Matthew 16 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Matthew 16
Pulpit Commentary
The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
Verses 1-4. - The Pharisees and Sadducees desire a sign. (Mark 8:11-13.) Verse 1. - The Pharisees also with the Saddueees; rather, and the Pharisees and Sadducees. The scribes and Pharisees are often mentioned together as watching or attacking Jesus; but this is the first time that we hear of Pharisees combining with Sadducees for this purpose. The two sects were directly opposed to each other, the traditional belief of the former being antagonistic to the scepticism and materialism of the latter. But both were hostile to Christ, whose teaching, on the one hand interfered with rabbinism, and on the other maintained the existence of the supernatural and the certainty of the resurrection. The Sadducees alone seem to have attacked Christ only on two occasions. They were probably Herodians (comp. Matthew 22:16), and on this account also disliked by the Pharisees; but they were powerful, and held most of the highest offices in the state, and their alliance was sought or allowed in order more effectually to compromise Jesus. Even theological hatred and political opposition sank into indifference in the face of what was regarded as a common danger. Strauss and his school regard this combination as so unnatural that they throw discredit on the whole account. This is shallow criticism. Nothing is more common than for persons opposed on all other subjects to coalesce for an unholy purpose in which they are jointly interested. The most violent political opponents will join forces in order to gain some desired point, and. when an attack on the Church is meditated, even unbelievers are gladly welcomed. Tertullian says forcibly, "Christ is always being crucified between two thieves." Tempting. Trying him with captious questions, to bring him into a difficulty, or to give them an opportunity of accusing him of heterodoxy, or disloyalty, or insubordination, and of discrediting him with the people. A sign from heaven. The rabbis held that demons and. false gods could perform certain miracles on earth, but God alone could give signs from heaven, such as, e.g., the manna of Moses' time, the staying of the sun and moon by Joshua, the lightning and thunder that came at Samuel's word, the stroke of death on the captains who tried to arrest Elijah. They had heard of the miraculous meal just before, and saw how deeply the people were moved by it, and they would imply that such a miracle was no proof of a Divine mission, as it might have been wrought by magical or Satanic agency. Let Christ give a sign from heaven, and they would acknowledge his claims. They knew what Christ's answer would be, as they had already attacked him with the same demand (Matthew 12:38); and they hoped that he would either refuse to gratify them, as before, or else make an attempt and fail. In either case they thought they might turn the circumstance to his disadvantage. The Sadducees joined in the request, because they disbelieved in all such occurrences, and were fully persuaded that they were impossible, and any one who attempted to produce them must prove himself a miserable impostor. The word translated desired. (ἐπηρώτησαν) is emphatic; the verb is used classically in the sense of "to put a question for decision;" so the interrogation here would signify that this was to be a final test of the claims of Christ; on his answer depended their adhesion or opposition (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:22).
He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
Verse 2. - The paragraph consisting of this and ver. 3 is omitted by many good manuscripts, probably owing to its similarity to the passage in Matthew 12:38. These verses are most probably genuine; and they certainly could not have been foisted into the text from Luke 12:54-56. The circumstances are too different, and the variations too marked, to make such interpolation probable. When it is evening. The Pharisees had demanded a sign from heaven; Jesus points to the western glow in the sky, and taunts them with being ready enough to read the signs of the weather, but slow to interpret proofs of more important circumstances. He does not, in the case of these mixed cavillers, argue from Scripture, but from the natural world, and he points out that, had they eyes to see and a mind to discern, they might mark tokens in historical events, in the moral and spiritual world, which attested his Messiahship as clearly as any specially given sign from heaven. Ye say, It will be fair weather (εὐδία). Probably an exclamation, Ye say, Fair weather! Rabbinical schools made a point of teaching weather lore; prognostications on this subject were greatly in vogue, and the rains of the coming year were annually foretold. On such meteorological observations, we may refer to Virgil, 'Georg,' 1:425, etc.; and Pliny, 'Nat. Hist.,' 18:35 and 78.
And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
Verse 3. - It will be foul weather today more tersely in the Greek, Today a storm! Such prognostications are found among all peoples. Many examples are collected by Wetstein. Lowring (στυγνάζων); a word applied to the expression of the countenance ("his countenance fell," Mark 10:22), and therefore applicable, by prosopopceia, to the look of the sky. Fillion quotes Aulus Gellius, 13:29, "Non solum in hominum corporibus, sed etiam in rerum cujusquemodi aliarum facies dicitur. Nam montis et coeli et maris facies, si tompestive dicatur, probe dicitur." O ye hypocrites (ὑποκριταί). The word is omitted by some uncial manuscripts, the Vulgate, etc., and many modern editors. If it is genuine, we must consider that Christ thus calls them, because their pretence of being satisfied with sufficient proof of Christ's claims was a mere fiction, as they were obstinately determined never to acknowledge him. It would be casting pearls before swine to give further external proofs to people without sympathy and not open to conviction. The signs of the times (τῶν καιρῶν). Critical times, the age foretold for the appearance of the Messiah. These signs, which all who were candid and unbiassed might read, were such as the following: the sceptre had departed from Judah, and the lawgiver from between his feet; the fourth great empire was established; the prophetic weeks of Daniel were at their close; the Baptist had come in the spirit and power of Elias; all the world was expecting the advent of some great personage; the best and holiest Jews were looking for the Redeemer; Christ's own miracles and teaching proved his Divinity and the fulfilment of many obscure prophecies; these and such like signs were set for all to see and ponder, and the Lord, as he marked the obstinate unbelief of his countrymen, might well be grieved, and "sigh deeply in his spirit" (Mark 8:12).
A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
Verse 4. - A wicked and adulterous generation... Jonas. These words our Lord had already uttered on a former occasion (Matthew 12:39), but he does not here explain them, as he did before (see Introduction, § 7). Under similar circumstances he repeats himself, but he wastes not time in useless discussions with perverse opponents who will not see the truth. Of his death and resurrection, whereof Jonah was a type, they knew and understood nothing. Perhaps they thought of Jonah only as a prophet against the heathen city Nineveh, and a preacher of repentance, and were disposed to resent the allusion as an affront to their vaunted righteousness. He left them. Took ship for Magedan, and crossed the lake to the northeast shore, in the neighbourhood of Bethsaida Julias. He, as it were, despaired of their improvement, and left them in righteous anger at their obduracy. "A man that is heretical after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted and sinneth, being self-condemned" (Titus 3:10, 11). Jesus never taught publicly or worked miracles again on this spot.
And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.
