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Sabbath School Lessons on Matthew
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 8: Peter and the Rock *
Introduction: Have you ever been in a situation where the solution to
a problem is right in front of you, but somehow you cannot see it?
Someone else will come by, point out the solution, and you cannot
believe that you missed the obvious! In our study of Matthew this
week, he illustrates this kind of situation with those who crossed
paths with Jesus. Let's dig into our study and learn more so that we
will not be oblivious and miss the spiritually obvious!
- Read Matthew 16:1. Jesus performs all sorts of miracles.
Should He perform one now? (While I think Jesus' miracles
have the effect of confirming who He is, texts such as
Matthew 14:14 tell us that Jesus' miracles are motivated
by compassion. These religious leaders are merely
- Read Matthew 16:2-3. What is the problem with the
religious leaders? (They ignore the obvious: that Jesus is
- Are we like those religious leaders? Do we ignore
what the Bible says and how it applies to our life,
and instead ask Jesus for a special sign?
- Read Matthew 16:4. Jesus says that they will be given the
"sign of Jonah." What do you think that means? (The most
sophisticated and obscure answer is that Jonah went down
into the water and rose to life when the fish spit him out
(Jonah 2). Jesus will go down into the earth, and rise to
eternal life. The more obvious answer is that God-ordained
events overtook Jonah. God-ordained events will overtake
these religious leaders. The rejection of Jesus leads to
the destruction of Jerusalem.)
- Read Matthew 16:5-11. Why is Jesus complaining about the
disciples lack of faith, rather than their lack of
intelligence? (No problem they faced would be due to a
lack of bread - they had just seen those miracles. Yet
they assumed Jesus' point had to do with a lack of bread.)
- When we face difficult choices, should we ever factor
in the possibility that Jesus will not help us?
- Read Matthew 16:12. Why would Jesus use "yeast" to
represent the teachings of the religious leaders?
( Leviticus 2:11 forbids the use of yeast (leaven) in
making any offering to God. New Unger's Bible Dictionary
comments that yeast causes "disintegration and corruption,
[which] symbolized evil and the energy of sin." You don't
want your teaching described that way!)
- The Rock
- Read Matthew 16:13-14. Would those answers discourage you
if you were Jesus?
- Read Matthew 16:15-18. This is a much debated text. On
what will Jesus build His church? (Jesus says that He will
build it on Peter.)
- Are you less certain of this answer if I told you
that Peter means "rock?" If Peter means "rock," then
to what is Jesus referring when He talks about
building the church on the rock? (It seems hard to
give too much credit to the answer, "Peter," because
Jesus says that the correct answer was given "by my
Father in heaven" - not Peter. Perhaps we should
conclude that the rock on which the church is built
are those individuals (like Peter)who speak what God
has revealed to them.)
- What is the revelation given to Peter? (That Jesus is
"the Son of the Living God.")
- Wait! Does that alter what you think Jesus means by
"the rock" on which He will build His church? ("The
rock" is not merely those through whom the Holy
Spirit gives understanding, rather, it is
understanding the most important spiritual point -
that Jesus is God. He is the Messiah. He is the "Son
of the Living God." Jesus' church will be built on
Spirit-filled individuals who understand that Jesus
- You know I often urge you to look at the context when
trying to understand the meaning of a text. What has
Matthew been doing throughout his gospel? (Proving
that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is God.)
- How does that "nudge" our understanding of the
rock? (Matthew has not been promoting Peter, he
has been promoting the divinity of Jesus. That
is another element of proof regarding what
Jesus means here.)
- Read Matthew 16:19. Is Jesus turning judgment over to the
disciples, who a few minutes ago could not even figure out
whether He was talking about bread? (I hope not! If the
"rock" is a Spirit-filled understanding of who Jesus is,
then we can see that everyone who accepts this critical
understanding is released to eternal life, and those who
reject this critical understanding are bound for eternal
- Read Matthew 16:20. Why not share this critically
important news? (It was not the right time. In our
evangelistic efforts we need to listen to the Holy Spirit
about the right time to share.)
- The Rebuke
- Read Matthew 16:21-23. One moment Peter has God speaking
through him and the next moment Peter is speaking for
Satan. Does that sound right? (Read James 3:10-12. In the
past, I've understood James to say this is not possible.
Peter shows that it is possible - and frankly, I'm
grateful for Matthew's account that shows that often we
send out contradictory messages. But, James is right that
this "should not be.")
- Re-read Matthew 16:23. When Jesus tells Peter he has
in mind the "things of men," what things are those?
- Does it seem wrong to conclude that "the Son of the
Living God" cannot be killed? (Peter wanted Jesus to
be the Messiah who would rule, and Jesus knew He must
be the Messiah who died for His people.)
- Read Matthew 16:24. Does this seem grim to you? Who wants
to do this? (Recall that context is important. Jesus'
statement here is strong because He wants to disabuse the
disciples of their vision of earthly power.)
- Read John 15:10-13. This is another discussion about
"giving up," but in the context of "joy." How do you
explain this? (Obedience to God involves giving up our own
selfish way. Because God knows what is best for us, that
- The Reward
- Read Matthew 16:25-27. Do you agree? (A sign of maturity
is sacrificing now for a greater reward later. What we
sacrifice now cannot compare to the eternal glory we will
- Read Matthew 16:28. Is Jesus misleading the disciples? It
is now thousands of years later, and Jesus has not come!
(Many try to say that Jesus is not speaking of His Second
Coming, but the immediately preceding verses tell us that
is what Jesus is talking about.)
- Read Matthew 17:1-5. What would you call this event? (Is
this not a foretaste of Jesus' Second Coming? Isn't this
the power of heaven being seen by some of the disciples?
Context shows that this is what Jesus meant when he said
some of His disciples would "see the Son of Man coming"
during their lifetime.)
- Giving Offense
- Read Matthew 17:24. What issues do you think Peter
considered in answering this question? (Whether Jesus pays
His religious obligations.)
- Read Matthew 17:25. What issue does Jesus suggest is at
the heart of the question? (Whether Jesus is the Son of
God - since this is the temple tax.)
- Read Matthew 17:26-27. Should Jesus compromise on the
issue of who He is? Didn't we just decide that is the
most important issue for humans?
- Why does giving "offense" matter when we are
discussing the core issue of Christianity? Isn't it
worse to compromise?(Jesus does not compromise the
core issue. Who can catch a fish with exact change in
its mouth? At the same time, Jesus makes the
important point that we should not offend people who
are just doing their job.)
- Friend, the disciples seem to often miss the obvious
point. The religious leaders missed the obvious point.
Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will reveal the
obvious to us. Will you, right now, ask the Holy Spirit to
give you spiritual understanding?
- Next week: Idols of the Soul (and other Lessons From Jesus).
* Copr. 2016, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.