As we’ve read through Matthew, it has been pointed out repeatedly that the Pharisees and Sadducees should have known better. They should have been the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, and probably some of them did as we see in the book of Acts. However, both they, the disciples, and all the people had a great misunderstanding about who the Messiah was and what he was going to do. Matthew 16 provides even more great examples of the truth of this fact.
In verses 1–4 the Pharisees and Sadducees are still trying to trip Jesus up because they don’t understand who he is. Then in verses 5–12, Jesus is misunderstood again as he warns against the “leaven” of the religious elite, yet he clears it up as the disciples smack their foreheads, “Oh, you mean their teaching. Got it!” Finally, Jesus asks about himself and we see Peter’s great confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16); while only a few moments later Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” (23)
So, we have to ask, what were these people expecting? Psalm 2 provides a very clear answer. Psalm 2:2–9 says,
2 The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” (NASB)
As we read Psalm 2, we get insight into Peter’s confession and what these people were expecting from the Messiah. First, Peter’s confession that Jesus is the “Christ” comes right out of Psalm 2. No, Christ is not Jesus’ last name, it is a transliteration of the Greek word “Christos” used in the Greek version of the Hebrew text called the Septuagint (prevalent in Jesus’ day). “Christos” means “Anointed One,” or “Messiah” (which is itself a transliteration of the Hebrew word Mishaya appearing in the Hebrew text of Psalm 2).
All that to say, when Peter makes his confession, the Psalm 2 Christ is his point of reference. Psalm 2 is a prophetic look at the world powers standing up to God and the Christ, who is also his Son (in verse 7, which is a quote from 2 Sam 7 in the Davidic Covenant in which God promises David an eternal throne). This Son of God, the Christ, will receive “the nations as inheritance,” and “will shatter them like earthenware” (See also Daniel 2).
The Pharisees and Sadducees rejected Jesus as the Messiah based on the same faulty expectations of Peter. Although Peter recognized Jesus as the Christ he didn’t realize what that meant. They were expecting an earthly ruler who would crush all the nations and establish a worldly kingdom centered in Jerusalem. This is also why Jesus tells them not to tell anybody in verse 20, so that they didn’t attempt to inaugurate his kingdom on their own.
The disciples wanted Jesus to judge Rome and the other world powers, but Jesus understood that if the world were judged at that time, nobody would experience salvation because the penalty had not yet been dealt with. This heightens Jesus’ words in verse 26, because “the whole world” is exactly what the disciples wanted.
Today we must reflect upon exactly what we want from Jesus, do we want the salvation that requires us to “deny ourselves” and “take up a cross,” or do we want to benefit from Jesus’ power without accepting our own need for total dependence?
By: Tyler Short