Verses 5-12. - Warning against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Mark 8:14-21.) Verse 5. - They had forgotten (ἐπελάθοντο, not pluperfect); came to the other side, and forgot; obliti sunt (Vulgate); i.e. they perceived that they had forgotten to take sufficient bread for the journey before them. The district which they were about to traverse was but sparsely inhabited, and offered no hope of supplying this want. It is doubted whether the ensuing conversation took place during the voyage or after they had landed. The language of St. Mark inclines one to believe that the deficiency was discovered during the transit, and the remarks now narrated were made then. As it would take some hours to cross, there was ample time to feel and expatiate upon the need; and if Christ had told them of his future movements, they would naturally feel regret for their carelessness and want of forethought. Or it might be that Christ's observation concerning the leaven was made in the beat, and his reproof of their thoughts was given on landing.
Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Verse 6. - The leaven. Christ's thoughts were still fixed on the late disputants, whose powerful influence on popular opinion called for forcible warning. By "leaven" he does not here refer specially to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees, as in Luke 12:1, but to the evil influence which they exercised, which was diffused far and wide, and penetrated to all ranks and classes. Their unsound opinions, their inability or disinclination to enter into the spiritual sense of Scripture, vitiated their whole system, and made them dangerous teachers directly they attempted to explain or amplify the letter of Holy Writ. It was this same perverse blindness that led them to refuse to accept Jesus as Messiah in spite of all the proofs which had been brought before them. That leaven, in one aspect, was regarded as a sign of impurity and corruption, we learn from the strict rules which banished it from Divine service, and especially during the Passover season. Says St. Paul, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Galatians 5:9); and, "Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened" (1 Corinthians 5:7). Elsewhere Christ makes a distinction between what these teachers taught ex cathedra, and what they put forth on their own authority or what they practised themselves (Matthew 23:2, 3, where see note).
And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.
Verse 7. - They reasoned among themselves. With a crass literalness, the apostles utterly misunderstood the drift of their Master's warning, and thought that he alluded to their forgetfulness in coming without bread. They were always slow to apprehend the metaphorical and spiritual signification of their Master's language. Thus at the synagogue in Capernaum they failed to grasp his meaning when he spoke of himself as the Bread of life (John 6.), and at Jacob's well they interpreted of material food his Divine words concerning the nourishment of the soul (John 4.). It is well remarked by Sadler (in loc.) that "it is no small proof of the good faith and consequent truth of the gospel, that the apostles should have recorded things so against themselves as this account. If they had written for any purpose except the simple exhibition of the truth, they could easily have suppressed facts such as this, so very discreditable to their spiritual, indeed to their mental, perception. But if we had lost accounts such as these, we should have lost the proof of one of the greatest, if not the greatest, miracle of its kind; for no miraculous change in the spirit of man which God has wrought can be accounted greater than this - that men who, before the resurrection and the Day of Pentecost, should have exhibited such utter want of the lowest spiritual discernment, should, after the descent of the Spirit, have written such searching spiritual documents as the catholic Epistles of Peter and John." In the present case some commentators take it that the apostles fancied Christ was warning them against procuring any leavened bread from Pharisees and Sadducees, whom Jesus so sternly denounced; but it is more probable that their anxiety arose simply from the want of provisions, not from the consideration that they were debarred from obtaining them at the hands of certain parties. These doubts they seem to have whispered one to another.
Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
Verse 8. - When Jesus perceived (γνούς). He knew their thoughts, if he did not overhear their words, and he reproved them severely on two accounts - first, for want of faith in his care; and secondly, for not understanding the mystical allusion in the word "leaven." Ye of little faith. They showed lack of faith by being solicitous concerning bodily wants, thinking that Christ was regardless of, or unable to provide for them under all circumstances. He applied the same term to them elsewhere, as when they apprehended not the lesson of the grass of the field (Matthew 6:30), and when they were fearful in the storm on the lake (Matthew 8:26).
Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
Verses 9, 10. - Christ, in support of his reproof, refers to the two miracles of the multiplication of food, which ought to have assured them of his care and power. Do ye not yet understand? So he asked in Matthew 15:16, "Are ye also yet without understanding?" Their heart was hardened, and they failed to apprehend the spiritual bearing of the incidents. Neither remember? This was an additional ground for censure, that they even forgot the facts at the very time when they ought to have been recalled to their memory. Jesus reminds them of the distinctive differences between the two miracles, mentioning even the receptacles in which the fragments were collected - in the one case κόφινοι, small baskets, and in the other σπυρίδες, large panniers. It is surely wilful perversity that has deemed these two incidents, thus pointedly disjoined by our Lord, as versions of one story; and yet this is what some modern critics have suggested and upheld.
Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
Verse 11. - That I spake it not to you, etc. The Revised Version, following many modern editors, divides the clause into two, thus: that I spake not to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven, etc. This is the second ground for the Lord's reproof administered to the apostles. They had taken in a carnal, literal sense a word which he had used in a symbolical or mystical meaning. It is the want of spiritual discernment which he censures. They had had frequent opportunities of hearing and appreciating his mode of teaching: miracles, parables, discourses, had an inner signification, which it was their duty to apprehend. The want of understanding was a moral fault for which they were answerable. We may say it would have been easier for our Lord to have spoken of doctrine without using the misunderstood figure of leaven. But it is in the way of his providence to speak words which need thought and grace to make them fully comprehended. They are thus more impressed upon the heart and memory, and bring forth better fruit. A well instructed Hebrew ought to have no difficulty in understanding metaphorical allusions. His Scriptures were full of them, and could not be intelligently read without the light thus cast upon them.
Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Verse 12. - Then understood they. Jesus did not explain his meaning further; but his reproof roused their intellect, made them reflect, set them on the road to the truth. The doctrine. This was what Jesus meant by "the leaven." In a wider sense it might include practice as well as precept, manner of life as well as teaching. The same spirit permeated all. "See," says St. Chrysostom, "how much good his reproof wrought. For it both led them away from the Jewish observances, and, when they were remiss. made them more heedful, and delivered them from want of faith; so that they were not afraid nor in alarm, if at any time they seemed to have few loaves; nor were they careful about famine, but despised all these things."
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?
