Matthew 16 – Pharisees Ask for a Sign & Aqueducts in the Roman Empire

Just Standing e1539012764245As we have seen, the wealthy are treated much better than the poor.  What about…

Matthew 16
Pharisees Ask for a Sign

1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.

1 This Christian
This Christian sarcophagus was made in the 3rd century
Although the scene left, to the top, represents Christ and Lazarus, the other scenes are from the Biblical book of Jonah.

To the left, we see how the prophet pays the fare (Jonah 1.3)

and is thrown into the sea (1.15).

To the right, we can see how the big fish vomits out the prophet (2.10).

Above the big fish, to the left, we see Jonah warning the Ninevites (3.4), and the Ninevites running to their king (3.5-6),

and to the right, we can see the prophet sleeping in the shade of a plant (4.5).

The artist obviously thought that the third scene was the most important one, because it is set in a larger context: there’s a child playing in the water, we can discern a crab, and there’s a fisherman with a bird. This elaboration of the third scene is logical, because the artist -like so many other Christians- believed that the story of Jonah’s return from the sea to the dry land was also a story about the resurrection.

It is possible that the fifth scene is also a reference to the afterlife – one gets the impression that it has to be read in two ways at the same time. In the first place, this is the prophet underneath the plant, in the second place, Jonah’s nakedness, like Adam, represents man’s return to Paradise.

“Sign from heaven” – the Pharisees wanted more compelling proof of Jesus’ divine authority than His miracles, but He refused to perform such a sign because the request came from unbelief.

2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.

3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?

4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

“The sign of the prophet Jonas” – see 12:39-40.

5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.

8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?

9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?

10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?

11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?

12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

2 The city of
The city of Caesarea Philippi is on the southwestern slope of Mount Hermon and the northernmost extent of Jesus’ ministry.

“Cesarea Philippi” – to be distinguished from the magnificent city of Caesarea, which Herod the Great had built on the coast of the Mediterranean.  Caesarea Philippi, rebuilt by Herod’s son Philip (who named it after Tiberius Caesar and himself), was 25 miles north of the sea of Galilee, near the slopes of mount Hermon.

Originally it was called Paneas (the ancient name survives today as Banias) in honor of the Greek god Pan, who shrine was located there.  The region was especially pagan.

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

”Christ” – or Messaih, both mean “the Anointed One.”  The word/Name in regard to the Lord carries the idea of being chosen by God, consecrated to His service and endued with His power to accomplish the assigned task.

Toward the end of the Old Testament period the word assumed a special kingdom (Dan 9:25-26).  The ideas that clustered around the title Messiah tended to be political and national in nature.  Probably for that reason Jesus seldom used the term.  Jesus did, on occasion acknowledged Himself as Messiah.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

3 Tiberius was Roman
Tiberius was Roman Emperor from 14 A.D. to 37 A.D. Born Tiberius Claudius Nero, a Claudian, Tiberius was the son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 B.C., making him a step-son of Octavian.

Tiberius would later marry Augustus’ daughter Julia the Elder (from his marriage to Scribonia) and even later be adopted by Augustus, by which act he officially became a Julian, bearing the name Tiberius Julius Caesar. The subsequent emperors after Tiberius would continue this blended dynasty of both families for the next forty years; historians have named it the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

In relations to the other emperors of this dynasty, Tiberius was the stepson of Augustus, grand-uncle of Caligula, paternal uncle of Claudius, and great-grand uncle of Nero.

Peter…rock…church” – in the Greek “Peter” is petros (“detached stone”) and “rock” is petra (“bedrock”).  Several interpretations have been given to these words.

The “bedrock” on which the church is built (1) Christ; (2) Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah (v. 16); (3) Christ’s teachings – one of the great emphasis of Matthew’s Gospel; (4) Peter himself, understood in terms of his role on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the Cornelius incident (Acts 10) and his leadership  among the apostles.

Eph 2:20 indicates that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” via Jesus Christ.

“Hell” – the Greek name for the place of departed spirits, generally equivalent to the Hebrew Sheol.  The “gates of hell” may mean the “powers of death,” i.e., the forces opposed to Christ and His kingdom.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

“Keys” – perhaps Peter used these keys on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) when he announced that the door of the kingdom was unlocked to Jews and proselytes and later when he acknowledged that it was also opened to Gentiles (Acts 10).

“Bind…loose” _ not authority to determine, but to announce, guilt or innocence.

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

“That they should tell no man” – because of  the false concepts of the Jews, who looked for an exclusively national and political Messiah, Jesus told His disciples not to publicize Peter’s confession, lest it precipitate a revolution against Rome.

21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

4 Mount Hermon
Mount Hermon is a mountain cluster in the Anti-Lebanon mountain range. Its summit straddles the border between Syria and Lebanon[and, at 2,814 m (9,232 ft) above sea level, is the highest point in Syria.

Today, on the top there is “Hermon Hotel”, in the buffer zone between Syria and Israeli-occupied territory, the highest permanent manned UN position in the world.

The southern slopes of Mount Hermon extend to the Israeli-occupied portion of the Golan Heights, where the Mount Hermon ski resort is located. A peak in this area rising to 2,236 m (7,336 ft) is the highest elevation in Israeli-controlled territory.

23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

“Take up his cross” – the picture is of a man already condemned required to carry the beam of his own cross to the place of execution (see Jn 19:17).  Cross-bearing is a willingness to suffer and die for the Lord’s sake.

25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

There are two main interpretations of this verse: 1. it is a prediction of the transfiguration, demonstrated that Jesus will return in His Father’s glory (16:27).  2. It refers to the Son of man’s authority and kingly reign in His post-resurrection church.  Some of His disciples will witness – even participate in – this as described in the book of Acts.  The context seems to favor the first view.

Aqueducts in the Roman Empire

The growth of Rome and other cities around the Roman Empire was made possible by the aqueducts, which supplied fresh water to urban areas that would otherwise have been limited to local sources that could not have supported populations of up to one million, in Rome’s case, and were often polluted.

5 The Pont du Gard
The Pont du Gard in southern France was erected by Romans in the 1st century B.C. to supply water to the city of Nemausus (Nimes),

Engineers who designed aqueducts like the one shown here used the principle of the arch to distribute the weight of the structure and relied on gravity to carry water from sources at higher elevations to the city, where it flowed through lead pipes to fountains and baths.

Public baths promoted public health and were a popular diversion. Many featured both cold and warm pools, heated by furnaces circulating water beneath the tiles.

6 Ruins of a Roman
Ruins of a Roman public bath in Dion, Greece, showing the under-floor heating system, or hypocaust

In the late days of the empire, when Rome was besieged by Germanic invaders, all but one aqueduct was cut off. The city’s public water supply remained inadequate throughout the Middle Ages.

…slavery in the Roman Empire.

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