Matthew 16:13-28 Part 2

The Lord Jesus takes His disciples to the headwaters of the River Jordan, to the Greek city of “Pan” – renamed Caesarea Phillipi by Herod’s son Phillip – in order to teach them who He is and what He is about to suffer; and then to establish in them their place in God’s covenant of salvation.

As we said last Lord’s Day, it shouldn’t be too much of a “reach” to see that the Christ has taken them to the place of such idolatry – the “peter pan” mentality, the “pantheism” of the pagan world order – in order to contrast that idolatry with the revelation of the One True God.  And that contrast is enhanced as Jesus asks His apostles “Who do men say the Son of Man to be?”  And the apostles answer with the Judaistic superstitions of martyred prophets rising up from the dead to haunt those who had tortured and killed them!  The folly of Greek mythology is “likened” to the superstitions of the Jews.

We took note last Lord’s Day of the fact that Jesus opens and closes this period of questioning-and-instruction of His apostles with the title “Son of Man”.  The question in verse thirteen “Who do men say the Son of Man to be” is followed by the statement in verse twenty-seven – “for the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of His Father….”; and Jesus’ use of that term must be seen in the light of Peter’s confession where he says, “You are the Christ, the Son of God…!” – for it is the very center of the Gospel of God that Jesus Christ was God’s Son sent to be born of man; and that the Son of Man then returned to His Father to receive power and glory and dominion!  There is no Gospel without the completed work of the “Son of Man”!

He was sent by the Father – the Son of God, and having completed His work He came back to the Father (as Daniel prophesied) as Son of Man – to receive the reward for His faithfulness.

And, further, as Matthew writes down Jesus’ exact questions to His apostles, it is unavoidable that we note the structure of Jesus’ reference to Himself.  He doesn’t say, “How do men describe Me?”, or, “What do men say about Me?”, or, “For what reason do men say that I’m here?”  He says, “Who are men saying the Son of Man to be?”  And, “But you, who do you say Me to be?”

And His reference to Himself is strikingly similar to His words as recorded by the apostle John in his book in chapter eight, verse fifty-eight where He says, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”  And both of these passages recall God’s revelation of Himself to Moses, in Exodus four, verses two and three where He says, in the Hebrew imperfect tense, “I shall be that I shall be.”  That is His Name!  And it means self-existence and absolute independence.  And the Hebrew letters which make up the verb “to be” are the letters that are used to pronounce the word Yaweh – a name that Jews would not pronounce, instead calling Him Adonai!

And here is our Lord Jesus Christ, claiming the incommunicable divinity, referring to Himself as “to be”!  It is the Name which, when applied to Him, or used by Him, is the strongest proof that He is very God of very God – the Son of God about to return to the Father as “Son of Man”.  The very One who revealed His Name to Moses – Yaweh – the One to be what He shall be.

Now, in verse seventeen, after Peter confessed Jesus, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God The Living One”, Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but My Father in the Heavens.”  So the Father has revealed it to Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God the Living One.  And because He has revealed it to him, Peter is “makarios” – blessed.  “Flesh and blood” didn’t reveal it to him – the Father did.  And that’s the substance of Peter’s being called “blessed”!

We’ll get to the meaning of the term “flesh and blood” in a minute, but first we have to deal with the term “apocalupto” – to reveal.  This is the Greek word from which comes the term “the apocalypse” – the revelation.

And the deepest meaning of this complex term rests in the Creator/creature distinction.  God is “I shall be that I shall be.”  He is self-existent and absolutely independent.  He “is that He is.”

Man, on the other hand, isn’t self-existent and independent.  He exists as a result to God having created him.  And he is totally dependant on God sustaining him in his existence!  Man, and all the rest of creation, exists because the Self-existent One – the Living One – says “let it be so.”  And it is.  So there is a manifest distinction between “I shall be that I shall be – Yaweh, and man, who is totally dependant on Him!

And the distinction between the two is so great that the self-existent One is “hidden” from that which is created – or dependant.  As Isaiah says in chapter forty-five, verse fifteen:  “truly You are God Who hides Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior….”  And truly the Creator/creature distinction is evident in the “hiddenness” of God on every page of His divine Word!  Evidently the self-existent Self is so gloriously distinctive from the creature, that He is “hidden” from the apprehension and appropriation of the creature!

But God has chosen to “reveal” Himself to His creatures.  And the word “to reveal” means to unveil, or to disclose.  It is the removal of God’s essential hiddenness from His creatures!  As Psalm ninety-eight says, as well as many other passages of Scripture, God has unveiled His hiddenness as the Lord of history – verse two of the Psalm says, “The Lord hath made known His salvation; His righteousness hath He openly showed in the sight of the heathen.”