Verses 13-20. - The climax of recognition of Christ's true nature declared in the great confession of Peter. (Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21.) Verse 13. - Coasts (μέρη); parts, as Matthew 15:21, etc. Caesarea Philippi. The addition to the name Caesarea is intended to commemorate its restorer and beautifier, the tetrarch Philip, and to distinguish it from the city of the same name on the coast between Joppa and Carmel (Acts 8:40, etc.). Our Lord had landed at Bethsaida, where the Jordan enters the Lake of Gennesaret, turned northwards, and, following the course of the river, had now arrived in the vicinity of one of its chief sources at Caesarea Philippi, the most northerly city of the Holy Land. It was, if not identical with, in close proximity to, the Dan of the Old Testament, whence arose the saying, "From Dan to Beersheba," to denote the whole extent of country from north to south. Later it was called Paneas, and now Banias. Philip altered the name to Caesarea in honour of Tiberius Caesar, his patron. Christ seems not to have visited the city itself, but only the outlying villages in the district. We may conjecture why at this Lime he moved to this remote region. It was probably, partly, a measure of precaution. He had excited the fiercest animosity of the dominant party, and even of the sceptical Sadducees; he was pertinaciously followed by their emissaries, always on the watch to lay hold of his words and actions, and to found upon them dangerous charges; and now, knowing it was time to announce to his followers in plain terms his claim to be Messiah, he would not do this in Judaea, where it might cause commotion, and embroil him with the authorities, but preferred to teach this great truth where he might speak freely without fear of immediate consequences, out of the reach of his persevering opponents. Virtually, also, his public work in Judaea and Galilee had reached its end. He had no chance of a hearing if he had made further attempts at teaching. The calumnies of the rabbis had affected the fickle populace, who would willingly have followed a military pretender, but had no heart to set at nought their national teachers in favour of One whom they were persuaded to regard as a dangerous innovator, not improbably upheld by Satanic agency. He asked his disciples. It was after a time of solitary prayer (Luke 9:18) that he put this question to his followers. Determined now to reveal himself, he desired to make them express the mistaken views which were rife concerning his Person and office, and to lead them to the more important inquiry - what opinion they themselves held touching this momentous mystery (ver. 15). Whom (who) do men say that I the Son of man am? Quem dicunt homines esse filium hominis (Vulgate); Who do men say that the Son of man is? (Revised Version). The versions represent the variation of manuscripts between τίνα με λέγουσιν κ.τ.λ., and τίνα λέγουσιν, omitting με. The pronoun is probably genuine and emphatic. In the other case, "the Son of man" is equivalent to με in ver. 15. I call myself the Son of man: what do the multitudes say of me? Who do they consider the Son of man to be? This was the term he used to show the truth of the Incarnation - "perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting." To Jewish ears it connoted Divinity (see Luke 22:69, 70; John 3:13).
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
Verse 14. - John the Baptist. This was the opinion of Herod Antipas (Matthew 14:1, 2), who fancied that Christ was animated by the spirit of John the Baptist, or was actually that personage' revived; though it was noticed by others that John did no miracle (John 10:41), and lived a life in contrast to that of Christ (Matthew 11:18, 19). Elias; Elijah, who was taken up to heaven without dying, and was announced by Malachi (Malachi 4:5) as destined to return before the appearance of Messiah. Jeremias. Some opined that he was Jeremiah, who was expected to come as a precursor of Messiah (2 Esdras 2:18), and reveal the tabernacle, ark, and the altar of incense, which, according to the legend of 2 Macc. 2:4-7, he had hidden in Mount Nebo, "until the time that God gather his people again together, and receive them unto mercy." One of the prophets. One of the celebrated prophets of antiquity revived, restored to life again to prepare the way for the great consummation. The well known prediction of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15) may have given rise to this idea. The four popular opinions here mentioned showed two facts - that Jesus had a high reputation among his contemporaries, and that he was by none at this time regarded as the Messiah. Even those who, after certain of his marvellous works, had been ready to honour him with that title, soon cooled in their ardour, and, checked by his reserve and the slanders of the Pharisees, learned to see in him only a wonder-worker or a precursor of the expected Prince and Liberator.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
Verse 15. - But whom (who) say ye that I am? More emphatic in the Greek, Υμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εϊναι; But ye, who do ye say that I am? This was the important question to which the previous one led. Ye, who have shared my life and received my teaching, witnessed my miracles and have been endued by me with supernatural powers, ye know better than the people, whose crude opinions you have heard and recounted; so tell plainly what you believe of me: who you think and say that I am? A momentous inquiry! upon which hung the foundation of the Christian Church. Their knowledge of the real nature of Jesus was now to be tested.
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Verse 16. - Simon Peter answered and said. The ardent Peter, when all were asked, replies in the name of the rest, giving, however, his own personal sentiment and belief, as we see from Christ's answer (ver. 17). Some of the others probably would have been less ready to make the same confession; but in his vehement loyalty, Peter silences all hesitation, and declares boldly what must be the conviction of all his comrades. He speaks out the persuasion wrought in his soul by Divine grace. Thou art the Christ (ὁ Ξριστὸς), the Son of the living God. The Christ; the Anointed, the Messiah. The Son of God; of the same substance, one with the Father. Living; as alone "having life in himself," "the living and true God" (John 5:26; 1 Thessalonians 1:9). The same (or nearly the same) confession was made by Peter in the name of all the apostles at Capernaum (John 6:69); but the sense of the expression was different, and sprang from very different conviction. It referred rather to the subjective view of Christ's character, as it influenced the believer's inward assurance of the source of eternal life. Here the acknowledgment concerns the nature, office, and Person of our Lord. That there was some special distinction between the two enunciations is evident from Christ's unique commendation of Peter on this occasion compared with his silence on the former. The present confession is indeed a noble one, containing itself a compendium of the Catholic faith concerning the Person and work of Christ. Herein Peter acknowledges Jesus to be the true Messiah, commissioned and sent by God to reveal his will to man, and accomplishing all that the prophets had foretold concerning him; no mere man, not even the most exalted of men (which common opinion held Messiah to be) but the Son of God, of the substance of the Father, begotten from everlasting, God of God, perfect God and perfect man, Son of God and Son of man. Such was Peter's faith. The Church has added nothing to it, though she has amplified and explained and illustrated it in her Creeds; for it comprises belief in Christ's Messiahship, Divinity, Incarnation, personality, and the momentous issues depending thereon. We need not suppose that Peter understood all this or speculated on the question how these several attributes were united in Christ. He was content to accept and acknowledge the truth, waiting patiently for further light. This is the attitude which Christ approves.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Verse 17. - Jesus answered and said unto him. This weighty and momentous answer is given alone by St. Matthew. St. Mark, who wrote under the instruction of Peter, and for Roman Christians, mentions it not; the other two evangelists are equally silent, having evidently not understood the special importance attached to it. Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona. "Blessed," as in the sermon on the mount (ch. 5.), expressing a solemn benediction, not a mere encomium. Peter was highly favoured by a special revelation from God. Christ calls him "son of Jona," to intimate that Peter's confession is true - that he himself is as naturally and truly Son of God as Peter is son of Jona. So Christ addresses him when he restores the fallen apostle at the Sea of Galilee after the second miraculous draught of fishes, reminding him of his frail human nature in the face of great spiritual privileges (John 21:15, etc.; comp. Matthew 1:42). Simon would be the name given at his circumcision; Bar-jona, a patronymic to distinguish him from others of the same name. For (ὅτι). This introduces the reason why Christ calls him "Blessed." Flesh and blood. This is a phrase to express the idea of the natural man, with his natural endowments and faculties. So St. Paul says (Galatians 1:16), "I conferred not with flesh and blood;" and "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood" (Ephesians 6:12). The Son of Sirach speaks of "the generation of flesh and blood" (Ecclus. 14:18). No natural sagacity, study, or discernment had revealed the great truth. None of these had overcome slowness of apprehension, prejudices of education, slackness of faith. No unregenerate mortal man had taught him the gospel mystery. My Father which is in heaven. Christ thus accepts Peter's definition of him as "the Son of the living God." None but the Father could have revealed to thee the Son.
