36 The Disciples’ Mission (2) 

How Each Apostle Died

All of the apostles were insulted by the enemies of their Master. They were called to seal their doctrines with their blood and nobly did they bear the trial. 

Matthew suffered martyrdom by being slain with a sword at a distant city of Ethiopia. 

Mark expired at Alexandria, after being cruelly dragged through the streets of that city. 

Luke was hanged upon an olive tree in the classic land of Greece. 

John was put in a cauldron of boiling oil, but escaped death in a miraculous manner, and was afterward banished to Patmos. 

Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downward. 

James, the Greater, was beheaded at Jerusalem, 

James, the Less, was thrown from a lofty pinnacle of the temple, and then beaten to death with a fuller’s club. 

Bartholomew was flayed alive. 

Andrew was bound to a cross, whence he preached to his persecutors until he died. 

Thomas was run through the body with a lance at Coromandel in the East Indies. 

Jude was shot to death with arrows. 

Matthias was first stoned and then beheaded. 

Barnabas of the Gentiles was stoned to death at Salonica. 

Paul, after various tortures and persecutions, was at length beheaded at Rome by the Emperor Nero. 

Such was the fate of the apostles, according to traditional statements. 

Your Initial Response

What do you think it takes to follow Christ? What is “the cross” to you?

Matthew 16:16–28

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

17Jesus 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. 

18And 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. 

19I 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.” 

20Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. 

21From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 

22Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 

23Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 

24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 

25For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 

26What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 

27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. 

28“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:16–28 NIV) 

1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.

2 Circle all the words that are related with time and number them in ascending order.

3 Underline all the questions of Lord Jesus and number them in ascending order.

4 Put question marks next to the hard sayings of Jesus Christ and number them in ascending order.

5 Refer to other translations and come up with some new insights.

2) “Expound” (E)

iEXP Bible Study Method

Peter received a divine revelation that he knew the real identity of Jesus Christ. Dear friends, do you know who Jesus Christ is?

1 What is the meaning of “on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18)?

2 What are “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19)?

3 What are the things that shall be bound and loosed (Matthew 16:19)?

4 Why did Jesus Christ reveal to His disciples at this moment in time that He would be killed and resurrected (Matthew 16:21)?

5 Was Peter really possessed by Satan (Matthew 16:22)?

6 “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” What does it mean (Matthew 16:25)?

7 When did the Son of Man come in His kingdom (Matthew 16:28)?

When the Lord Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples two questions, as means of understanding how people and the disciples perceived Him. The first question is “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13) The Jews perceived the Lord as follows: first, they misunderstood him as John the Baptist. Herod was not the only one who had such kind of imaginary illusion, but even in the crowd, they held such kind of superstitious thought. Second, they thought he was Elijah. It was prophesied by the prophet Malachi that Elijah was to precede the “day of the Lord” (Mal 4:5, 6). Third, they perceived wrongly that he was Jeremiah. It was recorded in II Maccabees the Apocrypha that Jeremiah would reveal the hidden ark (II Macc 2:1-8). Jeremiah was known as “the weeping prophet” (Lamentations 1: 16; 2:11; 3:38), maybe he resembled the “Man of Sorrow” (Isaiah 53:3). Fourth, some thought he was one of the prophets. Many considered Christ to be a prophetical person, resembling those of the old prophets.

After finished hearing the reports of the disciples, Christ wanted to know how His followers perceived Him. Therefore, the Lord gave out the second question: “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

Matthew 16:15

In Peter’s reply, He understood the Lord in two different ways:

1 Christ

The Christ was the Messiah of the Old Testament, which means “the anointed One.” He was not just a human being but He is God Himself. Peter received a divine revelation that he knew Jesus Christ was the Son of the living God. Thus he publicly acknowledged His deity.

2 Son of God The living God was an Old Testament name for Yahweh, thus revealing the falsehood of other deities. Israel was regarded as sons of God. Furthermore, individual kings (2 Sam. 7:14) or priests (Mal. 1:6), were sometimes called sons of God. Christians are also called sons of God in the New Testament (Rom. 8:14). Those who are called sons are representatives of God the Father, and they must faithfully carry out His will. In a broad sense, son of God was seen as a person with a special relationship to God; but when this term was used on the Lord Jesus, He was “making Himself equal with God” (John 5:19).

Matthew 16:17

Most probably, the original name of Peter was Simon (Simeon, Hebrew). Cephas was an Aramaic name, that was, the nickname of Peter, both Cephas and Peter meant ‘rock.’ Simon Peter received a divine illumination that he could reveal the true identity of Jesus Christ. No wonder the Lord Jesus indicated that he was blessed.