God also reveals Himself in His holiness, as we see in His Law.  And as passages such as Isaiah chapter one say, He will have nothing except obedience, as His character is “uncovered” for His creatures.  Verses sixteen and seventeen say: 


“Learn to do well; seek judgment, deal righteously with the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow – put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil….”


So as the “self-existing One” unveils His Own morality to His creatures, He therefore demands obedience!  A people without obedience is abomination to Him.  He will destroy without obedience, rather than have the smallest portion of His holy character to be abrogated by a creature!

God also uncovers His holiness to His creatures in His grace.  As God renews the two tables of the Commandments for Moses, chapter thirty-four of Exodus, this is what He says to Moses: 


“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will, by no means, clear the guilty….”


And God not only reveals Himself as the Lord of history Whose character and holiness is the standard for all His creatures, but He also has uncovered Himself as the Creator and Sustainer of the world!  Listen to a couple of verses from Psalm thirty-three:


“By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth….  Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him, for He spake, and it was; He commanded, and it stood fast.  The Lord brings the counsel of the heathen to naught; He maketh the devices of the people of none effect.  The counsel of the Lord stands for ever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations….”


Now, all of that was just a little bit of the “disclosure” of the self-existent God to His creatures, who are “distinctively other” than He is!  And in this age of the New heavens and the New Earth the unveiling of God is fulfilled in the “appearance” of Jesus Christ, Who is the express image of His Father!  Even His earthly life was concealment – hiddenness – but after His resurrection and exaltation, He “appears” in His glory!  “To appear” is this same word for revelation – apokaluptesthai.  The pre-existent, self-existent Christ – the “I shall be that I shall be” of Exodus chapter four, the “before Abraham was, I AM” of John chapter eight, has “appeared” in His glory in the heavens where He is now Lord of Heaven and Earth!  The Son of Man accomplished all His Father’s will, and He appears in the heavens to receive His reward – dominion over all His Father’s creation!

So, to reveal means the removal of God’s essential hiddenness from His creatures!  And when Christ says to Peter, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but My Father in the heavens…” there was an exposing of the concealment of God to the man – Peter!  And that unveiling of hiddenness was the source of Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God the Living One!  And without the revealing of that “hiddenness”, Peter could not have known the thing that he confessed!  Without it being “revealed” to him, Peter would not have been able to “see”, because the distinction between the Creator and the creature is impenetrable!  He would not have been able to answer the question, “But you, who do you say the Son of Man to be?” unless the unfathomable concealment of the “I AM” had been “uncovered” to him.

And here is the reason of the use of the word “makarios” with respect to Peter.  Peter was called “blessed” because the “distinctively other” – the self-existent, absolutely independent self-knowing One – had disclosed it to him that this Jesus was the Anointed One of God, the Son of the Living God!  The exposing of the hiddenness of God the Son to Peter was the very essence of his blessedness.

Now.  Before we get to this term “flesh and blood”, which is necessary for us to do in order to eliminate any further confusion in the verses to follow, I want to spend a few minutes putting some more “flesh” on the doctrine of the self-disclosure of God as He has acted and spoken in history.

And I want to begin by saying this:  that since all men know God; and since all men are in His image and receive the imprint of His self-disclosure in all of creation and history; and since men, from the earliest, have seen and heard the acts and words of God in history; therefore mankind is a religious creature.  And down through the whole course of history man has attempted to unveil, or disclose, the impenetrable, self-existing God!  And each and every attempt is idolatry!

All through history, in every generation, there have been the establishment of religions.  And, in every generation, there have been many who have proclaimed that those religions are, at least, equal to Christianity!  Many say that their religion, or the religions of others, came before Judaism and Christianity, and are, therefore co-equal or even prior!  And since that’s the case, then they all seek the same God – each in his own way!  They’re all good!

In other words, since man has always worshipped – from Baal worship to astrology, to the Egyptian sun-god Ra, to the astoreth feminine-form worshippers, to mysticism, to Zoroastrianism, and Mani and Mahomet, and the Greek mythological character-gods, and hundreds and hundreds of others, many of which came before God called out His people Israel, then there must be true religion other than in Judeo-Christianity!

But I say to you that all of these are only attempts by man to unveil the Self-knowing, Self-existing God Who says, “I shall be that I shall be.”  And every attempt at religious activity among men has, at its very foundation, the self-disclosing words and deeds of God.  The idol will have, as its essence, omnipotence!  Or ubiquity.  Or some other attribute of Yahveh disclosed in history.  Or the Religion will have an “Eden” story, or a dragon story; or a story about a great catastrophe.  There will be codified law systems, such as in the recently-found Amarna letters, which bear similarities to the Ten Commandments.