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.
Verse 18. - And I say also (I also say) unto thee. As thou hast said unto me, "Thou art the Christ," so I say unto thee, etc. Thou art Peter (Πέτρος, Petrus), and upon this rock (πέτρα, petra) I will build my Church. In classical Greek, the distinction between πέτρα and πέτρος is well known - the former meaning "a rock," the latter "a piece of rock," or "a stone." But probably no such distinction is intended here, as there would be none in Aramaic. There is plainly a paronomasia here in the Greek; and, if our Lord spoke in Aramaic, the same play of words was exhibited in Kephas or kepha. When Jesus first called Peter to be a disciple, he imposed upon him the name Cephas, which the evangelist explains to be Peter (John 1:42). The name was bestowed in anticipation of Peter's great confession: "Thou shalt be called." This preannouncement was here fulfilled and confirmed. Upon this passage chiefly the claims of the Roman Church, which for fifteen centuries have been the subject of acrimonious controversy, are founded. It is hence assumed that the Christian Church is founded upon Peter and his successors, and that these successors are the Bishops of Rome. The latter assertion may be left to the decision of history, which fails to prove that Peter was ever at Rome, or that he transmitted his supposed supremacy to the episcopate of that city. We have in this place to deal with the former assertion. Who or what is the rock on which Christ says that he will hereafter build his Church? French Romanists consider it a providential coincidence that they can translate the passage, "Je te disque, Tu es Pierre; et sur cette pierre je batirai," etc.; but persons outside the papal communion are not satisfied to hang their faith on a play of words. The early Fathers are by no means at one in their explanations of the paragraph. Living before Rome had laid claim to the tremendous privileges which it afterwards affected, they did not regard the statement in the light of later controversies; and even those who held Peter to be the rock would have indignantly repelled the assumptions which have been built on that interpretation. The apostolic Fathers seem to have mentioned the passage in none of their writings; and they could scarcely have failed to refer to it had they been aware of the tremendous issues dependent thereon. It was embodied in no Catholic Creed, and never made an article of the Christian faith. We may remark also that of the evangelists St. Matthew alone records the promise to Peter; Mark and Luke give his confession, which was the one point which Christ desired to elicit, and omit that which is considered to concern his privileges. This looks as though, in their view, the chief aim of the passage was not Peter, but Christ; not Peter's pre-eminence, but Christ's nature and office. At the same time, to deny all allusion to Peter in the "rock" is quite contrary to the genius of the language and to New Testament usage, and would not have been so pressed in modern times except for polemical purposes. Three views have been held on the interpretation of this passage.

(1) That Christ himself is the Rock on which the Church should be built.

(2) That Peter's confession of Jesus Christ as Son of God, or God incarnate, is the Rock.

(3) That St. Peter is the rock.

(1) The first explanation is supported by passages where in Christ speaks of himself in the third person, e.g. "Destroy this temple;" "If any man eat of this bread; Whoso falleth on this stone," etc. In the same sense are cited the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 28:16), "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation." Almighty God is continually called "a Rock" in the Old Testament (see 2 Samuel 22:32; Psalm 18:31; Psalm 62:2, 6, 7, etc.), so that it might be deemed natural and intelligible for Christ to call himself "this Rock," in accordance, with the words of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 3:11), "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid (κεῖται), which is Jesus Christ." But then the reference to Peter becomes unmeaning: "Thou art Peter, and upon myself I will build my Church." It is true that some few eminent authorities have taken this view. Thus St. Augustine writes, "It was not said to him, 'Thou art a rock (petra),' but, 'Thou art Peter,' and the Rock was Christ" ('Retract.,' 1:21). And commentators have imagined that Christ pointed to himself as he spoke. In such surmises there is an inherent improbability, and they do not explain the commencement of the address. In saying, "Thou art Peter," Christ, if he made any gesture at all, would have touched or turned to that apostle. Immediately after this to have directed attention to himself would have been most unnatural and contradictory. We may safely surrender the interpretation which regards Christ himself as the Rock.

(2) The explanation which finds the rock in Peter's great confession has been widely adopted by commentators ancient and modern. Thus St. Chrysostom, "Upon this rock, that is, on the faith of his confession. Hereby he signifies that many were now on the point of believing, and raises his spirit, and makes him a shepherd." To the same purport might be quoted Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory Nyss., Cyril, and others. It is remarkable that in the Collect from the Gregorian Sacramentary and in the Roman Missal on the Vigil of St. Peter and St. Paul are found the words, "Grant that thou wouldst not suffer us, whom thou hast established on the rock of the apostolic confession (quos in apostolicae confessionis petra solidasti) to be shaken by any commotions." Bishop Wordsworth, as many exegetes virtually do, combines the two interpretations, and we cite his exposition as a specimen of the view thus held: "What he says is this, 'I myself, now confessed by thee to be both God and Man, am the Rock of the Church. This is the foundation on which it is built.' And because St. Peter had confessed him as such, he says to St. Peter, 'Thou hast confessed me, and I will now confess thee; thou hast owned me, I will now own thee. Thou art Peter,' i.e. thou art a lively stone, hewn out of and built upon me, the living Rock. Thou art a genuine Petros of me, the Divine Petra. And whosoever would be a lively stone, a Peter, must imitate thee in this thy true confession of me, the living Rock; for upon this Rock, that is, on myself, believed and confessed to be both God and Man, I will build my Church." As the opinion that Christ means himself by "this rock" is untenable, so we consider that Peter's confession is equally debarred from being the foundation intended. Who does not see that the Church is to be built, not on confessions or dogmas, but on men - men inspired by God to teach the great truth? A confession implies a confessor; it was the person who made the confession that is meant, not the mere statement itself, however momentous and true. Thus elsewhere the Church is said to have been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20), "Ye," says St. Peter (1 Peter 2:5), "as living stones are built up a spiritual house." "James and Cephas who were reputed to be pillars" (Galatians 2:9). In Revelation (Revelation 21:14) the foundationstones of the heavenly temple are "the twelve apostles of the Lamb." Hence we gather that the rock is a person.

