Matthew 16:1-20

MAT 16:1-20 One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Then Jesus left them and went away.

Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’
Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?
“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

The danger that Jesus warns His disciples of in verse 6 is “the leaven of… the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees“. This issue is serious enough for Him to bluntly judge these religious elite for being “hypocrites” and to tell the disciples to be on their guard to avoid their philosophy. He is exposing an obvious earmark of “bad doctrine“. Jesus is not telling the disciples to avoid contact with Pharisees or Saducees. When He says “take heed and beware” He is saying “pay attention“, “be aware” of their teaching and how what they teach infects the listener. Don’t be afraid of checking out doctrines that are being taught. Find out what they are really based on.

Doctrine: Strong’s reference number: 1322
Greek: didache
Derivation: Derived from 1321
Definition: instruction or to teach

THE EAR MARK OF “BAD DOCTRINE“: “Show us a sign.”
That may seem like just superficial circus-hunting. There’s more to it. It’s circus-hunting for the purpose of a special kind of validation; for Jesus to prove Himself and His power. I think one of the main points here is that their request is superficial, which illustrates where these guys were living.

In verse 13 Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people think I am?” Judging by physical evidence and rumors, people were coming up with many opinions about who Jesus was.

Then in verse 15 He says, “So, who do you say I am?” To which Peter answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus, distinguishing between calculations using physical evidence (real or rumored) and divine revelation, responds, “flesh and blood (physical evidence) has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

We certainly have an abundance of people saying that God told them something. How can we verify that? It seems as though these pious men had come up with some kind of formula. Was it a good one or a bad one? We can detect from what Jesus says that it was definitely bad.

How bad is their doctrine? Jesus answers, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” Those words were chosen very specifically. Let’s look at them closely.

Old Testament

Wicked: Strong’s reference number: 7451
Hebrew: ra’
Derivation: Derived from 7489
Definition: bad; evil
Strong’s reference number: 7489
Hebrew: ra’a’
Derivation: A primary word.
Definition: to spoil; to make good for nothing
This word was used to describe Noah’s generation and people of Sodom.
Adulterous: Strong’s reference number: 5003
Hebrew: na’aph [Jesus, the master wordsmith!] Derivation: A primary word.
Definition: to commit adultery

New Testament

Wicked: Strong’s reference number: 4191
Greek: poneroteros
Derivation: Variation of 4190
Definition: more evil
Strong’s reference number: 4190
Greek: poneros
Derivation: Derived from 4192
Definition: hurtful evil
Strong’s reference number: 4192
Greek: ponos
Derivation: Same base as 3993
Definition: toil; anguish
Strong’s reference number: 3993
Greek: penes
Definition: starving; indigent
Matt 21:41 Strong’s reference number: 2556
Greek: kakos
Derivation: A primary word.
Definition: worthless
Matt 22:18 Strong’s reference number: 4189
Greek: poneria
Derivation: Derived from 4190
Definition: depravity
Acts 2:23 Strong’s reference number: 459
Greek: anomos
Derivation: Derived from 3551
Definition: lawless; not subject to law; wicked
2Peter 2:7 Strong’s reference number: 113
Greek: athesmos
Derivation: Derived from 5087
Definition: lawless; criminal

Adulterous: Strong’s reference number: 3428
Greek: moichalis
Derivation: Variation of 3432
Definition: an adulteress
Strong’s reference number: 3432
Greek: moichos
Derivation: A primary word.
Definition: a (male) paramour

verse 4 – Seeks: Strong’s reference number: 1934
Greek: epizeteo
Derivation: Derived from 1909 2212
Definition: to search for; to crave

These words seem to point to people completely outside the Kingdom of God. But wait. He’s saying this to the religious elite, the highest in the Kingdom (according to their formula). How can this be? It seems clear that religious or not, humans are very weak when it comes to resisting the “leaven” of the world’s mind-set. A craving for signs also seems to be a natural result of that kind of philosophy.

What’s so bad about wanting signs and wonders? For one thing, they can be falsified and therefore, over time, will destroy any true sense of discernment. Another thing is that by looking for signs we’re likely to miss what God actually wants to show us. How do we know what to look for? Do we dictate to God how He shows Himself to us? Do we set the guidelines for His dealings with us and how His Spirit works? The typical answer to that is, “We don’t predict what’s going to happen, the Holy Spirit just moves!” Oh really? So why is it that after weeks or years everyone is still doing the same things? Who’s the leader now?

I’ve actually been in churches with pastors who, after seeing a real outpouring of the Holy Spirit some weeks before, continues to try to reproduce that experience in every service by singing the same song and saying the same phrases that he thought triggered it the first time. They loudly proclaim, “A great outpouring is happening at our church!” The poor musicians sing the song a few times because the pastor insists. Then when “the move” doesn’t happen, he rushes to the mic and shouts, “Sing that song again!” That is just one very blatant example of our versatility in “helping the Holy Spirit”. My point is this: We look where we want to look. We expect what happened before or what we heard has happened. And when we do, we are robbed! We don’t hear the voice of God calling us to repentance and intimacy. We are not washed by the Living Water of His Word for that moment! All the while we defend what occurs as fresh and new. Jesus says that mentality is found in a “wicked and adulterous generation” caught up in the gratification of its own impulse and whim, consuming every opportunity on the appetite of their “flesh and blood“.

THE ALTERNATIVE: Genuine Revelation – which comes exclusively from actual intimacy with God and absolute surrender to His nature, His indwelling Spirit. That is the ROCK the church is to be built on. That is the standard for judging whether teaching or doctrine is good or bad.

Can you see that Jesus is determined to equip His disciples to discern between the two? The question is: DO WE? If we do, then we must walk in that knowledge more openly, modeling what true dependency on the Spirit looks like. If we don’t, we must repent of our self-dependency and stop faking it. We must not use our position to manipulate the weak.

Stand for nothing but the real thing. The real thing always builds every believer up for the discovery of their “work of the ministry (servanthood)” and the joy of participating with God’s own Spirit as He touches His children and pours His life through us.

Let’s get real!