Summary: If you knew that your time on earth was short, how would that change the way you lived? Today we are going to embark on a study into the beginning of the end for Jesus here on earth.
The Beginning Of The End – Part 1
The first two section of our study of this 16th Chapter of Matthew focused on two ideas: that the expectations we have of God and of others will inevitably lead to disappointment and discontentment if we do not have biblical, God-given expectations filtered through the lens of the sinfulness of mankind – including ourselves; and, one day we will all have to answer the question about Jesus Christ, “But, who do you say that I am?”
If you knew that your time on earth was short, how would that change the way you lived? Today we are going to embark on a study into the beginning of the end for Jesus here on earth. This study will take us a number of weeks, and it will take us across a little wider coverage of the book before us.
Keep in mind that the chapter and verse divisions in the Bible were not added until the 13th through the 16th centuries. The chapter divisions we have in our modern translations today were developed by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton put the modern chapter divisions into place sometime around 1227. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to use this chapter pattern. Every translation of the Bible since that time has maintained the practice for continuity.
The Hebrew Old Testament was first divided into numbered verses by a Jewish rabbi named Isaac Nathan in 1448. Robert Estienne (also known as Stephanus) was the first one to divide the New Testament into standard numbered verses. This he did in 1551. The first English New Testament to use the verse divisions was a 1557 translation by William Whittingham. Beginning with the Geneva Bible in 1560, the chapter and verse divisions employed by Stephanus have been accepted into nearly all the English Bible versions.
All of this I mention here because, if we were to look at Matthew 16:1-17:23 without this “versification”, we would find a flow and a continuity of thought and message that we miss because of the divisions we are so accustomed to and that we find so helpful.
Let’s read the entire text of Matthew 16:1-17:23 without pause and talk about what stands out to us.
Okay, what do we see as the key points of this text? As I went through this myself, there were a couple of things that stood out. See if you agree.
The first thing that stood out to me was that Jesus changes His tack. What I mean by that is, up to this point He seems to have been focusing on establishing the fact that He is the long-awaited Messiah. His teaching, His miracles, His ministry, even His conversation with the religious leaders, all seem to be targeted on making it clear to everyone who can understand that the kingdom of heaven is no longer some far off and distant concept, but is right now in their midst.
At this point, however, Jesus makes several very specific references to the fact that, not only is He going to suffer at the hands of the religious leaders of their people, be killed, and then be raised on the third day. We see this in 16:21; 17:22-23. There is also a reference to what the post-resurrection Christ will be like in 16:27-28. These references, coupled with the Transfiguration account of Matthew 17:1-8, makes it clear that there is a definite change in theme and focus. We will discuss these different sections more over the following studies, but let’s return to our overview.
Okay, so what other things do we notice? Let’s look first at the interchange between Jesus and Peter, recorded for us in Matthew 16:21-23. There is quite a bit here. First we see that Jesus is very clearly telling His disciples that the end is coming and what that is going to look like. Now, if we had been there, imagine what our own reaction would have been.
Here we are following the One we trust is the promised Messiah, the Anointed One of God. Everything He has done and said over the last three years has made that clear. And, we were there when Peter made the proclamation, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16).
So, what are we now to make of His statements that He is going to be not only rejected by those of our faith we have always been taught to follow and obey, but that those same leaders are going to kill our Messiah. How can this be? Isn’t the Messiah going to come and take over the nation Israel? Isn’t the Messiah going to restore Israel to her rightful place as the leading nation among the nations? Isn’t the Messiah going to rule from the throne of His forefather, King David? How can He possibly be put to death by the chief priest, the Sanhedrin and the Scribes?