(3) So we come to the explanation of the difficulty which naturally is deduced from the language if considered without regard to prejudice or the pernicious use to which it has been put. Looking at the matter in a straightforward way, we come to the conclusion that Christ is wishing to reward Peter for his outspoken profession of faith; and his commendation is couched in a form which was usual in Oriental addresses, and intelligible to his hearers. "Thou hast said to me, 'Thou art the Son of God;' I say to thee, 'Thou art Peter,' a rock man, 'and on thee,' as a rock, 'I will build my Church.' "As he was the first to acknowledge Christ's nature and office, so he was rewarded by being appointed as the apostle who should inaugurate the Christian Church and lay its first foundation. His name and his work were to coincide. This promise was fulfilled in Peter's acts. He it was who took the lead on the Day of Pentecost, when at his preaching, to the hundred and twenty disciples there were added three thousand souls (Acts 2:41); he it was who admitted the Gentiles to the Christian community (Acts 10.); he it was who in these early days stood forth prominently as a master builder, and was the first to open the kingdom of heaven to Jews and Gentiles. It is objected that, if Peter was a builder, he could not be the rock on which the building was raised. The expression, of course, is metaphorical. Christ builds the Church by employing Peter as the foundation of the spiritual house; Peter's zeal and activity and stable faith are indeed the living rock which forms the material element, so to speak, of this erection; he, as labouring in the holy cause beyond all others, at any rate in the early days of the gospel, is regarded as that solid basis on which the Church was raised. Christ, in one sense, builds on Peter; Peter builds on Christ. The Church, in so far as it was visible, had Peter for its rocky foundation; in so far as it was spiritual, it was founded on Christ. The distinction thus accorded in the future to Peter was personal, and carried with it none of the consequences which human ambition or mistaken pursuit of unity have elicited therefrom. There was no promise of present supremacy; there was no promise of the privilege being handed down to successors. The other apostles had no conception of any superiority being now conferred on Peter. It was not long after this that there was a strife among them who should be the greatest; James and John claimed the highest places in the heavenly kingdom; Paul resisted Peter to the face "because he stood condemned" (Galatians 2:11); the president of the first council was James, the Bishop of Jerusalem. It is plain that neither Peter himself nor his fellow apostles understood or acknowledged his supremacy; and that he transmitted, or was intended to transmit, such authority to successors, is a figment unknown to primitive Christianity, and which was gradually erected, to serve ambitious designs, on forged decretals and spurious writings. This is not the place for polemics, and these few apologetic hints are introduced merely with the view of showing that no one need be afraid of the obvious and straightforward interpretation of Christ's words, or suppose that papal claims are necessarily supported thereby. I will build my Church (μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν). My Church, not thine. Plainly, therefore, the Church was not yet builded. Christ speaks of it as a house, temple, or palace, perhaps at the moment gazing on some castle founded securely on a rock, safe from flood and storm and hostile attack. We know how commonly he took his illustrations from objects and scenes around him; and the rocky base of the great castle of Caesarea Philippi may well have supplied the material for the metaphor here introduced. The word translated "church" (ἐκκλησία), is found here for the first time in the New Testament. It is derived from a verb meaning "to call out," and in classical Greek denotes the regular legislative assembly of a people. In the Septuagint it represents the Hebrew kahal, the congregation united into one society and forming one polity (see Trench, 'Synonyms'). The name kehila in modern times is applied to every Jewish community which has its own synagogue and ministers. From the use of the metaphor of a house, and the word employed to designate the Church, we see that it was not to be a mere loose collection of items, but an organized whole, united, officered, and permanent. Hence the word Ecclesia has been that which designated the Christian society, and has been handed down and recognized in all ages and in all countries. It may be regarded as the personal part of that kingdom of heaven which was to embrace the whole world, when "the kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15; see Introduction, § 10.). The gates of hell (ᾅδου) shall not prevail against it. Hades, which our version calls "hell," is the region of the dead, a gloomy and desolate place, according to Jewish tradition, situated in the centre of the earth, a citadel with walls and gates, which admitted the souls of men, but opened not for their egress. There are two ways of explaining these words, though they both come to much the same idea. The gates of Hades represent the entrance thereto; and the Lord affirms that death shall have no power over the members of the Church; they shall be able to rise superior to its attacks, even if for a time they seem to succumb; their triumphant cry shall he, "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). Through the grave and gate of death they shall pass to a joyful resurrection. The other interpretation is derived from the fact that in Oriental cities the gate is the scene of deliberation and counsel. Hence "the gates" here may represent the evil designs planned by the powers of hell to overthrow the Church, the wiles and machinations of the devil and his angels, Hades being taken, not as the abode of the dead, but as the realm of Satan. Neither malignant spirits nor their allies, such as sin, persecution, heresy, shall be able to wreck the eternal building which Christ was founding. Combining the two expositions, we may say that Christ herein promises that neither the power of death nor the power of the devil shall prevail against it (κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς), shall overpower it, keep it in subjection. The pronoun refers doubtless to Church, not rock, the verb being more applicable to the former than the latter, and the pronoun being nearer in position to ἐκκλησίαν. To see here an assurance of the infallibility of the pope, as Romanists do, is to force the words of Scripture most unwarrantably in order to support a modern figment which has done infinite harm to the cause of Christ. As Erasmus says, "Proinde miror esse, qui locum hunc detorqueant ad Romanum Pontificem."
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.