Matthew 16:18

Church means “called out ones. In the four gospels, the “church” only appears twice, and only Matthew had used this special term. Christ called it “My church”, emphasizing that the church belonged to Him. The church was not built by Peter but by Jesus Christ. “I will build (future tense) My church,” implying that it has not been built yet. According to the illumination of the New Testament, the church was officially begun at Pentecost.

Matthew 16:18

According to the Old Testament background, Jewish men recognised the rock as a symbol of God. Peter (Petros) is a masculine word, which means a small stone. The “rock’ (petra) is a feminine word, which implies a large mass of rock, and it can be used as a foundation boulder. What is the meaning of “upon this rock I will build my church”? Various scholastic points of view were as follows:

The Rock Was Peter

Some ancient church fathers indicated that the rock was Peter, meaning that he was the first pope. A scholar pointed out that Peter was a “little stone” but a rock was a massive rock formation, thus refuting the above suggestion; however, there was not a minor grammatical distinction between the two forms in the Aramaic language. Most probably, the Lord Jesus used a play on words, and he spoke to Peter in Aramaic, thus producing such a big difference when it was translated to Greek. However, the advocates of Peter as the rock have stated that Peter was the first pope and the infallibility of the pope. This was the greatest problem produced! The above interpretation was not without disputes because Peter had committed errors, indicating that he was not flawless.

The Rock Was the Disciples

Some scholars indicated that the Lord Jesus built His church on Peter and the other apostles (Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14). This is not to say that the apostles are higher in status, but it was focused on their appointment, endowment and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Basically, this interpretation is not focused on the apostles, but their appointment and belief.

The Rock Was Christ

In simple words, the Lord Jesus built His church on Himself. Based on the insight from 1 Corinthians 3:11, this kind of viewpoint was quite reasonable.

The Rock Was Confession of Peter

Some Bible scholars indicated that the rock was the confession or witness that Peter made earlier. As Peter was the first person who confessed that the Lord Jesus was Christ and the Son of the living God; in other words, he was the first confessor, and the church was built on such a belief. If we focused on Jesus Christ instead of Peter or the apostles, the several interpretations above could coexist together and are not mutually exclusive. As the churches that Peter and the apostles built were fully based on their knowledge of Jesus Christ, and they were not built according to tradition and sayings. Peter and the apostles were just vessels of preaching the truth of Christ, so that those believed in the gospel, would become part of the Church.

Matthew 16:18

“The gates of Hades” could be interpreted as:

1 The Power of Darkness

Some scholars regarded it was about the power of darkness. Superficially, this argument was pretty reasonable, but it contradicted the symbolic meaning of “the gates of Hades” because it was often associated with death.

The Fortifications of Satan

The “gates” were the fortifications that surrounded ancient cities and suggests perhaps a metaphor for Satan’s armies.

The Power of Death

A scholar indicated that “the gates of Hades” was a poetic expression for death. In short, death cannot conquer the followers of Christ.

Matthew 16:19

By referring to the Old Testament background information, keys were symbols of a chief steward’s position. Keys here refer to the authority to admit into the kingdom of God. Peter was chosen by the Lord, having the keys of the kingdom of heaven to admit Jews and gentiles to the Church (Acts 2:14: 10:1-11:18; 15:7, 14).

Matthew 16:19

A lot of Jews thought that the Jewish high court acted on the authority of God’s court in heaven to execute its matters. “Binding” and “loosing” were rabbis’ authority in interpreting Scripture; namely, “prohibiting” and “permitting.” The Lord Jesus granted the church the power of forgiveness (John 20:23), its judgments were based on God’s Word, and not the interpretation of humankind.

Matthew 16:20

Since the Lords timing had not come yet, therefore He required the disciples to remain silent regarding His identity.

Matthew 16:21

Subsequently, the Lord Jesus revealed the truth of redemption to His disciples (Matthew 16:21-23; Mark 8:31-33; Luke 9:22). “From that time on” was a description of the turning point in the Gospel of Matthew. Peter received the revelation from heaven a while ago that he could recognise the Lord Jesus was the Messiah. Since then the Lord Jesus shifted from public ministry to private instructions of His disciples, as means to prepare their hearts to accept His death (Matthew 16:21). It was now just a little over six months before His death. The Lord Jesus told His disciples that He must go to suffer in Jerusalem, facing death there (Matthew 16:21). The elders, chief priests and teachers of the law were the three groups of religious leaders which made up the membership of the Sanhedrin, the supreme council of the Jews. Thus, it was official way to illustrate the complete denial of the Jews that they completely rejected the Lord Jesus as the Messiah of the Israelites (Matthew 16:21). The Lord Jesus clearly revealed to His disciples that He not only had to suffer, but he also had to die on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day. This was the message of a full gospel (Matthew 16:21).

