Matthew 16

1 At this time, the Sadducees join the Pharisees to trick Jesus into saying or doing something that could be used as evidence against His messianic claims. The request they make is a similar to Mat 12:38. Again, the previous miracles and teachings are all discounted and they ask for another miracle that is "unmistakably" from heaven.
2 Jesus gives them some physical signs that they already know how to interpret. For them, the appearance of the sunrise and sunset allow them to predict what the weather will be like.
3 However, these religious leaders were not willing to apply rational thinking to the spiritual signs that Jesus was giving them. The miracles He had already performed were unmistakably from God. However, the leaders chose to continue to doubt and would not take the miracles at face value. Their demands were hypocritical because they had already decided in their hearts that no miracle would be spectacular enough to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world.
4 See commentary on Mat 12:39.
5 They traveled north to Caesarea Philippi. The note that they had forgotten bread partially explains why the disciples misunderstood what Jesus was trying to teach them in the following passage.
7 Leaven (yeast) was an ingredient used in bread making. Since the disciples had forgotten to bring bread, they assumed that Jesus was chastising them. However, since Jesus was speaking of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees, they should have realized that He was speaking on a different topic.
8 The disciple's faith was hindered because they focused on their own doubts and shortcomings.
9 If Jesus had been speaking about food, they should have remembered that Jesus was able to make vast quantities of food miraculously. They should not doubt about having their physical needs met as long as Jesus was with them.
11 Therefore, the disciples should have understood that Jesus was trying to teach them about the teachings and practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
12 Leaven works through a piece of dough and "infects" the whole loaf. In a similar way, the doctrine of the religious leaders had infiltrated Israel's religion, and could infect the disciple's faith too if they were not careful. The doctrine of the religious leaders depended more on traditions, works, and sacrifices rather than on love, faith, and obedience to God.
13 Jesus calls Himself the "Son of Man," which is another term for Messiah. Jesus does not ask this question out of curiosity (since He knows all things), but He asks to invoke the disciple's thinking process (similar to how a schoolteacher might work).

The disciples often mingled with the crowds around Jesus, so they were privy to those conversations.

14 Jesus' ministry started shortly before John the Baptist was imprisoned. Some people may have mistakenly thought that John had changed his style of ministry from a desert preacher to a traveling one. Herod's comment reveals that some people may have thought that Jesus was the resurrected John (Mat 14:1-2). These people apparently lacked the information that Jesus was at one time baptized by John, and thus they were two different people (Mat 3:13).

Elijah was the greatest prophet in the Old Testament. God used him to perform many miracles, and later took him straight into heaven, bypassing death. The problem with this view is that Elijah was to come again before the Messiah (Mal 4:5). The people who thought Jesus was Elijah were missing the point of His ministry. They also failed to realize that John the Baptist was the "second Elijah" (Mat 17:11-13).

Other prophets are also mentioned. It was apparent that Jesus' true nature had been sufficiently hidden from most.

15 Jesus now wants to know whether the disciples were influenced more by public opinion or by the nature of His work.
16 Peter answers correctly. He recognized Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God. This is a profound confession, and once anyone comes to this same conclusion, his life will change forever.
17 This understanding was a special blessing from God. Most people did not understand who Jesus was, but God had revealed this to Peter.
18 This verse has caused many debates inside the church. The straightforward reading would seem to indicate that the Christian Church would be built by the work and leadership of Peter. Other interpretations might include the work of the other apostles as well. Still others think that Jesus was saying that His Church would be built on Peter's confession. Still others believe that Jesus is actually saying that the Church would be built upon Himself (i.e., He is "the rock." In 1 Pet 2:4-8, Peter points to Jesus, not himself as the cornerstone). Eph 2:20 describes Jesus as the cornerstone, and the early apostles and prophets as being (or lying) the foundation for the church. Thus, the Church is built on Christ and the work of all the apostles, not exclusively on Peter.

In Catholicism, Leo I, who was the Pope of Rome, used this verse to declare that the Pope of Rome had more authority than any other pope at the time because he had "assumed" Peter's position as leader of the Church (several writers have recorded that Peter had later traveled to Rome to lead the church there). This became the beginning of Roman Catholicism. Protestants ignore this claim since such an assumption of spiritual authority is not supported by Scripture.

This is also the first mention of the Church. It is obvious that Jesus can already see that Christianity would break from its Jewish origins. Jesus' work of salvation through faith in Him did not fit with the Jewish misconception that salvation came through strict observance of the Mosaic Law. As with Jesus' parable about the wine and the wineskins, the shackles of tradition could not hold the freedom found in Jesus (Mat 9:17).

Another interesting comment concerns Hades (the place of the dead). This foreshadows the resurrection in that "death" will not be able to hold in those believers that had died. God will raise them back to life, give them new bodies, and bring them into His kingdom forever.

19 This verse has given rise to the picture of Peter standing at the "pearly gates" to determine who will get into heaven and who will not. However, this authority was given while "on earth," and the Judgment in heaven is reserved for Jesus alone (John 5:22), except for the judgment of the twelve tribes of Israel, which He will delegate to the apostles (Luke 22:29-30). The keys of heaven may have been given to all the disciples (not just Peter), and perhaps even to the entire Church.

What the keys of the kingdom are is not spelled out here. The closest thing to direct references would seem to include confronting sin in the Church (Mat 18:15-18), and pronouncing forgiveness (John 20:23). Another possibility might be the interpretation of Scripture and teaching others about God (Luke 11:52).

20 Why Jesus wanted to keep His identity a secret seems very mysterious. It is possible that such a proclamation would have interfered with His ministry, as people would be drawn to Him will all kinds of unfounded expectations. It is also possible that Jesus wanted people to believe this based on the evidence of His resurrection from the dead.
22 The obvious irony is that Peter had just confessed that Jesus was the Son of God. Now he confronts God to correct Him.
23 The Old Testament says that the Messiah will establish an eternal kingdom. The Jews of the time wanted very much for the Messiah to come, free them from Roman rule, and then establish Israel as a sovereign nation again. However, the Old Testament also says that the Messiah must suffer and die. Peter was focusing on the short-term benefits for Israel. God's plan was a long-term plan that would benefit people from all nations. Satan would try to sway Jesus from fulfilling God's plan (as if that were possible).