Verse 19. - I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The metaphor of a house or castle, with its gates that must be opened with keys, is still maintained; or else the idea is of the exercise of a stewardship in a household. But the latter seems unnecessarily to introduce a new notion, and to mar the concinnity of the passage. In Isaiah 22:22 we read, "The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; and he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open" - where the figure is similar. The delivery of the keys of a city, etc., to a person, symbolizes the handing over of the authority to that person. "The kingdom of heaven" means here the visible Church of Christ in its most extended form. In this Church, hereafter to be constituted, Peter personally is promised a certain authority. This is a personal reward for his good confession, and a prediction of the way in which he was to exercise it. At the same time, there is a change in the figure used. He who was the foundation of the Church is now its overseer, and may open or shut its doors, may admit or exclude whomsoever he will, always following the guidance of the inspiring Spirit. This promise was fulfilled after the Day of Pentecost. It seems to have been at this time only promised, not conferred upon Peter. The actual gift of the power to him and his brother apostles took place after the Resurrection, as we read in John 20:22. The "power of the keys," as it is called, is considered to have two branches - a legislative power and an absolving power. The former Peter exercised when he took the lead after the effusion of the Spirit, and opened the door to the Jews. It was his action that admitted the Gentiles, without compliance with the distinctive rites of Judaism, to all the privileges of the gospel (see Acts 15:7). This most momentous precedent he established and made good for all time. These were legislative acts which he had the honour of introducing, and which, thus inaugurated, upheld, and defended by him, tended to advance that unity which the Lord held so dear. As an instance of his shutting the door of the kingdom in the face of an impious intruder, we may notice his rebuke to Simon Magus (Acts 8:21), "Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter." The absolving power, supposed to be contained in the gift of the keys, seems rather to belong to the terms of the succeeding promise. We conceive that this power was first given to St. Peter in acknowledgment of his good confession, and as an emblem of unity, and was afterwards bestowed on all the apostles. That the Fathers did not regard it as limited exclusively to Peter, may he seen by quotations gathered by Wordsworth and other commentators. Thus Tertullian, 'Scorpiac.,' 10, "Memento claves hic Dominum Petro, et per illum Ecclesiae reliquisse;" St. Cyprian, 'De Unit.,' p. 107, "Apostolis omnibus post resurrectionem suam parem potestatem tribuit;" St. Augustine, 'Serm.,' 295, "Has claves non homo unus, sed unitas accepit Ecclcsiae." Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, etc. "Binding" and "loosing" has been explained in various ways. Some say the terms mean admitting or debarring from the Church, which would make them identical with the power of the keys, and would give no additional privilege; whereas it is plain that further honour is intended to be bestowed. Others affirm that the expression is to be understood of absolution from sin. They take the metaphor to be derived from a prisoner and his chain. Sinners are tied and bound with the chain of their sins; they are released on repentance by the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19); they are bound, when the means of grace are withheld from them, owing to the absence of tokens of' sincerity and faith. This is the view taken in the Anglican Ordinal, where to the priest it is solemnly said, "Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained." But this was no special gift to Peter; it was bestowed not long after upon all the apostolic body in the very same terms (Matthew 18:18), and was indeed inherent in the ministry. This interpretation also introduces a new element into the promise, which does not agree with the context. There is nothing to lead one to expect such an item, and to supply "sins" to the general term "whatsoever" twice repeated, is harsh and unnatural. A more reasonable explanation of the phrase is derived from the use of the terms among the Jews themselves. In their Talmudic glosses we find equivalent expressions. "To bind" is to forbid, to pronounce unlawful; "to loose" is to allow, to declare lawful. And the Lord here promises Peter a certain pre-eminence in the government and organization of the Church, and that the rules which he ordained and the sentences which he should pass in the due exercise of his apostolical authority, should be ratified and confirmed in heaven (Burgon). The phrase is found in Josephus, expressive of the possession, of unrestricted authority. Thus he speaks of the Pharisees as having power to loose and bind (λύειν τε καὶ δεῖν) whom they would ('Bell. Jud.,' 1:05. 2). And it is noted that an inscription upon a statue of Isis reads, "I am the queen of the country, and whatsoever I bind no man can loose" (Diod. Sic., 1:27). This is a personal distinction conferred on St. Peter in the exercise of an office common to all the apostles, it was needful, in the early Church, that one should be chosen, primus inter pares, to be the chief office bearer and leader of the body of believers. Not that he conceived himself to be, or was recognized by others as, infallible, or as an irresponsible despot; many events before and after Pentecost forbid such an assumption; but his faith, character, and zeal pointed him out as well constituted to regulate and order the infant community, and to take the first part in maintaining that unity which was essential to the new kingdom. This personal primacy may justly be conceded, even by those who are most inimical to the arrogant claims of the papacy; for it carries not with it the consequences which have been appended. Precedence in rank does not of necessity involve supreme or even superior authority. A duke has no authority over a baron, though he has precedence. The fuller consideration of this sphere of the subject belongs rather to the historian and the polemist than to the expositor, and to such we leave it, only adding that, in his peculiar privilege, Peter stands alone, and that in his extraordinary power he had, and was intended to have, no successors.
Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
Verse 20. - Then charged he his disciples. Immediately after Peter's confession and Jesus' promise. St. Matthew's word "charged" (διεστείλατο) becomes more emphatic in the other synoptists (ἐπετίμησεν), implying a command with a rebuke attached to it on its infringement; Vulgate, comminatus est (Mark 8:30). That they should tell no man that he (au)to\) was [Jesus] the Christ. The received text inserts the word "Jesus," but very many good manuscripts omit it; and it seems to have been received by inadvertence, the point being that he was Messiah. The injunction to tell no man (with which comp. Matthew 8:4) was necessary at this time for many reasons. The time was not ripe for the declaration which might have led to tumult and disorder among an excited populace. Any ambitious ideas which the apostles might have formed from what had just passed were here nipped in the bud. They were not sufficiently familiar with the true notion of the Messiah, especially a suffering Messiah, to be competent to preach him to others. This we see by Peter's inconsiderate remonstrance in ver. 22. Till they received the Holy Ghost after Christ's ascension, they could not rightly and profitably preach of Christ's nature, office, and kingdom. Jesus may have looked forward to their desertion of him in his hour of trial, and prevented them from proclaiming his real character, which, in the face of such desertion, would have proved a stumbling block to the faith of believers. Some of these reasons we may reverently believe were those which led Christ to lay this severe restriction on the enthusiasm of his followers (see on Matthew 17:9).