Matthew 16:22

Most of the English translations chose to use the word “rebuke,” which means sternly tell or warn. When Peter heard the proclamation of the Lord Jesus, he immediately responded fiercely, for he thought it was illogical. Peter took the Lord Jesus aside and spoke to him in a severe manner. We could see that Peter was a frank and outspoken person (Matthew 16:22).

Matthew 16:23

The Lord Jesus rebuked Peter because he had become the mouthpiece of Satan. The death of Christ was God’s predestined plan. Satan attempted to stop Christ going to the cross (Matthew 4:8-10). Peter spoke according to his opinion and became an ally with the devil consequently (Matthew 16:23). “Stumbling block” a word formerly used of an animal trap, especially the part where the bait was located. In the process of development, the expression eventually came to be used of tempting a person into captivity or destruction. Satan used Peter’s human flaws to prevent Christ of being crucified.

Matthew 16:24

Convicted criminals were forced to carry their own cross in the Roman Empire, as means to show the public that they opposed the supreme authority and were sentenced to death consequently. Back then the Jews strongly refused to accept Christ as the Messiah, indicating that deep down inside their hearts they were very rebellious and opposed Christ.  Now through this despicable description, Christ was asking His followers to submit under His authority and listen obediently to His orders (Matthew 16:24).

Matthew 16:24

Although Peter attempted to change the plan of the Lord Jesus, the Lord turned to him and spoke about the price that one had to pay as a disciple (Matthew 16:24). Jesus Christ paid the highest price for this world; similarly, those who would like to follow Him had to count their cost, showing that this was not a cheap salvation. As Christ’s disciples, there were a few points to be pondered: First, the self-denial; second, the daily cross; third, follow Christ closely.

Matthew 16:25

Apparently, the statement here seemed be a complex and contradictory idea was in fact quite simple (Matthew 16:25). What the Lord means is, if a person lives only to save one’s earthly, physical life, seek one’s ease and comfort and acceptance by the world, then one will lose one’s opportunity for eternal life. But whoever is willing to give up hisearthly, worldly life and to suffer and die, if required, for Christ’s sake, will attain eternal life. The non-believers could give up eternal blessings just for the sake of the perishable worldly lives. In fact, all the riches, fame, fortune, and pleasures of this world were transient and were just like mist that disappeared quickly, they have no eternal values. If one perishes just because of going after these supposed to be treasures to most people, what are the benefits? To human beings, the real life or the soul was the most precious thing.

Matthew 16:27-28 (Mark 8:33-9:1; Luke 9:26-27)

As for the believers, they will receive their rewards in heaven (1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:8-10; Rev. 22:12). However, the Lord stated that the reward of the ungodly was final and eternal judgment (Rom. 2:5-11; 2 Thess. 1:6-10). “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28) When will the Son of Man come in His kingdom? Here are the viewpoints of several scholars: some indicated that it was the Transfiguration; some reckoned that it was the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus; some stated that it was the great Day of Pentecost; some regarded it as the Destruction of Jerusalem; some thought that it was the Second Coming and Judgment. But referring it to the Transfiguration, it meets the requirements of the context. Besides, Peter, who was one of the eyewitnesses of the Transfiguration, he later recalled the event in his own words (II Pet 1:16-18). A theologian calls the Transfiguration a “preview of the coming kingdom on earth” The dialogue was made immediately prior to the record of the Transfiguration; thus, the inference of this specific point of time as the Transfiguration was very reasonable.

3) “Exercise” (X)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Peter trusted his opinion was correct and he even openly rebuked Christ’s proclamation (Matthew 16:22). A person must have self-confidence, but if one thought too highly of oneself, one would encounter failure one day.

2 Memorise Matthew 16:19-20.

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 warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:19-20)

3 Many Christians always wear this sentence on their lips, “never walk ahead of the Lord, but has to closely follow Him.” In our daily lives, no matter things big or small, do we really follow Christ closely (16:24)?

4) “Proclaim” (P)

By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.

iEXP Bible Study Method

Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.

After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.

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