Matthew 16

Chapter 16

The Demand for a Sign.[a] 1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to put him to the test they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘Tomorrow there will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning you say, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous[b] generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then he left them and went away.

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.[c] 5 In crossing to the other side of the lake, the disciples had forgotten to bring bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Be careful, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They talked about this among themselves and concluded: “It is because we brought no bread.”

8 Aware of what they were saying, Jesus said, “O you of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand and the number of baskets you collected? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How could you fail to see that I was not speaking about bread when I said, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees’?” 12 Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast used in bread but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

13 Peter’s Confession of Christ’s Divinity.[d]When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi,[e] he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the Prophets.” 15 “But you,” he said to them, “who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[f]

17 Then Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood[g] has not revealed this to you but my heavenly Father. 18 And I say to you: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church,[h] and the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”[i] 20 Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell[j] anyone that he was the Christ.

21 Jesus Predicts His Passion. From then onward Jesus made it clear to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and endure great suffering at the hands of the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be put to death, and be raised on the third day.[k]

22 [l]Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord. Such a fate must never happen to you.” 23 He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as men do.”

24 The Conditions of Discipleship. Jesus then said to his disciples, “Anyone who wishes to follow me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.[m] 26 What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his very life? Or what can he give in exchange for his life?

27 “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone according to what has been done. 28 Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”[n]


  1. Matthew 16:1 The preaching, works, and extraordinary miracles of Jesus constituted a convincing proof of his Messiahship. The Pharisees and Sadducees demand a sign from heaven, like the stopping of the sun. Jesus flatly refuses to do so. He offers only the sign of Jonah, which foreshadows the mystery of his Death and Resurrection (see Mt 12:38-42).
  2. Matthew 16:4 Adulterous: i.e., unfaithful to the Lord.
  3. Matthew 16:5 The disciples at first misunderstand their Master, for whom the nourishment of humans is not reduced to bread alone. Jesus wishes to preserve his own from legalism. The yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees is the rigid teaching of specialists of religion who snuff out freedom, joy, spontaneity, and commitment.
  4. Matthew 16:13 Following the section of the bread (Mt 14:13—16:12), the evangelist appends a series of episodes that have to do with the revelation of the mystery of Christ. In addition to the text taken from Mark, which sets forth the theology of the Messianic secret and the suffering Servant, he presents the passages that speak of the primacy of Peter (Mt 16:17-19) and the payment of the temple tax (Mt 17:24-27), thus highlighting the theme of the foundation of the Church. The new People of God will then rise not from a Messianic triumphalism but from the mysterious drama of the Messiah’s Passion and Resurrection.
  5. Matthew 16:13 Caesarea Philippi had been built by Herod Philip near the springs of the Jordan, at the foot of Mount Hermon. The name “Caesarea” was given as an act of homage to the Roman Emperor; since so many cities had the name, some further qualifier had to be added (“Philip’s Caesarea”). “Caesarea in Palestine,” to take one example, was the ordinary residence of the governor (see Acts 23).
  6. Matthew 16:16 The Son of the living God: in addition to the Messiahship of Jesus found in the other Synoptics at this point, Matthew also has an acknowledgment by Peter of Jesus’ divinity. Many exegetes believe this is an addition based on Peter’s later understanding of the mystery of Christ after the risen Lord appeared to him (see 1 Cor 15:5; Lk 24:34). In any case, Matthew has already mentioned that all the disciples had recognized the divinity of Christ (Mt 14:33).
  7. Matthew 16:17 Flesh and blood: a Scriptural expression that designates human beings in their weak and fragile condition. Has not revealed this to you but my heavenly Father: the source of Peter’s confession of Christ’s divinity is the heavenly Father.
  8. Matthew 16:18 You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church: the Aramaic word for “rock” (kepa) is transliterated into Greek as Cephas, the name used for Peter in the Pauline letters (1 Cor 1:12; Gal 1:18), and is translated as “Peter” in Jn 1:42. Church: a word that occurs only here and in Mt 18:17 (twice) in the New Testament. The Church will have Peter as her foundation stone. But of course her real foundation is faith in Jesus, the Son of God. Peter will have the primacy among all the apostles and be the visible head of the Church, as will his successors, the Popes. The gates of the netherworld designate the powers of death. The Church will resist all the vicissitudes of time because of her foundation on a rock.
  9. Matthew 16:19 Receiving the power of the keys, symbol of authority, Peter becomes Christ’s representative on earth. He is given the power to bind and loose, i.e., to condemn or absolve, to prohibit or allow. Peter is the doorkeeper (Mk 13:34) but not the Teacher or the Father (Mt 23:9-10).
  10. Matthew 16:20 Not to tell: since the Jews were looking for a national and political Messiah, Jesus urged his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
  11. Matthew 16:21 The apostles now knew that Jesus was the Messiah, but their idea of it was inexact. They thought of a political Messiah, the glorious dominator of peoples. Jesus offers a triple prediction that spells out the last stages of his ministry. He thus prepares them for the scandal of the cross (see Mt 17:22f; 20:17f) and enlightens them concerning the true Messianism, which is spiritual, humble, and suffering.
  12. Matthew 16:22 Peter unknowingly offers Jesus the facile and worldly Messianism that would put him in opposition to the will of the Father. He unwittingly repeats the temptation of Satan at the beginning of Christ’s ministry (Mt 4:1-11).
  13. Matthew 16:25 In order to receive eternal life, one must be ready to bear any sacrifice—even the renunciation of earthly life. The Greek word for “life” means either “life” or “soul;” also in v. 26.
  14. Matthew 16:28 Coming after v. 27, which alludes to the Second Coming of Christ, i.e., as Judge at the end of the world, this verse may refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which came to be regarded as a punishment from God for the refusal of the Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The verse may also refer to Christ’s Resurrection and his appearances thereafter as well as to the Transfiguration, which is a manifestation of his glory.

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