Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The Pharisees insidiously require our Lord to give them a sign, Mat 16:1. They are severely rebuked for their hypocrisy and wickedness, Mat 16:2-5. The disciples are cautioned to beware of them and their destructive doctrine, Mat 16:6-12. The different opinions formed by the people of Christ, Mat 16:13, Mat 16:14. Peter's confession, and our Lord's discourse on it, Mat 16:15-20. He foretells his sufferings, and reproves Peter, Mat 16:21-23. Teaches the necessity of self-denial, and shows the reasons on which it is founded, Mat 16:24-26. Speaks of a future judgment, Mat 16:27. And promises the speedy opening of the glory of his own kingdom on earth, Mat 16:28.
The Pharisees also with the Sadducees - Though a short account of these has been already given in a note on Mat 3:7, yet, as one more detailed may be judged necessary, I think it proper to introduce it in this place.
The Pharisees were the most considerable sect among the Jews, for they had not only the scribes, and all the learned men of the law of their party, but they also drew after them the bulk of the people. When this sect arose is uncertain. Josephus, Antiq. lib. v. c. xiii. s. 9, speaks of them as existing about 144 years before the Christian era. They had their appellation of Pharisees, from פרש parash, to separate, and were probably, in their rise, the most holy people among the Jews, having separated themselves from the national corruption, with a design to restore and practice the pure worship of the most High. That they were greatly degenerated in our Lord's time is sufficiently evident; but still we may learn, from their external purity and exactness, that their principles in the beginning were holy. Our Lord testifies that they had cleansed the outside of the cup and the platter, but within they were full of abomination. They still kept up the outward regulations of the institution, but they had utterly lost its spirit; and hypocrisy was the only substitute now in their power for that spirit of piety which I suppose, and not unreasonably, characterized the origin of this sect.
As to their religious opinions, they still continued to credit the being of a God; they received the five books of Moses, the writings of the prophets, and the hagiographa. The hagiographa or holy writings, from αγιος holy, and γραφω I write, included the twelve following books - Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles. These, among the Jews, occupied a middle place between the law and the prophets, as divinely inspired. The Pharisees believed, in a confused way, in the resurrection, though they received the Pythagorean doctrine of the metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls. Those, however, who were notoriously wicked, they consigned, on their death, immediately to hell, without the benefit of transmigration, or the hope of future redemption. They held also the predestinarian doctrine of necessity, and the government of the world by fate; and yet, inconsistently, allowed some degree of liberty to the human will. See Prideaux.
The Sadducees had their origin and name from one Sadoc, a disciple of Antigonus of Socho, president of the Sanhedrin, and teacher of the law in one of the great divinity schools in Jerusalem, about 264 years before the incarnation.
This Antigonus having often in his lectures informed his scholars, that they should not serve God through expectation of a reward, but through love and filial reverence only, Sadoc inferred from this teaching that there were neither rewards nor punishments after this life, and, by consequence, that there was no resurrection of the dead, nor angel, nor spirit, in the invisible world; and that man is to be rewarded or punished here for the good or evil he does.
They received only the five books of Moses, and rejected all unwritten traditions. From every account we have of this sect, it plainly appears they were a kind of mongrel deists, and professed materialists. See Prideaux, and the authors he quotes, Connex. vol. iii. p. 95, and 471, etc., and see the note on Mat 3:7.
In Mat 22:16, we shall meet with a third sect, called Herodians, of whom a few words may be spoken here, It is allowed on all hands that these did not exist before the time of Herod the Great, who died only three years after the incarnation of our Lord. What the opinions of these were is not agreed among the learned. Many of the primitive fathers believed that their distinguishing doctrine was, that they held Herod to be the Messiah; but it is not likely that such an opinion could prevail in our Savior's time, thirty years after Herod's death, when not one characteristic of Messiahship had appeared in him during his life. Others suppose that they were Herod's courtiers, who flattered the passions of their master, and, being endowed with a convenient conscience, changed with the times; but, as Herod was now dead upwards of thirty years, such a sect could not exist in reference to him; and yet all allow that they derived their origin from Herod the Great.
Our Lord says, Mar 8:15, that they had the leaven of Herod, i.e. a bad doctrine, which they received from him. What this was may be easily discovered:
1. Herod subjected himself and his people to the dominion of the Romans, in opposition to that law, Deu 17:15, Thou shalt not set a king over thee - which is not thy brother, i.e. one out of the twelve tribes.