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Verse 21-ch. 25:46. - SUFFERING: JESUS ACCEPTS AND DOES NOT SHUN IT. Verses 21-28. - Jesus announces plainly his death and resurrection. Rebukes Peter. (Mark 8:31-9:1; Luke 9:22-27.) Verse 21. - From that time. Henceforward Christ changes his teaching and his behaviour. He tells of his sufferings, and of their necessity in the order of things, so that any one who opposes this design is fighting against God; and shows how self-denial and pain must be the lot of his followers. Began to show unto his disciples. No longer obscurely, but plainly and without reserve. He had already intimated his future sufferings, though his disciples had been slow to receive these dark hints, so opposed to all their preconceived opinions of Messiah's glory and victorious career. Such sayings as, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19); and, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up" (John 3:14), had fallen unheeded on the disciples' ears, and had not guided them to forecast the future. Even the allusions to their own trials, in the warnings about bearing the cross and following him (Matthew 10:38), were not understood. The great point of his real nature had become clear to them; they had now to learn that the way to glory, both for him and them, led through suffering and death. Conscious of Christ's Divinity, they could now more patiently endure the mystery of his cross and Passion. Unto Jerusalem. The appointed scene of these events (see Matthew 20:17). He must (δεῖ) go thither to meet and endure these sufferings, because it was so ordained in the counsels of God and announced by the prophets (comp. Matthew 26:54; Luke 24:26, 46). Many things. These are detailed in Matthew 20:18, 19; Luke 18:31-33. Elders, chief priests, and scribes. The various members of the Sanhedrin (see Matthew 2:4). The three classes are, in Nosgen's opinion, intentionally named here - the elders, as the most aged and venerated members, or such as were distinguished by rank and character; the chief priests, heads of the twenty-four courses, as office bearers of the theocracy; and scribes, at that time occupying almost the position of the prophets. The whole religious world would thus be combined against Christ. Be killed. He does not here say "crucified," as he did afterwards (Matthew 20:19), only gradually revealing the whole awful truth. Be raised again the third day. This announcement was intended to support the disciples in view of Christ's sufferings and death. And "the third day" is mentioned, not only for typical reasons, but to assure them that his death should be speedily followed by his return to life from the grave. It is obvious to us that Jesus prophesied plainly concerning his resurrection; but such an event, so unprecedented, so unexperienced, was not understood; and though the prediction was so far known as to cause his grave to be watched, it was only a vague kind of expectation, without form or definiteness, that was cherished, and the actual fact came as a surprise (see Mark 9:10, 32).
Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
Verse 22. - Peter took him (προσλαβόμενος). Either taking him aside, or taking him by the hand or dress - a reverent familiarity permitted by the Lord to his loving apostle. And now this same Peter, who had just before made his noble confession, and had been rewarded with unique commendation, unable to shake off the prejudices of his age and his education, began to rebuke (ἐπιτιμᾶν) his Master. He presumed to chide Jesus for speaking of suffering and death. He, the Son of God most High, what had he to do with such things? How could he name them in connection with himself? Peter, while accepting the idea of Messiah as Divine and triumphant, could not receive the notion of his death and Passion. That the same person should be so humiliated and yet so glorious, was beyond his conception. He was as much in the dark as his fellow apostles; of that which was not specially revealed to him he knew nothing. It was the carnal mind that here influenced him, not the spiritually enlightened soul. By writing "began," the historian intimates that he had not time to say much before the Lord mercifully interposed and cut him short. Be it far from thee; ἵλεώς σοι: Vulgate, absit a te. The Greek phrase is elliptical, εἴη ὁ Θεός being understood; "God be merciful to thee," equivalent to "God forbid." The complete expression occurs in the Septuagint of 1 Chronicles 11:19. It is used in deprecation of a disastrous event. This shall not be unto thee; οὐ μὴ ἔσται σοι τοῦτο. This is a very strong assertion, not a prayer or wish, as some would make it; the use of language is quite against that, as the phrase is predictive, never prohibitory, in his mistaken zeal and his ignorant affection, Peter would be wiser than his Lord. The cross and Passion shall never be thy lot; Messiah cannot suffer, the Son of God cannot die. Such merely human asseveration, even prompted by undoubted love, had to be checked and rebuked.
But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
Verse 23. - He turned. Peter and the rest were following Christ, as he walked onward. Now Jesus stops, turns, and faces them. Get thee behind me, Satan. Jesus uses nearly the same words in rebuking Peter that he had used to the devil in his temptation (Matthew 4:10); and justly, because the apostle was acting the adversary's part, by opposing the Divine economy, and endeavouring to persuade Jesus that the way he proposed was wholly unnecessary. The lively stone has became a very Satan in opposing the Divine will; hence the sharpness of the rebuke administered to him. An offence unto me (σκάνδαλον ἐμοῦ); my stumbling block. Petros, the stone, to maintain the metaphor, is now "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence" (1 Peter 2:8). He stood in the Saviour's way, and impeded his onward progress in the course ordained. He who would turn him aside from Calvary is the enemy of man's salvation, which was to be won there. Thou savourest (φρονεῖς) not; mindest not (as Romans 8:5); thy taste is not for the Divine plans, but for human considerations; thou art not promoting the great purpose of God, but worldliness and self-pleasing. "Peter," says St. Chrysostom, "examining the matter by human and earthly reasoning, accounted it disgraceful to him [Christ] and an unmeet thing. Touching him therefore sharply, he saith, 'My Passion is not an unmeet thing, but thou givest this sentence with a carnal mind; whereas if thou hadst hearkened to my sayings in a godly manner, disengaging thyself from thy carnal understanding, thou wouldst know that this of all things most becometh me. For thou indeed supposest that to suffer is unworthy of me; but I say unto thee, that for me not to suffer is of the devil's mind;' by the contrary statements repressing his alarm" (Oxford transl.).
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Verse 24. - St. Mark tells us that Jesus called the multitude unto him together with the disciples, as about to say something of universal application. The connection between this paragraph and what has preceded is well put by St. Chrysostom. Then. "When? when St. Peter said, 'Be it far from thee: this shall not be unto thee,' and was told, 'Get thee behind me, Satan.' For Christ was by no means satisfied with the mere rebuke of Peter, but, willing more abundantly to show both the extravagance of Peter's words and the future benefit of his Passion, he saith, 'Thy word to me is, "Be it far from thee: this shall not be unto thee;" but my word to thee is, "Not only is it hurtful to thee to impede me and to be displeased at my Passion, but it will be impossible for thee even to be saved, unless thou thyself too be continually prepared for death."' Thus, lest they should think his suffering unworthy of him, not by the former words only, but by those that were coming, he teaches them the gain thereof." If any man will (θέλει, wills to) come after me. To come after Christ is to be his follower and disciple, and the Lord here declares what will be the life of such a one (see a parallel passage, Matthew 10:38, 39). Jesus mentions three points which belong to the character of a true disciple. The first is self-denial. Let him deny himself. There is no better test of reality and earnestness in the religious life than this. (See a sermon of Newman's on this subject, vol. 1. serm. 5.) If a man follows Jesus, it must be by his own free will, and he must voluntarily renounce everything that might hinder his discipleship, denying himself even in things lawful that he may approach the likeness of his Master. Take up his cross. This is the second point. St. Luke adds, "daily." He must not only be resigned to bear what is brought upon him - suffering, shame, and death, which he cannot escape, but be eager to endure it, meet it with a solemn joy, be glad that he is counted worthy of it. Follow me. The third point. He must be energetic and active, not passive only and resigned, but with all zeal tracking his Master's footsteps, which lead on the way of sorrows. Here too is comfort; he is not called to a task as yet untried; Christ has gone before, and in his strength he may be strong.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
Verse 25. - (Comp. Matthew 10:39; John 12:25.) Whosoever will (o{ ga\r a}n qe/lh"", whosoever wills to) save his life (ψυχήν). Here are set forth the highest motives for courage, endurance, and perseverance in the way of righteousness. The word translated "life" is used four times in this and the following verse, though in the latter it is rendered "soul" in the Anglican Version. The fact is the word is used in two senses: for the life which now is - the bodily life: and the life which is to come - the spiritual, the everlasting life. These are indeed two stages of the same life - that which is bounded by earth and that which is to be passed with the glorified body in heaven; but they are for the moment regarded as distinct, though intimately connected by belonging to the same personality. And the Lord intimates that any one who avoids bodily death and suffering by compromise of duty, by denying Christ and disowning the truth, shall lose everlasting life. On the other hand, whosoever sacrifices his life for the sake of Christ, to promote his cause, shall save his soul and be eternally rewarded. Shall find it. "Find," as the opposite of "lose," is here equivalent to "save." There may, too, be in it a notion of something great and unexpected, a treasure discovered, "salvation far beyond all that they looked for" (Wisd. 5:2). Says St. Gregory, "If you keep your seed, you lose it; if you sow it, you will find it again" ('Hom. in Evang.,' 32.).
