Jesus Tested by Religious Leaders (1-4)
As soon as Jesus came back into sight of the Jewish leaders, having returned from His ministering to the Gentile regions, those same Jewish leaders were back at it, testing Him, asking for a sign from heaven, a “wow" moment proving Jesus was Messiah (1). The Pharisees and the Sadducees could agree on something together—no sign Jesus had accomplished thus far was adequate proof that He was sent from God. The healing of peasants and miracles among the Gentiles was not enough—they wanted a heavenly sign, something dazzling.
Jesus did answer them with a curious example. The Pharisees and Sadducees would pride themselves in looking at the sky, seeing red in the evening, and predicting the weather would be fair (2). In the morning, they would see a red sky and predict stormy weather. They could interpret the weather signs in the heavens but could not interpret the prophetic signs in Jesus' actions (3). Oddly, Jesus came fulfilling hundreds of prophecies, but the Jewish leaders wanted more—they didn't want God's Word fulfilled by Jesus—they demanded their senses fulfilled (3). An adulterer wants to be pleasured; evil people want special treatment. Jesus was not Someone Who lived to perform for the lustful desires of those who were driven by their own pleasure. These leaders were so evil that they were seeking to find God without having to have a relationship with Him. This is the heart of an adulterous generation—they want to be pleasured by God but have no intimate life with God. Jesus told them again: the only fantastic sign they would be given was the sign of Jonah, when the Son of Man would give up His life and be risen from the dead. Even with this, the greatest of all signs, they still rejected Jesus. Jesus then left and departed (4) for the other side of the lake with His disciples.
Jesus Teaches About the Leavening Power of Religious Leadership (5-12)
When they had reached the other side, they all realized no one had packed any bread (5). While the disciples were concerned about bread, Jesus told them to always watch out for and be suspicious of the leavening power of the religious leadership (6). The disciples became even more embroiled in the fact that they had forgotten to bring food.
Jesus expressed His frustration over the disciples’ lack of faith because they couldn't remove worrying about their needs from their minds (8). He reminded them of Yahweh's supernatural provision of the 5,000, seeking to ease their incessant worry about essential provision (9-10). He then asked them why, when He was seeking to warn them about the leavening properties of religious leadership, they turned it into worrying about provision.
Jesus had wanted them to beware of the pervasive effect of religious leadership seeking to maintain their own power and control while appearing to be teaching people how to live in relationship with God. Their grasp for power had permeated everything they were teaching and doing. The disciples were to guard against such pervasive abuse in their leadership (11-12).
Peter's Confession (13-17)
Jesus again left Galilee and moved north 25-30 miles to Caesarea Philippi. He left the region ruled by Herod Antipas and went to the region ruled by Herod Phillip. Caesarea was largely a pagan area. It was the area from where the Jordan River began coming out of a cave near the city. Herod Phillip had rebuilt the city in honor of Caesar and then added his own name, Philippi.
While at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked His disciples the question, who did the people think the Son of Man was? (13) For the most part, those outside their circle considered Jesus to be just another Old Testament prophet. Some assumed He was just carrying on John the Baptist's mission, while others thought He was the promised Elijah-like prophet; others heard in Him the doom they had heard in the prophetic voice of Jeremiah when he was prophesying the fall of Jerusalem (14).
Then Jesus asked the disciples who they thought Him to be (15). On cue, Peter replied and confessed Jesus to be the promised Messiah, the anointed King Who the prophets predicted would rule Israel as the Son of the living God (16).
Jesus pronounced a blessing on Peter, calling him by his full family name. He went on to announce to Peter that his confession was not the result of some incredible feat of human revelation but had come to him as a revelation from his Father from heaven or the world to come (17).
Christ's Confession (18-20)
Peter's confession led to Christ's confession. Peter's confession was rock-solid, and on this rock-solid revelation and confession, Jesus was going to build His church.
The very beginning of all change of thinking started with Who Jesus is, and that small change of thinking would lead to a revolution which the gates of hell would no longer be able to resist as satan sought to keep all ground he had won from the time of Adam and Eve (18). Jesus was revealing a clear truth about the church: it would be built on Jesus, a Jesus revealed in those who changed the way they thought about life, beginning with a confession of Jesus being the promised One, the Son of God, sent to enable people to walk intimately with God. "Gates of hades" referred to death, but once people changed the way they thought about Jesus, not even death could prevail against what Jesus was going to build.
Jesus was going to then give the church the keys of the Kingdom, meaning the church would have the power to open and close doors. On earth, they would close doors and those same doors would close in heaven; in the heavens, they would open doors and those same doors would be open in heaven. The church would find a new power to open on earth all things which would bring humanity into relationship, and bind all things which would hinder relationship, with God. Not even death would be able to withstand the very purpose of the church to restore people to a life of living with Yahweh (19). Jesus ended by telling His disciples not to work at convincing anyone Who He was—they were to let the Father continue to reveal Jesus as He willed.
Jesus Predicts His Death (21-23)
From the moment the disciples clearly knew Who Jesus was, He began to clearly predict His own suffering and death. It was to happen in Jerusalem; there would be intense suffering. The elders, chief priests, and scribes would all be involved in His suffering and execution, but He was clear that on the third day after His death He would be raised to life (21). In all this, they still had no clue concerning the resurrection.
Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him for being so negative, not believing that if He was the Messiah He would suffer and die as He was predicting (22).
Jesus turned to Peter and told Him to get behind Him and start following Him again instead of seeking to be equal with and to give Him advice.
Every time Peter did something outstanding, it went a bit to his head. Jesus sought to turn Peter back into a follower.
Jesus' rebuke of Peter was fierce. He told Peter his words had been incited by the devil; they were a hindrance to Him and His mission, not a help. Then Jesus revealed the nature of demonic thoughts: they were focused on man at the center and man's will preeminent (23).
Jesus' Teaching on Following (24-28)
After telling Peter to go back and take up the position of a follower, Jesus taught them what following means.
1. It is a life of denying self at the center, self as primary.
2. It is a life of taking up a cross, or suffering the shame of being a sufferer for the life of others. Instead of seeking power and preeminence over others, disciples take up their cross and embrace the shame of Jesus—the shame of a criminal, the shame of loving others who do not deserve to be loved. The cross was an object of shame, for it was an object reserved only for criminals. Jesus did not tell His disciples to follow Him because they would need to be nailed to a cross, but He told them they would end up bearing a common shame (24).
3. Those who put themselves first and tried to save their life, apart from losing their life so they could live with God, would lose their life (25).
4. Those who put profit ahead of life with God might be able to gain an entire world of fortune but could forfeit their own soul. There was nothing material, Jesus taught, that could ever buy a soul back (26).
Jesus then told His disciples that He would come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and at that time repay each person according to their actions, whether or not they lived in intimate relationship with God or sought to live separate from God, gaining for their life what they wanted (27).
Jesus then predicted one more event: He told them there were some standing there, three to be specific, who would not die as they would see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom. This seems to be His prediction of the transfiguration event about to take place (28).