2. He built temples, sat up images, and joined in heathenish worship, though he professed the Jewish religion; and this was in opposition to all the law and the prophets.
From this we may learn that the Herodians were such as, first, held it lawful to transfer the Divine government to a heathen ruler; and, secondly, to conform occasionally to heathenish rites in their religious worship. In short, they appear to have been persons who trimmed between God and the world - who endeavored to reconcile his service with that of mammon - and who were religious just as far as it tended to secure their secular interests. It is probable that this sect was at last so blended with, that it became lost in, the sect of the Sadducees; for the persons who art called Herodians, Mar 8:15, are styled Sadducees in Mat 16:6. See Prideaux, Con. vol. iii. p. 516, etc., and Josephus, Antiq. b. xv. c. viii. s. i. and x. s. iii. But it is very likely that the Herodians, mentioned c. xxii. 10, were courtiers or servants of Herod king of Galilee. See the note there.
Show them a sign - These sects, however opposed among themselves, most cordially unite in their opposition to Christ and his truth. That the kingdom of Satan may not fall, all his subjects must fight against the doctrine and maxims of the kingdom of Christ.
Tempting - him - Feigning a desire to have his doctrine fully proved to them, that they might credit it, and become his disciples; but having no other design than to betray and ruin him.
When it is evening - There are certain signs of fair and foul weather, which ye are in the constant habit of observing, and which do not fail. - The signs of the times: the doctrine which I preach, and the miracles which I work among you, are as sure signs that the day-spring from on high has visited you for your salvation; but if ye refute to hear, and continue in darkness, the red and gloomy cloud of vindictive justice shall pour out such a storm of wrath upon you as shalt sweep you from the face of the earth.
The sky is red and lowering - The signs of fair and foul weather were observed in a similar manner among the Romans, and indeed among most other people. Many treatises have been written on the subject: thus a poet: -
Caeruleus pluviam denunciant, Igneus euros
Sin Maculae incipient Rutilo immiscerier Igni,
Omnia tunc pariter Vento Nimbisque videbis
Fervere Virg. Geor. i. l. 453
"If fiery red his glowing globe descends,
High winds and furious tempests he portends:
But if his cheeks are swoll'n with livid blue,
He bodes wet weather, by his watery hue
If dusky spots are varied on his brow,
And streak'd with red a troubled color show,
That sullen mixture shall at once declare,
Wind, rain, and storms, and elemental war
Wicked and adulterous generation - The Jewish people are represented in the Sacred Writings as married to the Most High; but, like a disloyal wife, forsaking their true husband, and uniting themselves to Satan and sin. Seeketh after a sign, σημειον επιζητει, seeketh sign upon sign, or, still another sign. Our blessed Lord had already wrought miracles sufficient to demonstrate both his Divine mission and his divinity; only one was farther necessary to take away the scandal of his cross and death, to fulfill the Scriptures, and to establish the Christian religion; and that was, his resurrection from the dead, which, he here states, was typified in the case of Jonah.
Come to the other side - Viz. the coast of Bethsaida, by which our Lord passed, going to Caesarea, for he was now on his journey thither. See Mat 16:13, and Mar 8:22, Mar 8:27.
Beware of the leaven - What the leaven of Pharisees and Sadducees was has been already explained, see Mat 16:1. Bad doctrines act in the soul as leaven does in meal; they assimulate the whole Spirit to their own nature. A man's particular creed has a greater influence on his tempers and conduct than most are aware of. Pride, hypocrisy, and worldly-mindedness, which constituted the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, ruin the major part of the world.
They reasoned - For, as Lightfoot observes, the term leaven was very rarely used among the Jews to signify doctrine, and therefore the disciples did not immediately apprehend his meaning. In what a lamentable state of blindness is the human mind? Bodily wants are perceived with the utmost readiness, and a supply is sought with all speed. But the necessities of the soul are rarely discovered, though they are more pressing than those of the body, and the supply of them of infinitely more importance.
When Jesus perceived, he said - Αυτοις, unto them, is wanting in BDKLMS, and twenty others; one of the Syriac, the Armenian, Ethiopia, Vulgate, and most of the Itala; also in Origen, Theophylact, and Lucifer Calaritanus. Mill approves of the omission, and Griesbach has left it out of the text.
