Tonight for our Wednesday Night Bible Study, I will be going back over Matthew 16 and the discussions on faith/unbelief that are there. Jesus encounters the Pharisees who ask for a sign, the Disciples who are confused about Jesus’ warnings about the teachings of the Pharisees and do not exhibit faith, Peter and his confession of faith and then Peter and his rebuke of Jesus because he had in mind the things of men instead of God. Finally, it ends with Jesus telling his disciples that they must deny themselves if they want to follow him. The whole progression of this chapter speaks to where faith comes from (revelation from God), what hinders it (the flesh and the things of men), and how unbelief can spread like yeast through dough. We talked about this last week, but tonight, I am going to use this chapter to initiate a dialogue with Dr. Matt Jordan, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Auburn University Montgomery and a member of our church. Below are the Scriptures and the questions that we will be exploring from the encounters that Jesus has.
Matthew 16 – An Apologetic and Philosophical Dialogue
1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
- There are many who do not believe in God or accept the claims that the Bible makes about Jesus. They say that there is no evidence and that there is no way to prove God’s existence, so they cannot believe. What do you say to them?
- What do you say to those who demand proof? What often lies behind a demand for proof of God’s existence? Is there anything that would satisfy this type of question?
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees
5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
- What is the nature of “faith” when it comes to accepting the existence of God? Is “faith” a valid defense? Obviously, “faith” claims can be manipulated, but what is the relationship between “faith” and proof or solid reasons for belief?
- Is it possible to argue someone into belief? What should our legitimate goals be in relating to unbelievers in this kind of way? Jesus seems to be pointing to evidence. How can we follow this example? What are some things that we can point to?
- Questioning is good and needed – but how can questioning/doubt be counter-productive? What are some parallels here to what Jesus is warning us about in our intellectual quest after God?
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
- Jesus speaks here of revelation in knowing his identity. Obviously, Jesus spoke of it, so it is needed. But, how do we understand the role of supernatural revelation in apologetic pursuits with unbelievers?
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
- Peter had revelation and faith, but he began to then act arrogantly and dictate the work of God from his own perspective. How can this approach be damaging to our witness with unbelievers?
Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
- What is the role of humility in both coming to faith ourselves and in sharing our faith with those who do not believe?
- How can denying ourself in our interactions with unbelievers help us learn from them and communicate with them more effectively?
- Any other thoughts or experiences along these lines?