By way of introduction into Matthew 16, the Pharisees and Sadducees, traditionally bitter enemies of each other, now joined forces together against the Savior. An issue came up with disciples who forgot to bring along some bread to eat. Jesus takes this opportunity to teach his disciples. Matthew 16:6 “Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” Here the Master warns against the evil doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He compares their doctrines to leaven (yeast) which is put in bread dough to make it rise. Yeast feeds on the sugars present and as it passes through the flour, it causes it to ferment or swell through a gas by-product. As the leaven works its way through the entire lump of dough, it influences everything. So also, with these hypocritical Jewish leaders, who are influencing and corrupting everything in Jewish society.
As a side note: I have heard a couple members of the LDS quorum of apostles make the mistake of referring to leaven as being a good thing. As in – Mormons – like leaven – being compared to salt and light. But Jesus and His apostles described sin as leaven.
Now we come to a very important conversation Jesus has with his disciples. Verse 13 “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?” Who do people say, He is? Verse 14 “And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” Some people speculated it was Elijah or Jeremiah or the other prophets that were supposed to return. We notice that the disciples did NOT say that the people were saying He was the promised Messiah. I think that greatly supports the fact that the general image of the Promised Messiah was missed by most of the people in Jesus’ day.
Verse 15 “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? This is the moment of truth. It shows that the relationship God wants is with individuals. Who do we -individually – say Jesus is? As usual, Peter speaks first and on behalf of the other apostles. Verse 16 “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The English word “Messiah” is translated from the Hebrew word for “anointed.” “Thou are the Messiah – the Anointed one – the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Do you know what this profession of Peter was? All that was necessary to be saved. In addition to Him being the Christ, Peter added “the Son of the living God.” What’s important about this phrase is – that Jesus is divine – in fact – God.
In John 10:28-32 Jesus says, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father, for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” The term – Son of God – was merely a way to say, He is “the visible image of the invisible God.” And Peter not only called Him “the Son of God” but “the Son of the living God.” The term “living God” was often given to Him in the Old Testament. So, the Jewish leaders who believed there was only one true God, knew that Jesus was claiming to be the Son of that one true living God – making Jesus equal to being God. That was blasphemy! That was cause enough to pick up stones and kill Him.
In response to Peter’s confession, Jesus responds in Matthew 16:17 “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Jesus is saying, no man has convinced or converted you, Peter, as to who I am – but the Father alone has revealed it to your heart and mind. And, here we are taught that our Father which is in heaven is not flesh and blood. It says in Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Talking about Jesus, Colossians 1:15 says “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” God the Father revealed this knowledge to, Peter and that God is both invisible and not of flesh and blood. It was direct personal revelation from God to man.
Then at this point, Jesus says something that has been debated and interpreted in many different ways. Verse 18 “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.” Catholicism claims that Jesus said He was going to build His church upon Peter. Jesus had previously renamed Simon to be Peter which means petros. Petros means – small stone or piece of rock. Did Jesus build upon Peter? Certainly, but just as much as He built upon all the apostles. We recall in Ephesians 2:19-20 where Paul tells the gentile believers that they “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” Once this foundation was laid, it was never to be uprooted or replaced again. It was permanent. So, Peter was part of a very important foundation. But he was certainly not the central figure of the Church. He was no “pope.”
Where Jesus says “upon this rock” – He is referring to a large rock. What is that large Rock? It is the confession Peter made as to Jesus’ true identity as the Messiah. In Romans 10:9 Paul writes “That if thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” That is what Peter did – he made a confession – and upon this Rock, Jesus says, He will establish His church. Throughout scripture Jesus Christ Himself is called a Rock. But I believe Christ is saying in other words, “Upon you Peter, as an apostle, upon your confession that I am the great I AM, I will build my church, which will be a gathering place of those who have come out from this world based on such a confession from personal revelation, and the gates of hell will never prevail against it.” Now, do institutional churches fail? Of course. But His church which is not brick and mortar or a corporate organization – His Church which is made up of a body of true believers – cannot fail.