O ye of little faith - There are degrees in faith, as well as in the other graces of the Spirit. Little faith may be the seed of great faith, and therefore is not to be despised. But many who should be strong in faith have but a small measure of it, because they either give way to sin, or are not careful to improve what God has already given.
Do ye not yet understand - the five loaves - neither the seven - See the notes on Mat 14:14, etc. How astonishing is it that these men should have any fear of lacking bread, after having seen the two miracles which our blessed Lord alludes to above! Though men quickly perceive their bodily wants, and are querulous enough till they get them supplied, yet they as quickly forget the mercy which they had received; and thus God gets few returns of gratitude for his kindnesses. To make men, therefore, deeply sensible of his favors, he is induced to suffer them often to be in want, and then to supply them in such a way as to prove that their supply has come immediately from the hand of their bountiful Father.
How is it that ye do not understand - We are not deficient in spiritual knowledge, because we have not had sufficient opportunities of acquainting ourselves with God; but because we did not improve the advantages we had. How deep and ruinous must our ignorance be, if God did not give line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little! They now perceived that he warned them against the superstition of the Pharisees, which produced hypocrisy, pride, envy, etc., and the false doctrine of the Sadducees, which denied the existence of a spiritual world, the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the providence of God.
Caesarea Philippi - A city, in the tribe of Naphtali, near to Mount Libanus, in the province of Iturea. Its ancient name was Dan, Gen 14:14; afterwards it was called Lais, Jdg 18:7. But Philip the tetrarch, having rebuilt and beautified it, gave it the name of Caesarea, in honor of Tiberius Caesar, the reigning emperor: but to distinguish it from another Caesarea, which was on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and to perpetuate the fame of him who rebuilt it, it was called Caesarea Philippi, or Caesarea of Philip.
When Jesus came - Ελθων δε ο Ιησους - when Jesus was coming. Not, when Jesus came, or was come, for Mark expressly mentions that it happened εν τη οδω, in the way to Caesarea Philippi, Mar 8:27, and he is Matthew's best interpreter. - Wakefield.
Whom do men say - He asked his disciples this question, not because he was ignorant what the people thought and spoke of him; but to have the opportunity, in getting an express declaration of their faith from themselves, to confirm and strengthen them in it: but see on Luk 9:20 (note). Some, John the Baptist, etc. By this and other passages we learn, that the Pharisaic doctrine of the Metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls, was pretty general; for it was upon this ground that they believed that the soul of the Baptist, or of Elijah, Jeremiah, or some of the prophets, had come to a new life in the body of Jesus.
Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God - Every word here is emphatic - a most concise, and yet comprehensive, confession of faith.
The Christ, or Messiah, points out his divinity, and shows his office; the Son - designates his person: on this account it is that both are joined together so frequently in the new covenant. Of the living God Του Θεου, του ζωντος, literally, of God the Living One. The C. Bezae has for Του ζωντος the Living One, Του σωζοντος, the Savior, and the Cant. Dei Salvatoris, of God the Savior.
Living - a character applied to the Supreme Being, not only to distinguish him from the dead idols of paganism, but also to point him out as the source of life, present, spiritual, and eternal. Probably there is an allusion here to the great name יהוה Yeve, or Yehovah, which properly signifies being or existence.
Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona - Or Simon, son of Jonah; so Bar-jonah should be translated, and so it is rendered by our Lord, Joh 1:42. Flesh and blood - i.e. Man; - no human being hath revealed this; and though the text is literal enough, yet every body should know that this is a Hebrew periphrasis for man; and the literal translation of it here, and in Gal 1:16, has misled thousands, who suppose that flesh and blood signify carnal reason, as it is termed, or the unregenerate principle in man. Is it not evident, from our Lord's observation, that it requires an express revelation of God in a man's soul, to give him a saving acquaintance with Jesus Christ; and that not even the miracles of our Lord, wrought before the eyes, will effect this? The darkness must be removed from the heart by the Holy Spirit, before a man can become wise unto salvation.
Thou art Peter - This was the same as if he had said, I acknowledge thee for one of my disciples - for this name was given him by our Lord when he first called him to the apostleship. See Joh 1:42.