And even in the most remote of civilizations there are worship practices, and laws of marriage, and laws of property ownership – and others!  But none of these religions began in a vacuum, or on their own!  Every religion, from the earliest recorded in history, bears a resemblance to the words and deeds of God in history!  And they should!  Because every religious activity of man is a reaction to the self-disclosure of God!  They all began as an attempt to unveil the hiddenness of God by the imaginations of men!

So don’t ever let anyone confuse you by manipulating the origins of man’s religion!  They all had their origins in the Words and deeds of God in history.  But God did not bless them, as the apostles were blessed, by revealing to them The Christ, the Son of God the living One!  He did not bless them by unveiling to them His essential hiddenness.  As the apostle Paul said to the Greeks in Athens when he saw an altar to an “unknown god”, “He is the One Whom I declare to you.”

So let me say once again that “to reveal” is not the imparting of supernatural knowledge.  Nor is it the excitement of feelings and emotions.  Nor is it a group of babbling tongues-speakers, or rising to a higher plane of spiritual awareness!  By His Word and Spirit, God removed His hiddenness from Jesus’ apostles, and they then saw that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God the living One.

Now.  Jesus said to Peter that “flesh and blood did not reveal it to him….”  And the issue now is to determine exactly what Jesus means here, and to look at other portions of Scripture in order to gain support.  Having already seen some things concerning the Creator/creature distinction, you probably have a good idea already about what it means!

But there are very clear terms in Scripture, such as “flesh and blood” and “body” and “the flesh” which are used to signify meaning.  It’s not always easy to do, but with a little work one finds that the inspired Word isn’t muddled in its meaning.  The terminology of Scripture is very specific!  We just have to learn how to distinguish the meaning of one term from the meaning of another!

And a good example of that is the meaning of the term “flesh and blood” as it is distinguished from other terms relating to the physical attributes of man.  And the apostle Paul has a very carefully laid out Theology with respect to these.  And taking his cue from Jesus Himself, he uses “flesh and blood” in a very direct way.

In chapter one of the letter to the Churches in Galatia, Paul is defending His apostleship.  And he says to them,


“But when it pleased God, Who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood… but I went into Arabia.”


Apparently Paul went into seclusion to study and prepare himself for preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles.  But the point here is that the term “flesh and blood” is used to signify man.  Paul did not confer with men, but went into the desert to be taught of Christ, since he was one untimely born and never got to be with Christ in His three years of apostolic training!

In preparing the Ephesian Churches for spiritual warfare in the nations, Paul writes to them, chapter six verse eleven:


“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of the world, against spiritual wickedness in places of authority.”


To put it simply, Paul says that our battle for the Kingdom isn’t against men, but principalities and powers.  The physical attributes of men aren’t a deterrent to the Kingdom.

I don’t want to belabor this – there are a number of these – but let me say that the term “flesh and blood” has an inclusive meaning much like the Scriptures of the Old Testament when it speaks of the flesh of men and horses and other things.  It means the human, as such, in his physical being, as distinguished from God!  God is the Creator of humans – standing apart as a Creator from His creatures – and humans are His creatures, completely distinguished from the Creator!

“Flesh and blood” is simply humanity – physical humanity.  There’s no indication of fallenness or sin involved – but only the limitations of being “human” as opposed to being the “Self-existent” I AM.

When Paul uses “flesh” alone, or “the flesh,” sin and flesh are identified with each other – such as in Galatians chapter five, verse nineteen:  “Now what the works of the flesh are is plain; fornication, uncleanness, etc….”  But Matthew doesn’t use “the flesh” here in verse seventeen of our text; he says “flesh and blood” did not reveal it to you….”  Fallible and mortal man and his intellect and reason didn’t teach you this, Peter.  Not you, yourself, nor any other creation of God.  Flesh and blood, the human creation, cannot uncover the hiddenness of God!  Man can’t unveil the personage of God the Creator for He is the Was, Is, and Shall Be, Self-existent, Self-knowing, Self-determining One Who cannot be seen or known by the creature unless He, Himself uncovers Himself!

So Peter, and others of the apostles (excluding Judas) are blessed because God the Father has disclosed to them Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God the Living One “And upon this Rock I will build My Church.”

And now may the scales of concealment be ripped away from our eyes so that we might see and know the Lord Jesus Christ Who has already come into His glory and dominion; and that we might apprehend and appropriate the exquisite beauty of His Church and its commission among the peoples of the world.