Discovering the Truth: Matthew 16:13-20

Focus Passage: Matthew 16:13-20 (NIV)

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 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 overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Read Matthew 16:13-20 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the many trips Jesus took with His disciples, one stands out as significant because of something Jesus asked the disciples. While Jesus leads with a question about who the crowd believes Him to be, I think this question is more of a setup question for what He really wants to ask the disciples.

After the disciples respond to Jesus’ first question by sharing all the rumors about Him, Jesus then draws them into His real question: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (v. 15)

Jesus had just received what the general belief about Him was, and now He wants to know what His closest followers think. Do they believe similarly to the crowd, or are they closer to the truth?

I would love to know if there was a long awkward pause before Peter speaks up or if Peter’s reply was instant and without hesitation. My imagination could go either way with this one, and I don’t see any clues given in the passage to help point me to how quickly Peter responded.

But when Peter does respond, he answers by saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (v. 16)

This response appears to be the one Jesus is looking for, because Jesus replies to Peter saying, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (v. 17)

While Jesus continues with a thought provoking teaching, it is easy to miss the profoundness of this first statement in His response. Jesus tells Peter and all of us that only God the Father in heaven can reveal who Jesus is to someone. While the truth about Jesus can be shared (which is something Jesus tells the disciples not to do yet), the only way for Simon Peter to have known the correct answer is because God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, revealed this truth to him.

It is the same with us today. While we can share with others what Jesus has done for us and who we believe Him to be, only God and the Holy Spirit can take the knowledge about Jesus and turn it into real faith. Only the Holy Spirit can take Jesus from being a significant historical figure in one’s mind and turn Him into the Personal Saviour who lives in our hearts.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Flashback Episode — Saving Easter While Validating a Gift: John 19:38-42


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Following Jesus’ death, the gospel of John records the reappearance of a secret disciple, and the introduction of a new secret disciple. These two wealthy men have exactly what is needed for this weekend. While it might not seem like it on the surface, these two men actually save the Easter story because they give everyone involved, including the remaining disciples, the women who followed Jesus, the religious leaders, and even the Roman soldiers exactly what they need for the following 48 hours.

While it is unlikely that Joseph of Arimathea believed his gift would only be temporarily needed, that is what ultimately happened.

Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 19, and we will be reading it from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 38, John tells us that:

38 Joseph from Arimathea was one of Jesus’ disciples. He had kept it secret though, because he was afraid of the Jewish leaders. But now he asked Pilate to let him have Jesus’ body. Pilate gave him permission, and Joseph took it down from the cross.

39 Nicodemus also came with about seventy-five pounds of spices made from myrrh and aloes. This was the same Nicodemus who had visited Jesus one night. 40 The two men wrapped the body in a linen cloth, together with the spices, which was how the Jewish people buried their dead. 41 In the place where Jesus had been nailed to a cross, there was a garden with a tomb that had never been used. 42 The tomb was nearby, and since it was the time to prepare for the Sabbath, they were in a hurry to put Jesus’ body there.

From our passage, we discover a number of details that are worth paying attention to. In culture, there is a rumor that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross. Regardless of all the reasons that say He did, such as from blood loss, suffocation, and a spear through His heart, not to mention the fact that trained executioners were in charge of the whole scene, our passage describes even more reasons to believe Jesus had died, and our passage gives us reasons to thank these two men.

When we look at what happened normally following the death of a crucified person, the body would typically be thrown in a large grave, or it would be tossed in the trash heap to be burned. Unless someone stepped in wanting the body, what happened to the body would quickly become untraceable. By stepping up and asking for Jesus’ body, Joseph of Arimathea gave everyone involved a location to pay attention to.

If Jesus’ corpse was thrown into a large hole with many dead bodies, no one could verify whether He had returned to life or not. The rumors would be harder to verify, or validate. Everyone from the disciples and the women to the religious leaders and even the soldiers needed a place to watch and a location to pay attention to, and Joseph from Arimathea stepped up with the perfect gift at the perfect time.