Peter, πετρος, signifies a stone, or fragment of a rock; and our Lord, whose constant custom it was to rise to heavenly things through the medium of earthly, takes occasion from the name, the metaphorical meaning of which was strength and stability, to point out the solidity of the confession, and the stability of that cause which should be founded on The Christ, the Son of the Living God. See the notes at Luk 9:62.
Upon this very rock, επι ταυτη τη πετρα - this true confession of thine - that I am The Messiah, that am come to reveal and communicate The Living God, that the dead, lost world may be saved - upon this very rock, myself, thus confessed (alluding probably to Psa 118:22, The Stone which the builders rejected is become the Head-Stone of the Corner: and to Isa 28:16, Behold I lay a Stone in Zion for a Foundation) - will I build my Church, μου την εκκλησιαν, my assembly, or congregation, i.e. of persons who are made partakers of this precious faith. That Peter is not designed in our Lord's words must be evident to all who are not blinded by prejudice. Peter was only one of the builders in this sacred edifice, Eph 2:20 who himself tells us, (with the rest of the believers), was built on this living foundation stone: Pe1 2:4, Pe1 2:5, therefore Jesus Christ did not say, on thee, Peter, will I build my Church, but changes immediately the expression, and says, upon that very rock, επι ταυτη τη πετρα, to show that he neither addressed Peter, nor any other of the apostles. So, the supremacy of Peter, and the infallibility of the Church of Rome, must be sought in some other scripture, for they certainly are not to be found in this. On the meaning of the word Church, see at the conclusion of this chapter.
The gates of hell, πυλαι Αδου i. e, the machinations and powers of the invisible world. In ancient times the gates of fortified cities were used to hold councils in, and were usually places of great strength. Our Lord's expression means, that neither the plots, stratagems, nor strength of Satan and his angels, should ever so far prevail as to destroy the sacred truths in the above confession. Sometimes the gates are taken for the troops which issue out from them: we may firmly believe, that though hell should open her gates, and vomit out her devil and all his angels, to fight against Christ and his saints, ruin and discomfiture must be the consequence on their part; as the arm of the Omnipotent must prevail.
The keys of the kingdom - By the kingdom of heaven, we may consider the true Church, that house of God, to be meant; and by the keys, the power of admitting into that house, or of preventing any improper person from coming in. In other words, the doctrine of salvation, and the full declaration of the way in which God will save sinners; and who they are that shall be finally excluded from heaven; and on what account. When the Jews made a man a doctor of the law, they put into his hand the key of the closet in the temple where the sacred books were kept, and also tablets to write upon; signifying, by this, that they gave him authority to teach, and to explain the Scriptures to the people. - Martin. This prophetic declaration of our Lord was literally fulfilled to Peter, as he was made the first instrument of opening, i.e. preaching the doctrines of the kingdom of heaven to the Jews, Act 2:41; and to the Gentiles, Act 10:44-47; Act 11:1; Act 15:7.
Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth - This mode of expression was frequent among the Jews: they considered that every thing that was done upon earth, according to the order of God, was at the same time done in heaven: hence they were accustomed to say, that when the priest, on the day of atonement, offered the two goats upon earth, the same were offered in heaven. As one goat therefore is permitted to escape on earth, one is permitted to escape in heaven; and when the priests cast the lots on earth, the priest also casts the lots in heaven. See Sohar. Leviticus fol. 26; and see Lightfoot and Schoettgen. These words will receive considerable light from Lev 13:3, Lev 13:23 : The priest shall look upon him (the leper) and pronounce him unclean. Hebrew וטמא אתו vetime otho, he shall pollute him, i.e. shall declare him polluted, from the evidences mentioned before. And in Lev 13:23 : The priest shall pronounce him clean, וטהרו הכה vetiharo hacohen, the priest shall cleanse him, i.e. declare he is clean, from the evidences mentioned in the verse. In the one case the priest declared the person infected with the leprosy, and unfit for civil society; and, in the other, that the suspected person was clean, and might safely associate with his fellows in civil or religious assemblies. The disciples of our Lord, from having the keys, i.e. the true knowledge of the doctrine of the kingdom of heaven, should be able at all times to distinguish between the clean and the unclean, and pronounce infallible judgment; and this binding and loosing, or pronouncing fit or unfit for fellowship with the members of Christ, being always according to the doctrine of the Gospel of God, should be considered as proceeding immediately from heaven, and consequently as Divinely ratified.