Here in Verse 19 Jesus continues saying some things that have also been greatly twisted and abused by various religions. “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.” Anyone who is LDS believes that this was Jesus giving Peter the power of priesthood keys – to seal couples and or families together forever after this life. Let’s talk about this for a minute. In scripture the term “key” is an instrument for opening or unlocking something. The person who has the keys to a building has, the ability to open its doors up and, or to lock it shut. If you were in possession of the keys to a, building you would have the responsibility to not only open the doors to others for access but, also to lock it up so others would not be permitted to come inside. Possessing the keys in scripture establishes a position of power and authority.
Here the Lord tells Peter that He was going to give him the keys to the Kingdom that Jesus had come to establish – which we understand to be His church here on earth. In this the apostle Peter was becoming the administrator of the church – or to be more exact – of the Body of believers. With those keys to the Kingdom and the authority to do certain things – what he was permitted to do on earth would be acceptable to God in heaven. Why would Jesus believe that His church would be in safe hands once He left – especially since He left the keys with Peter? Because the Lord knew the Holy Spirit is going to be doing the guiding and instructing Peter on how to proceed so there was no need for concern. So, in bestowing these keys to His kingdom it was going to be Peter’s job under the direction of the Holy Spirit to opening the kingdom up to the world. Did Peter fulfill this call Jesus gave him? He most certainly did!
It was Peter alone who was instrumental in opening two main doors in the Kingdom of God on earth. In possessing the keys, Peter had the administration of the church. The first main door Peter would open through the keys he possessed would be to the House of Israel by virtue of the Holy Spirit. That took place on the Day of Pentecost that we read about in Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit convicted thousands of Jews that Jesus is God in the flesh. The other main door Peter opened with these keys to the kingdom was in Acts 10 where Peter who was drawn to a gentile’s home – that of Cornelius – shared the Good News with the first non-Jews. Because of this act of opening the door with the Keys Jesus gave Peter, the Gospel went out to all the world. All of these future actions of Peter were set in place by the Lord in what we are reading about here in Matthew 16.
The phrase “to bind” and “to loose” was a very common phrase used by the Jews. To bind meant to prohibit and to, loose meant to allow or permit. Again, to bind a thing was to forbid it. It was not – to tie or seal something or someone to someone else. And to, loose it meant to allow it to be done. When Jesus gave this power to, Peter He meant that whatsoever they forbade in the church would have Divine approval. And whatever they permitted or commanded would also have Divine approval. How could Jesus trust this system of governance in the hands of men like Peter? Jesus knew the Holy Spirit was coming and would guide and establish and teach these men He chose all things pertaining to His kingdom.
We have to note something important here that Jesus said, “And WHATSOEVER – not whomsoever – thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” From this we can obviously see He is referring to the decisions the apostles would make relative to events, situations, and decisions for the Kingdom – and not to sealing people together. There is no record in the Bible of men and women, or families being sealed in or out of the temple. That wasn’t the purpose and intent of the keys given to Peter. Again, this instruction from Jesus has been taken advantage of by religious men and women who, in Jesus’ name, continue to twist the text and context of His Word.
Verse 20 “Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.” We aren’t sure why Jesus told them that. Perhaps to avoid persecution and because people were not prepared to heed their witness. Maybe it was too dangerous for the apostles to claim Jesus to be the Son of God, which would have been blasphemous to the Jewish leaders.
Okay, now we move into Matthew 17 to cover a very significant event – The Transfiguration of Christ. Verse 1-2 “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” The word “transfigure” means, “to change the appearance or form.” It does not mean – the change of the substance of a thing – but simply of its appearance. Verse 3 “And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias, talking with him.” Luke 9:31 tells us that they talked about His approaching death in Jerusalem. Note here that the conversation between Moses, Elijah and Jesus did not include Peter, James and John who were merely there as observers. Joseph Smith in Mark 9:3 says that Elias was John the Baptist who appeared with Moses. Unfortunately for Smith, none of the oldest available manuscripts support his interpretation.