Not only does Joseph bring the perfect gift, Nicodemus also brings the perfect gift: seventy-five pounds of spices. The two men take Jesus and wrap him up in cloth with these spices, and lay His body in the tomb. The spices were intended to mask the odor of a body decomposing. While some people believe Jesus was simply unconscious during this time, He likely would have suffocated from lack of oxygen if He had been alive. With seventy-five pounds of spices wrapped tightly against your body, with no air hole, not only would the spices on top of you make it difficult for you to inhale, and on the off chance that you could inhale, it would be inhaling spices not air.

Since the passage says these men were in a hurry because the Sabbath was near, would it be possible for them to make a mistake? Sure, but any mistake they might have made would likely make it more difficult for Jesus rather than easier for Him.

Every detail in the death of Jesus points to those present believing Jesus was actually dead, and treating Jesus’ body as not returning to life. From the crucifixion performed by trained executioners, to the hasty but effective preparation of Jesus’ body, and even to the rumor that gets spread following Jesus’ resurrection that the disciples simply stole the body, no one at the time expected Jesus to return to life.

We can thank Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus for their gifts which were exactly what was needed to solidify a fully dead Jesus. Jesus was actually dead, and as we will look at in the next episode, Jesus returns very much back to life.

Also, when we look at the details of how this passage ends, we discover a fascinating detail many people don’t notice on the surface. The last verse we read, which was verse 42, tells us that “The tomb was nearby, and since it was the time to prepare for the Sabbath, they were in a hurry to put Jesus’ body there.

On the surface, nothing seems abnormal in this verse, but when we look a little closer, we discover something amazing: Following Jesus completing the work of redemption, He rests on the Sabbath. This echoes what we read about following the creation of the world in Genesis when God rests after completing the work of creation.

While some people might see this as being two bookends on Sabbath observance, in my own mind and my own study, this event speaks more strongly towards Jesus validating the Sabbath during the break in His life. If Jesus’ death marked the end of the commandments, then there would be no reason for Him to rest over the Sabbath. Because Jesus rested in peace on the Sabbath, we discover an amazing validation and parallel to God resting following creation.

The Sabbath is first given as a special gift in a perfect world, and we can see Sabbath being present in a perfectly recreated world as Isaiah describes at the close of his book. Because Sabbath is present in both perfect creations, resting on the Sabbath is not connected to sin or our salvation out of sin, but it is foundationally connected with God’s creation honoring God. If God’s perfect creation honors Him in the perfect first world and in the perfect recreated world, God’s people should be honoring Him on the Sabbath in the fallen world as well. The Sabbath was given as a specific day, and Jesus validated the Sabbath day by marking it with rest following His successful completion of the work of salvation.

While this idea is not popular today, the seventh-day Sabbath is an amazing theme that runs through the entire Bible, and this day doesn’t become less significant as history speeds towards its end, it actually becomes more significant.

While I rarely do this, if you haven’t studied the Sabbath out for yourself and you want to read everything the Bible has to say on this topic, the “Day of Rest” study available on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com is for you. This study package might be too comprehensive, because not only do I bring together all the places the Bible teaches us about the Sabbath, I also bring together every reference to the seventh-day that is included in the Bible as well. When this study moves into the New Testament, we look at every occurrence of not only the Sabbath, but also the first day of the week, and we let the Bible define for us what the Lord’s Day represents. While other study tools might be faster, none are more comprehensive, and none will give you all the amazing insights that you will learn from working through the Reflective Bible Study Day of Rest study using the Reflective Bible Study framework.

I developed this study package to personally study the Sabbath and the seventh-day out for myself, and I included it on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com because I want it to help others like it has helped me.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Be sure to seek God first in your life and live your life in a way that brings God honor. If you haven’t studied the Sabbath topic from the Bible, consider this a challenge to do so. While you will be blessed if you use ReflectiveBibleStudy.com, plenty of other studies out there cover this topic well. Just be sure to choose a study that doesn’t pick and choose verses to focus in on. If you want the most balanced approach, find two studies, one that supports the Sabbath and one that rejects it, and study both. This will give you a better idea of both sides of this important issue and then you can decide for yourself with the Holy Spirit’s leading.

As always, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself in order to grow personally close to God. While other people can give you ideas to think about, always filter what you hear and read through the pages of God’s Word.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or fall away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 49: With how John finishes describing the Friday Jesus is crucified, we can discover not only two secret disciples saving Easter, but we also discover how Jesus validates one underappreciated and often forgotten gift God gave us.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Responding with Apathy: Matthew 27:1-10

Focus Passage: Matthew 27:1-10 (GW)

Early in the morning all the chief priests and the leaders of the people decided to execute Jesus. They tied him up, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.