That binding and loosing were terms in frequent use among the Jews, and that they meant bidding and forbidding, granting and refusing, declaring lawful or unlawful, etc., Dr. Lightfoot, after having given numerous instances, thus concludes: -
"To these may be added, if need were, the frequent (shall I say?) or infinite use of the phrases, אסור ומותר bound and loosed, which we meet with thousands of times over. But from these allegations the reader sees, abundantly enough, both the frequency and the common use of this phrase, and the sense of it also; namely, first, that it is used in doctrine, and in judgments, concerning things allowed or not allowed in the law. Secondly, that to bind is the same with, to forbid, or to declare forbidden. To think that Christ, when he used the common phrase, was not understood by his hearers in the common and vulgar sense, shall I call it a matter of laughter, or of madness?
To this, therefore, do these words amount: When the time was come wherein the Mosaic law, as to some part of it, was to be abolished, and left off, and, as to another part of it, was to be continued and to last for ever, he granted Peter here, and to the rest of the apostles, Mat 18:18, a power to abolish or confirm what they thought good, and as they thought good; being taught this, and led by the Holy Spirit: as if he should say, Whatsoever ye shall bind in the law of Moses, that is, forbid, it shall be forbidden, the Divine authority confirming it; and whatsoever ye shall loose, that is, permit, or shall teach that it is permitted and lawful, shall be lawful and permitted. Hence they bound, that is forbade, circumcision to the believers; eating of things offered to idols, of things strangled, and of blood, for a time, to the Gentiles; and that which they bound on earth was confirmed in heaven. They loosed, that is, allowed purification to Paul, and to four other brethren, for the shunning of scandal; Act 21:24 and, in a word, by these words of Christ it was committed to them, the Holy Spirit directing, that they should make decrees concerning religion, as to the use or rejection of Mosaic rites and judgments, and that either for a time, or for ever.
"Let the words be applied by way of paraphrase to the matter that was transacted at present with Peter: 'I am about to build a Gentile Church,' saith Christ, and to thee, O Peter, do I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven, that thou mayest first open the door of faith to them; but if thou askest by what rule that Church is to be governed, when the Mosaic rule may seem so improper for it, thou shalt be so guided by the Holy Spirit, that whatsoever of the law of Moses thou shalt forbid them shall be forbidden; whatsoever thou grantest them shall be granted; and that under a sanction made in heaven.' Hence, in that instant, when he should use his keys, that is, when he was now ready to open the gate of the Gospel to the Gentiles, Acts 10, he was taught from heaven that the consorting of the Jew with the Gentile, which before had been bound, was now loosed; and the eating of any creature convenient for food was now loosed, which before had been bound; and he in like manner looses both these.
"Those words of our Savior, Joh 20:23, Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted to them, for the most part are forced to the same sense with these before us, when they carry quite another sense. Here the business is of doctrine only, not of persons; there of persons, not of doctrine. Here of things lawful or unlawful in religion, to be determined by the apostles; there of persons obstinate or not obstinate, to be punished by them, or not to be punished.
"As to doctrine, the apostles were doubly instructed. 1. So long sitting at the feet of their Master, they had imbibed the evangelical doctrine.
"2. The Holy Spirit directing them, they were to determine concerning the legal doctrine and practice, being completely instructed and enabled in both by the Holy Spirit descending upon them. As to the persons, they were endowed with a peculiar gift, so that, the same Spirit directing them, if they would retain and punish the sins of any, a power was delivered into their hands of delivering to Satan, of punishing with diseases, plagues, yea, death itself, which Peter did to Ananias and Sapphira; Paul to Elymas, Hymeneus, and Philetus, etc."
After all these evidences and proofs of the proper use of these terms, to attempt to press the word, into the service long assigned them by the Church of Rome, would, to use the words of Dr. Lightfoot, be "a matter of laughter or of madness." No Church can use them in the sense thus imposed upon them, which was done merely to serve secular ends; and least of all can that very Church that thus abuses them.