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Verse 26. - For what is a man (shall a man be) profited? This verse explains the paradox concerning loss and gain in the previous verse. It is probably intended as a reminiscence of Psalm 49:7, 8. Wordsworth notes that it is quoted by Ignatius, 'Ep. ad Romans,' 6; but it is probably an early interpolation there. The whole world. It is but a trifle of the whole world, with its riches, honours, pleasures, which the most successful man can obtain; but granted it all lay at his feet, how would it repay him for the loss of everlasting life? Lose his own soul (life) (τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ζημιωθῇ). The phrase means "suffer loss in respect of," equivalent to "forfeit," as in Luke 9:25. "Life" here is the higher life, the life in God. The Vulgate renders, Animae vero suae detrimentum patiatur. In exchange; ἀνταλλαγμα: Vulgate, commutationem; as an equivalent for his life. Or, it may be, to purchase back his life. "Again, he dwells upon the same point. 'What? hast thou another soul to give for this soul?' saith he. 'Why, shouldst thou lose money, thou wilt be able to give other money;or be it house, or slaves, or any other kinds of possession; but for thy soul, if thou lose it, thou wilt have no other soul to give: yea, though thou hadst the world, though thou wast king of the whole earth, thou wouldst not be able, by paying down all earthly goods, together wits the earth itself, to redeem even one soul" (Chrys.,' Hom.,' 55). The value of the soul is often expressed in classical adages.

Ψυχῆς γὰρ οὐδέν ἐστι τιμιώρερον.
"Naught is of higher value than the soul."

Οὑ γὰρ τι ψυχῆς πέλει ἄνδρασι φίλτερον ἄλλο
"Naught unto men is dearer than the life." So Homer, 'Iliad,' 9:401-

"For not the stores which Troy, they say, contained
In peaceful times, ere came the sons of Greece,
Nor all the treasures which Apollo's shrine,
The archer-god, in rock built Pythos holds,
May weigh with life...
But when the breath of man hath passed his lips,
Nor strength nor foray can the loss repair."

(Lord Derby.)
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
Verse 27. - For the Son of man shall come. The final judgment would put things in their true light - would show the value of self-sacrifice, would reveal the punishment of self-pleasing. Our Lord seems to refer to Daniel 7:13, as it were, in testimony to the truth of what he had just said. Shall come; μέλλει ἔρχεσθαι: venturus est (Vulgate), is more than the bare announcement, and implies that it is in accordance with the eternal counsels of God that he should appear this second time. In the glory of his Father. As one with the Father, and his Representative. So he speaks of "the glory which thou hast given me" (John 17:22). Reward; ἀποδώσει: render, reddet (Vulgate). The term includes punishment as well as recompense. Works (πρᾶξιν); doing, work. The word does not signify isolated acts, but general course of conduct, practice as a whole.
Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
Verse 28. - This verse has always been a crux to commentators, who cannot decide what is the event to which it refers. Many, taking it in connection with the preceding announcement, refer it exclusively to the day of judgment; but this idea is not compatible with Christ's assertion that some present shall see it ere they die. Nor can it refer to Christ's resurrection and ascension, and the mission of the Holy Ghost, which took place only half a year after this time, and the prediction of which so short a time before could not have been introduced in the terms here used. Other expositors, and some of great name, agree that the event to which Christ alludes is his transfiguration narrated in the next chapter. But there are insuperable objections to this view. How could Christ assert in the most solemn manner, Verily, I say unto you, that some of his hearers would tire to witness an event which was to occur only a week hence? Nor is it likely that he would thus publicly announce a transaction which was strictly private, seen only by three chosen witnesses, who were further charged not to reveal the vision till the Son of man was risen from the dead. The Lord had been telling of the final judgment; he now announces, with the formula used by him to present some revelation of Divine truth, that there was to be a coming of the Son of man at no very distant date. This advent is doubtless the destruction of Jerusalem, which, as it occurred only some forty years after this time, some of his auditors, apostles and the multitude, would live to behold. This great event was a type of the second advent, the two being closely connected by Christ himself (see ch. 24.). There is some truth in all the views that have obtained concerning this passage: "The prophecy unfolded itself by degrees; it has put forth buds and blossoms, but it will not be in its full bloom of accomplishment till the great day" (Wordsworth). There was some display of Christ's kingdom at the Transfiguration; another at his resurrection, and the events consequent thereupon; but the great one was when the overthrow of Jerusalem and its temple made way for the full establishment and development of the gospel, putting an end to the first dispensation. Some standing (of them that stand) here. Among the apostles St. John certainly survived the destruction of Jerusalem. There seems to be no recondite meaning in the term "standing," as if it signified "remaining steadfastly by me, adhering to my side;" as, taste of death is merely a periphrasis for "die," and has not the sense of tasting the bitterness of death, experiencing its sting. It appears to have been originally a metaphor derived from a nauseous draught, which every one must drain. Coming in his kingdom. Not "into his kingdom," but in the power and glory that appertain to his kingdom. Not that he will personally appear, but his mystical presence will be seen by its effects, the judgment on the Jewish nation, the establishment of a spiritual, yet visible kingdom in the place of the old covenant. There may be a similar allusion in Christ's words about St. John, "If I will that he tarry till I come" (John 21:23), and "This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled" (Matthew 24:34) - where the dissolution of the Jewish polity is the event signified.

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