Then Judas, who had betrayed Jesus, regretted what had happened when he saw that Jesus was condemned. He brought the 30 silver coins back to the chief priests and leaders. He said, “I’ve sinned by betraying an innocent man.”

They replied, “What do we care? That’s your problem.”

So he threw the money into the temple, went away, and hanged himself.

The chief priests took the money and said, “It’s not right to put it into the temple treasury, because it’s blood money.” So they decided to use it to buy a potter’s field for the burial of strangers. That’s why that field has been called the Field of Blood ever since. Then what the prophet Jeremiah had said came true, “They took the 30 silver coins, the price the people of Israel had placed on him, 10 and used the coins to buy a potter’s field, as the Lord had directed me.”

Read Matthew 27:1-10 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

When reading in Matthew’s gospel about the fate of Judas Iscariot, I am startled by what actually happens. Only Matthew includes the fate of Jesus’ betrayer and in what Matthew tells us is a brief, but also amazing, conversation between Judas Iscariot and the chief priests and religious leaders.

Matthew transitions onto Judas’ story by telling us: “Then Judas, who had betrayed Jesus, regretted what had happened when he saw that Jesus was condemned. He brought the 30 silver coins back to the chief priests and leaders. He said, ‘I’ve sinned by betraying an innocent man.’” (v. 3-4a)

On realizing that he had sinned, Judas tries to undo what had been done. However, the response he receives is amazing. The chief priests and leaders replied, “What do we care? That’s your problem.” (v. 4b)

In the end, Judas Iscariot realized what he did was wrong and he regretted what happened. In contrast, the chief priests and leaders – who were at least just as guilty as Judas was – are completely indifferent to the fact that they have sent an innocent man to die.

These people were supposed to be God’s representatives on earth, but while God’s character is one of love, nothing in the chief priests’ and leaders’ actions demonstrate a God that loves humanity. The chief priests and leaders statement of apathy towards Jesus’ condemnation reveals how far they had fallen away from knowing God.

In contrast, every action Jesus did throughout His ministry demonstrated God’s love. Even through the events surrounding the crucifixion, Jesus demonstrated God’s character more accurately than any of the religious leaders did.

Jesus chose to enter the world during a time when God’s character was the most misrepresented in all of history. He chose to enter the world at a time when He would ultimately be rejected and condemned without committing a crime. He chose to enter the world when the world needed to really see a clear picture of God in a time of apathy and indifference.

Jesus entered the world when He did for you and for me! His sacrifice opens the way for our salvation – even if the leaders that weekend were apathetic towards the life they had condemned to die.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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The Sabbath Rest: Matthew 27:57-66


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As we near the end of Matthew’s gospel, I debated whether to include Matthew’s passage focusing on Jesus’ crucifixion or not. As I looked at what Matthew’s gospel includes in this event, and what I want to cover for the rest of the episodes this year, I decided it makes sense to jump over the point of Jesus’ death, and look at what Matthew’ gospel tells us happened right after Jesus’ death. In the entire crucifixion record, only Matthew includes a key set of verses that sets the stage for what happens on Resurrection morning, and it makes a lot of sense in my mind to focus on these verses leading up to the resurrection.

Leading into this set of verses, Matthew draws our attention onto a previously unknown disciple, and we discover that this disciple steps into the spotlight at just the right moment in history.

Our passage for this episode is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 27, and we will read it from the Contemporary English Version. Starting in verse 57, Matthew tells us:

57 That evening a rich disciple named Joseph from the town of Arimathea 58 went and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate gave orders for it to be given to Joseph, 59 who took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. 60 Then Joseph put the body in his own tomb that had been cut into solid rock and had never been used. He rolled a big stone against the entrance to the tomb and went away.

61 All this time Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb.

Let’s pause reading here for a brief moment because I want to emphasize something that we might not immediately see from a simple reading. When Joseph from Arimathea steps onto the scene asking for Jesus’ body and placing Jesus’ body in his own tomb, we discover that this benefits everyone. This benefits Jesus’ disciples, the women who followed Jesus, and even the religious leaders. If no one had claimed Jesus’ body, it would have been thrown into the trash hole with all the other bodies to be buried or burned.