Then charged he his disciples - ΔιεϚειλατο, he strictly charged them. Some very good MSS. have επετιμησεν, he severely charged - comminatus est, - he threatened. These are the readings of the Cod. Bezae, both in the Greek and Latin.
The Christ - The common text has Jesus the Christ; but the word Jesus is omitted by fifty-four MSS., some of which are not only of the greatest authority, but also of the greatest antiquity. It is omitted also by the Syriac, later Persic, later Arabic, Slavonic, six copies of the Itala, and several of the fathers. The most eminent critics approve of this omission, and Griesbach has left it out of the text in both his editions. I believe the insertion of it here to be wholly superfluous and improper; for the question is, Who is this Jesus? Peter answers, He is, ὁ ΧριϚος, the Messiah. The word Jesus is obviously improper. What our Lord says here refers to Peter's testimony in Mat 16:16 : Thou art the Christ - Jesus here says, Tell no man that I am the Christ, i.e. the Messiah; as the time for his full manifestation was not yet come; and he was not willing to provoke the Jewish malice, or the Roman envy, by permitting his disciples to announce him as the Savior of a lost world. He chose rather to wait, till his resurrection and ascension had set this truth in the clearest light, and beyond the power of successful contradiction.
From that time forth began Jesus, etc. - Before this time our Lord had only spoken of his death in a vague and obscure manner, see Mat 12:40, because he would not afflict his disciples with this matter sooner than necessity required; but now, as the time of his crucifixion drew nigh, he spoke of his sufferings and death in the most express and clear terms. Three sorts of persons, our Lord intimates, should be the cause of his death and passion: the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes. Pious Quesnel takes occasion to observe from this, that Christ is generally persecuted by these three descriptions of men: rich men, who have their portion in this life; ambitious and covetous ecclesiastics, who seek their portion in this life; and conceited scholars, who set up their wisdom against the wisdom of God, being more intent on criticising words than in providing for the salvation of their souls. The spirit of Christianity always enables a man to bear the ills of life with patience; to receive death with joy; and to expect, by faith, the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come.
Then Peter took him - Προσλαβομενος - took him up - suddenly interrupted him, as it were calling him to order - see Wakefield. Some versions give προσλαβομενος the sense of calling him aside. The word signifies also to receive in a friendly manner - to embrace; but Mr. Wakefield's translation agrees better with the scope of the place. A man like Peter, who is of an impetuous spirit, and decides without consideration upon every subject, must of necessity be often in the wrong.
Be it far from thee Lord - Ιλεως σοι Κυριε. Be merciful to thyself Lord. Pity thyself - So I think the original should be rendered. Peter knew that Christ had power sufficient to preserve himself from all the power and malice of the Jews; and wished him to exert that in his own behalf which he had often exorted in the behalf of others. Some critics of great note think the expression elliptical, and that the word Θεος, God, is necessarily understood, as if Peter had said, God be merciful to thee! but I think the marginal reading is the sense of the passage. The French, Italian, and Spanish, render it the same way. Blind and ignorant man is ever finding fault with the conduct of God. Human reason cannot comprehend the incarnation of the Almighty's fellow, (Zac 13:7), nor reconcile the belief of his divinity with his sufferings and death. How many Peters are there now in the world, who are in effect saying, This cannot be done unto thee - thou didst not give thy life for the sin of the world - it would be injustice to cause the innocent to suffer thus for the guilty. But what saith God? His soul shall be made an offering for sin - he shall taste death for every man - the iniquities of us all were laid upon him. Glorious truth! May the God who published it have eternal praises!
Get thee behind me, Satan - Υπαγε οπισω μου σατανα. Get behind me, thou adversary. This is the proper translation of the Hebrew word שטן Satan, from which the Greek word is taken. Our blessed Lord certainly never designed that men should believe he called Peter, Devil, because he, through erring affection, had wished him to avoid that death which he predicted to himself. This translation, which is literal, takes away that harshness which before appeared in our Lord's words.
Thou art an offense unto me - Σκανδαλον μου ει - Thou art a stumbling-block in my way, to impede me in the accomplishment of the great design.
Thou savourest not - That is, dost not relish, ου φρονεις, or, thou dost not understand or discern the things of God - thou art wholly taken up with the vain thought that my kingdom is of this world. He who opposes the doctrine of the atonement is an adversary and offense to Christ, though he be as sincere in his profession as Peter himself was. Let us beware of false friendships. Carnal relatives, when listened to, may prove the ruin of those whom, through their mistaken tenderness, they wish to save. When a man is intent on saving his own soul, his adversaries are often those of his own household.