Peter interrupts – Matthew 17:3 “Then answered Peter and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” A tabernacle is a type of tent that was made by fixing posts into the ground and stretching cloth over them. They served as temporary shelter from the sun and rain. As Peter was rambling, Verse 5 “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” And a bright cloud overshadowed them. You recall – God went before the Israelites in a cloud. He also appeared on Mount Sinai in a cloud bright with fire. The Jews called this bright cloud – the Shechinah – which also dwelt continually in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle and then the temple. Peter, James and John heard the voice of God saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” This was the second time that, in this remarkable manner, God had declared this about Jesus – the first one being at His baptism.
Verse 6 “And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.” Wouldn’t we all react the same way – being in the presence of the Holy One? Verse 7 “And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.” Peter, James and John looked up and saw no one but Jesus. What happened to Moses and Elijah? These men were no longer relevant. Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented all the prophets. God wanted these Apostles to understand that Jesus – the Son of God – is greater than all that has come before Him. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. That is why only Jesus stood there before their eyes. What a great illustration!
Here at the end of our study, I want to clear up a few misconceptions. The manual states that “Priesthood keys are essential for our salvation.” Then it asks, “What are Priesthood keys? Who holds the keys? How are priesthood keys given?” Then it asks, “What happened on the Mount of Transfiguration?” And then tries to provide the answer that, “Moses and Elijah also appeared and bestowed priesthood keys on the Apostles.” And finally, the manual adds “The keys of the priesthood given to Peter, and the other Apostles on the Mount of transfiguration were restored in our days.” And refers to Doctrine and Covenants 110:11-16.
First, of all God gave His Apostles authority through the power of His Word and His Holy Spirit – not through a priesthood. No where in Scripture is priesthood mentioned by Jesus or His Apostles. For one thing – after Christ – there was no need for Levitical priests in the New Testament Church because the function of the priest under the Law of Moses was fulfilled. The law of blood sacrifice, and its ordinances all came to a permanent end in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, there was no need for John the Baptist to come to the earth 1800 years later to “restore” a Levitical priesthood. It wouldn’t make any sense.
Second, of all none of the Old Testament patriarchs or prophets, nor any of the New Testament Apostles or disciples held the Melchizedek priesthood. Melchizedek was considered a type or figure of Christ (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 6:20), not a priesthood to be handed down like the Levitical priesthood. Jesus was after the order of Melchizedek which means – King of Righteousness (Hebrews 7:1-2). Melchizedek was without parents or genealogy, having no beginning or ending of life, but was made like unto the Son of God (Hebrews 7:3). His priesthood was continuing and everlasting. Jesus is our living great High Priest (Hebrews 3:1). He remains our High Priest forever without a successor (Hebrews 7:16-17, 22-27). In spite of there being hundreds of mortal men today calling themselves high priests in the LDS Church – none could ever meet the qualifications to be a high priest, except our Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:26).
The manual is wrong in claiming that Moses and Elijah “bestowed priesthood keys on the Apostles.” And, again there was no need for Peter, James and John to come to earth 1800 years later to “restore” a Melchizedek priesthood. It doesn’t make any sense – especially since they themselves never held a Melchizedek priesthood.
There is no longer an elite priesthood with claims of special keys to access God, or special privileges to be in fellowship with God. Under the New Covenant, all believers in Christ, regardless of age, sex, or race (Galatians 3:28) are called in 1 Peter 2:5 “a royal priesthood” and in 1 Peter 2:9 “an holy priesthood.” This body of believers have no need for mortal men as mediators between them and God – only their Great High Priest, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:24-25; Hebrews 8:1-2). We now have direct access to God by the Holy Spirit through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Praise God!
And, that concludes our review of Matthew 16-17; Mark 9; and Luke 9.