Joseph, while described as a disciple in this passage, steps into history at just the right moment as a neutral party with just what everyone in this event needs. Everyone needs a place for Jesus’ body to lay and a place that is clearly defined.

Most of the gospels include this detail, but what Matthew tells us next is fascinating and unique to his gospel. Continuing in verse 62, Matthew tells us:

62 On the next day, which was a Sabbath, the chief priests and the Pharisees went together to Pilate. 63 They said, “Sir, we remember what that liar said while he was still alive. He claimed that in three days he would come back from death. 64 So please order the tomb to be carefully guarded for three days. If you don’t, his disciples may come and steal his body. They will tell the people that he has been raised to life, and this last lie will be worse than the first one.”

65 Pilate said to them, “All right, take some of your soldiers and guard the tomb as well as you know how.” 66 So they sealed it tight and placed soldiers there to guard it.

On this Sabbath day, when the Pharisees and chief priests should have been resting, they were clearly worried about Jesus. It is amazing to think that while these leaders call Jesus a liar, they actually took His words about being raised seriously and are scared of the consequences if something should happen to His body.

It is almost funny to think that those most concerned about the protection of Jesus’ body in this entire event are the people who called Jesus a liar and the ones who put Him to death. While some of the disciples and the women who followed Jesus wanted access to His body to prepare it for burial, only the religious leaders were worried about the body disappearing.

In their attempts to keep Jesus’ body secure, the religious leaders actually place the most valid witnesses present at the tomb for the greatest event in history. While these soldiers appeared to be bribable, they were witnesses everyone could believe – that is except for the story the religious leaders try to bribe them to tell. The lie we will learn about in the next episode is less believable than the truth.

The last section of this passage is also fascinating in my mind. Pilate agrees to the religious leaders’ request. He tells the religious leaders to take their own guards and seal the tomb as well as they know how. The way Pilate frames this request is interesting in my mind. While traditional thought would believe Pilate loaned some of his own soldiers to the religious leaders, the way this translation of Matthew’s gospel frames this event, it is possible that Pilate told the religious leaders to use their own guards and to do the best they could.

It is interesting that Matthew frames Pilate’s message in this way because when we look a little later, it seems that these guards are both under the religious leaders command but also answerable to Pilate the governor. It is likely that with how Pilate frames this message that many of these guards at the tomb were among the mob that arrested Jesus and were present throughout His trial, beating, abuse, and crucifixion.

If the mob that came to arrest Jesus in the night scattered Jesus’ disciples, they were the perfect people to use to keep Jesus’ disciples away from the tomb.

The way Pilate frames his last statement is also interesting because it leaves open the subtle belief that the religious leaders were powerless to stop Jesus from doing what Jesus was going to do. While the religious leaders call Jesus a liar, they openly tell Pilate that Jesus predicted His own resurrection, and I think Pilate likely believed Jesus’ prediction over the Pharisee’s description.

All the plotting, worrying, and conspiring to keep Jesus’ body secure is actually a side story on this Sabbath Jesus was resting in the tomb. The bigger, amazing, massive, and also ignored significance of this Sabbath is that it marks the finished work of salvation. This Sabbath mirrors the Sabbath that was blessed and sanctified at the conclusion of creation week, and this Sabbath is forever significant as the point in History Jesus rested from His work of Salvation.

While Jesus has more to do for all of God’s people, Jesus gets a day of rest following the biggest event in the history of the universe, and the most significant event in our salvation story!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first and choose to accept Jesus as your Savior and accept the gift He gives to each of us that was purchased with His life. Don’t discount what Jesus did for each of us on the cross as something that was insignificant as I have seen some people do. Instead, take this event and study it to discover just how much God loves you and me!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to grow a personal relationship with God. Choose to spend time praying and studying to grow personally closer to God and to fall in love with Him like He has fallen in love with you. Discover in the pages of the Bible, a God who gives us Himself because He wants to be with you, me, and everyone in history who is willing to accept His gift for eternity!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or discount and abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 48: After Jesus had been crucified, discover what Matthew tells us about the Sabbath Jesus rested in the tomb, and how this event sets the stage for Jesus’ resurrection the following morning.

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