's a pretty good chance that concept was pretty widely spread. But others disagreed. Some thought Jesus was Elijah, come back from the dead of course. And we've talked about this before. Elijah was translated, he did not die (II Kings ch. 2). The O.T. spoke of John the Baptist as Elijah the prophet in Malachi 4:5. Then in Luke 1:17 Gabriel the angel told Zechariah that John the Baptist would go before the messiah "in the spirit and power of Elijah..." Then, Jesus confirmed that John the Baptist was "Elijah, which was for to come." (Matt. 11:14). So, you can see that if some thought Jesus was John the Baptist come back from the dead and John was spoken of figuratively as Elijah; then there was some cross-up in this identity. The apostles said others had still yet other views. Some tried to make Jesus one of the old prophets, like Jeremiah (come back to life, i.e.). Undoubtedly the dialogue as recorded here is somewhat of a summary of the conversation on that occasion. So can you visualize this conversation? But, did you notice that every opinion tried to identify Jesus was a prophet. Nobody doubted that Jesus was a prophet of some kind. Most did not want to accept him as the messiah; but all recognized there was some divine connection. This point was not questioned. I would assume that this conversation even included what the Pharisees and Sadducees had thought in the recent days when they had clashed with Jesus. So, we get a valuable insight here as to the actual thinking of the general population.
Then in Matt. 16:15, Jesus put the apostles on the spot; "But whom say ye that I am?" In other words, O.K. that's what the people are saying; but, what is your opinion? What did the apostles think? As usual, the captain of the ship; the old sailor-fisherman was the first to speak up. Now, notice that Jesus asked that question to all the apostles. This question was not directed to Peter alone. It was directed to all the disciples there on that occasion. "Whom say YE that I am?" Peter was like that little kid on the front row, that always has his hand up. While others were trying to formulate their thought and organize their words; Peter had already blurted it out. Matthew tried to show us this characteristic of Peter; back when Peter tried to walk on the water (Matt. 14:28). It's one of those personality quirks of Peter that you need to register deep on your memory. Do you remember John 6:66 where "many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."? Jesus asked the apostles if they wanted to leave too. Who spoke up? Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou has the words of eternal life." So, when Jesus turned the conversation around and asked, "But whom say YE that I am?" Peter blurted it out, "Thou are the Christ, the son of the living God." Then Jesus praised Peter for his answer. "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." The word Bar-jonas means simply that Peter was the son of Jonah, i.e. Peter's father's name was Jonah. The prefix "BAR" is used like this many times in the Bible. For example another apostle was named Bartholomew. A companion of the apostle Paul in later years was Barnabas. And, Jesus on another occasion referred to Peter as "son of Jona" in John 21:16. Jesus said HERE that Peter's understanding had come from heaven, i.e. his answer of spiritual truth. You see, flesh and blood is one thing that spirits don't have. Jesus was saying it was NOT through the wisdom of humanity that Peter had learned that fact. There's no way Peter could have known that through human reasoning. Then, after Jesus had praised Peter for his correct answer and accurate statement; Jesus continued to comment in v.18. Get your eyes on v.18. Jesus said, "I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." That's not all that Jesus said; but, let's stop there a minute. What did Peter answer? "Thou art the Christ..." What did Jesus answer? "Thou art Peter..." You see, Jesus' answer was a "take-off" on Peter's answer. What did Jesus say? "upon this rock I will build my church..." Now, this is the first time in the N.T. the word "church" is used. Jesus simply used a common Greek word "Ekklesia" that is here translated "church." The word simply meant an "assembly." The word was commonly used to describe a meeting dealing with affairs of state. But, the big thing you want to see here is that Jesus used this word "church" synonymously with the way he and John the Baptist had used the word "kingdom" over and over. In other words, Jesus was talking about the kingdom idea. Jesus continued the same thought down in v.19 (here in Matt.) and THERE he substituted the word "kingdom" for the very same thought described by the word "church" here in v.18. So, now, look at v.18 real close! Jesus said he would build the church or the kingdom. Who did he say that kingdom or church belonged to? "upon this rock I will build MY [i.e. Christ's] church." Notice, Jesus used the possessive personal pronoun "MY" to show ownership of that assembly here-to-fore referred to as the kingdom. You see, Jesus is the king of that kingdom. Now, what was the rock that Jesus said he would build HIS church upon? Peter! Is that right? No sir!! What did Jesus build HIS church upon on? Peter's confession, that Jesus had just praised Peter for making? Read v. 16-17-18 about five more times. Don't miss this thought. Peter said to Jesus "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said he would build his church upon that fact, i.e. Peter's statement or confession that Jesus is the Son of God.
Now, there is a common misunderstanding in the world that Jesus built his church upon Peter. And in defense of that argument they play upon the fact that Jesus called Peter "Cephas" back in John 1:42 and John said "which is by interpretation, A stone." I am told that in the Greek, the gender of the word that is used for ROCK, here in Matt. 16:18, will not permit that construction. But, you don't have to get in to the technicalities of language that deeply. Just follow the thought. You can easily see that Jesus was commenting upon Peter's statement. And then, look at the last part of Jesus' sentence, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." What does that mean? Well, what is IT? "the gates of hell shall not prevail against IT.", i.e. the church or the kingdom is IT. Now, what is it that won't prevail or withstand against the church? The gates of hell. What's the gates of hell? The word hell here is the Greek word "hades", which simply means that other place, i.e. not in this life, you see. It does not mean the place of everlasting punishment like Jesus used back in Matt. 5:29-30. That word is "gehenna" in the Greek. So, Jesus said here that the gates to the other place; i.e. beyond this life shall not prevail (or withstand) against the church. Some translations say "grave" here, i.e. the doorway out of this life. So, what is Jesus saying? The church will exist beyond this life. Death will not prevail or resist the church. The church (or kingdom) will pass right on through to that life beyond the grave. This is a great statement and a great affirmation. You see, physical death and the grave will not hinder that spiritual man or the inner man, born again, i.e. made alive by the spirit as Jesus told Nicodemus.
Then finally look at v.19. Now, don't forget that Jesus was talking to all the apostles. Peter spoke up; but, Jesus was speaking to all the apostles. "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven..." O.K., now, what would that mean? If I gave you the keys to my house; what would I give you? The authority to enter right? So, Jesus is saying in figurative or parabolic language that he is going to give the apostles the authority to enter and open up the kingdom. This did not happen until after Jesus died on the cross. You can read about the way this took place in the first two chapters of the book of Acts. Alright, when Jesus would give them this authority; what would they do? "whatsoever thou [i-e. the apostles] shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven..." i.e. the laws and rules the apostles teach up on the earth will be the rules that count in heaven. And, then, the reverse or the other side of the coin we might call it, "whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." In other words, some of the rules or laws of the O.T. will be released or loosed; i.e. NOT REQUIRED. For example, the offering of animal sacrifices, the sabbath day, etc. The apostles would give the rules or the laws to be followed in the kingdom (or church). They would bind some new rules (or laws) and they would release others. Now, this does not mean that the apostles would do this arbitrarily. We shall learn later, they were guided every step of the way. But, the time was not yet right for this to be taught to the general public. Peter said Jesus was the Christ. But, in v.20, Jesus told the apostles they should tell no man. In other words the time was not yet right. Thanks for coming, and have a good day.