Thoughts on Matthew 16
I was just reading Matthew 16 and had a few exegetical thoughts. Don't worry, there's no deep insights here; I'm sure most of you have thought of this stuff at one time or another, but since we risk sliding back into inactivity, I thought I'd put them down here.
It seems that the first half of Chapter 16 equates the disciples with the Pharisees and Sadducees. After an encounter with them, Jesus warns his disciples to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." But they misunderstand what he means by “beware of the leaven,” reasoning around this commandment as the scribes would and concentrating on the physical performance of it. Jesus seems frustrated with their misunderstanding and lays out over three verses (reasoning perhaps in the way of the scribes) the meaning of his words.
Verse 13 marks a huge transition, both in the chapter and, it seems, in Matthew generally. Jesus asks all the disciples who they say he is. It is revealed to Peter (as the archetypal follower) that Jesus is “the Christ, the son of the living God.” This declaration causes Jesus to, in a sense, give Simon bar-Jonah, the new name Peter. (As all new disciples must take on a new name with their new life) Now that the disciples know who he is, Jesus explains the steps that, as Christ, he must take to fulfill his calling. Peter tries to stop him. Jesus puts him in his place. Now that they know who He is and what He must do, and that only the camp of the adversary would have Him avoid this challenge, Jesus lays down the disciple’s role. A disciple must take up his cross. The JST clarifies what it means to take up your cross: “For a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself of all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments.” For the follower of Christ, who has a revealed testimony of his divinity, this is the cost of discipleship.