Will come after me - i.e. to be my disciple. This discourse was intended to show Peter and the rest of the disciples the nature of his kingdom; and that the honor that cometh from the world was not to be expected by those who followed Christ.
The principles of the Christian life are:
First. To have a sincere desire to belong to Christ - If any man be Willing to be my disciple, etc.
Secondly. To renounce self-dependence, and selfish pursuits - Let him deny Himself.
Thirdly. To embrace the condition which God has appointed, and bear the troubles and difficulties he may meet with in walking the Christian road - Let him take up His Cross.
Fourthly. To imitate Jesus, and do and suffer all in his spirit - Let him Follow Me.
Let him deny himself - Απαρνησασθω may well be interpreted, Let him deny, or renounce, himself fully - in all respects - perseveringly. It is a compounded word, and the preposition απο abundantly increases the meaning. A follower of Christ will need to observe it in its utmost latitude of meaning, in order to be happy here, and glorious hereafter. A man's self is to him the prime cause of most of his miseries. See the note on Mar 8:34.
For whosoever will save his life - That is, shall wish to save his life - at the expense of his conscience, and casting aside the cross, he shall lose it - the very evil he wishes to avoid shall overtake him; and he shall lose his soul into the bargain. See then how necessary it is to renounce one's self! But whatsoever a man loses in this world, for his steady attachment to Christ and his cause, he shall have amply made up to him in the eternal world.
Lose his own soul - Or, lose his life, την ψυχην αυτου. On what authority many have translated the word ψυχη, in the 25th verse, life, and in this verse, soul, I know not, but am certain it means life in both places. If a man should gain the whole world, its riches, honors, and pleasures, and lose his life, what would all these profit him, seeing they can only be enjoyed during life? But if the words be applied to the soul, they show the difficulty - the necessity - and importance of salvation. The world, the devil, and a man's own heart are opposed to his salvation; therefore it is difficult. The soul was made for God, and can never be united to him, nor be happy, till saved from sin: therefore it is necessary. He who is saved from his sin, and united to God, possesses the utmost felicity that the human soul can enjoy, either in this or the coming world: therefore, this salvation is important. See also the note on Luk 9:25 (note).
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father - This seems to refer to Dan 7:13, Dan 7:14. "Behold, one like the Son of man came - to the ancient of Days - and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, and nations, and languages should serve him." This was the glorious Mediatorial kingdom which Jesus Christ was now about to set up, by the destruction of the Jewish nation and polity, and the diffusion of his Gospel through the whole world. If the words be taken in this sense, the angels or messengers may signify the apostles and their successors in the sacred ministry, preaching the Gospel in the power of the Holy Ghost. It is very likely that the words do not apply to the final judgment, to which they are generally referred; but to the wonderful display of God's grace and power after the day of pentecost.
There be some - which shall not taste of death - This verse seems to confirm the above explanation, as our Lord evidently speaks of the establishment of the Christian Church after the day of pentecost, and its final triumph after the destruction of the Jewish polity; as if he had said, "Some of you, my disciples, shall continue to live until these things take place." The destruction of Jerusalem, and the Jewish economy, which our Lord here predicts, took place about forty-three years after this: and some of the persons now with him doubtless survived that period, and witnessed the extension of the Messiah's kingdom; and our Lord told them these things before, that when they came to pass they might be confirmed in the faith, and expect an exact fulfillment of all the other promises and prophecies which concerned the extension and support of the kingdom of Christ.
To his kingdom, or in his kingdom. Instead of βασιλεια, kingdom, four MSS., later Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Saxon, and one copy of the Itala, with several of the primitive fathers, read δοξη, glory: and to this is added, του πατρος αυτου, of his Father, by three MSS. and the versions mentioned before. This makes the passage a little more conformable to the passage already quoted from Daniel; and it must appear, very clearly, that the whole passage speaks not of a future judgment, but of the destruction of the Jewish polity, and the glorious spread of Christianity in the earth, by the preaching of Christ crucified by the apostles and their immediate successors in the Christian Church.
1. The disciples, by being constantly with their Master, were not only guarded against error, but were taught the whole truth: we should neglect no opportunity of waiting upon God; while Jesus continues to teach, our ear and heart should be open to receive his instructions. That what we have already received may be effectual, we must continue to hear and pray on. Let us beware of the error of the Pharisees! They minded only external performances, and those things by which they might acquire esteem and reputation among men; thus, humility and love, the very soul of religion, were neglected by them: they had their reward - the approbation of those who were as destitute of vital religion as themselves. Let us beware also of the error of the Sadducees, who, believing no other felicity but what depended on the good things of this world, became the flatterers and slaves of those who could bestow them, and so, like the Pharisees, had their portion only in this life. All false religions and false principles conduct to the same end, however contrary they appear to each other. No two sects could be more opposed to each other than the Sadducees and Pharisees, yet their doctrines lead to the same end - they are both wedded to this world, and separated from God in the next.
2. From the circumstance mentioned in the conclusion of this chapter, we may easily see the nature of the kingdom and reign of Christ: it is truly spiritual and Divine; having for its object the present holiness and future happiness of mankind. Worldly pomp, as well as worldly maxims, were to be excluded from it. Christianity forbids all worldly expectations, and promises blessedness to those alone who bear the cross, leading a life of mortification and self-denial. Jesus Christ has left us an example that we should follow his steps. How did he live? - What views did he entertain? - In what light did he view worldly pomp and splendor? These are questions which the most superficial reader may, without difficulty, answer to his immediate conviction. And has not Christ said that the disciple is not Above the Master? If He humbled himself, how can he look upon those who, professing faith in his name, are conformed to the world and mind earthly things? These disciples affect to be above their Lord; and as they neither bear his cross, nor follow him in the regeneration, they must look for another heaven than that in which he sits at the right hand of God. This is an awful subject; but how few of those called Christians lay it to heart!
3. The term Church in Greek εκκλησια, occurs for the first time in Mat 16:18. The word simply means an assembly or congregation, the nature of which is to be understood from connecting circumstances; for the word εκκλησια, as well as the terms congregation and assembly, may be applied to any concourse of people, good or bad; gathered together for lawful or unlawful purposes. Hence, it is used, Act 19:32, for the mob, or confused rabble, gathered together against Paul, εκκλησια συγκεχυμενη, which the town-clerk distinguished, Act 19:39, from a lawful assembly, εννομω εκκλεσια. The Greek word εκκλησια seems to be derived from εκκαλεω, to call out of, or from, i.e. an assembly gathered out of a multitude; and must have some other word joined to it, to determine its nature: viz. the Church of God; the congregation collected by God, and devoted to his service. The Church of Christ: the whole company of Christians wheresoever found; because, by the preaching of the Gospel, they are called out of the spirit and maxims of the world, to live according to the precepts of the Christian religion. This is sometimes called the Catholic or universal Church, because constituted of all the professors of Christianity in the world, to whatever sects or parties they may belong: and hence the absurdity of applying the term Catholic, which signifies universal, to that very small portion of it, the Church of Rome. In primitive times, before Christians had any stated buildings, they worshipped in private houses; the people that had been converted to God meeting together in some one dwelling-house of a fellow-convert, more convenient and capacious than the rest; hence the Church that was in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, Rom 16:3, Rom 16:5, and Co1 16:19, and the Church that was in the house of Nymphas, Col 4:15. Now, as these houses were dedicated to the worship of God, each was termed κυριου οικος kuriou oikos, the house of the Lord; which word, in process of time, became contracted into κυριοικ kurioik, and κυριακη, kuriake; and hence the kirk of our northern neighbors, and kirik of our Saxon ancestors, from which, by corruption, changing the hard Saxon c into ch, we have made the word church. This term, though it be generally used to signify the people worshipping in a particular place, yet by a metonymy, the container being put for the contained, we apply it, as it was originally, to the building which contains the worshipping people.
In the proper use of this word there can be no such thing as The church, exclusively; there may be A church, and the Churches, signifying a particular congregation, or the different assemblies of religious people: and hence, the Church of Rome, by applying it exclusively to itself, abuses the term, and acts as ridiculously as it does absurdly. Church is very properly defined in the 19th article of the Church of England, to be "a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly administered, according to Christ's ordinance."