Prophet Events of Matthew 16
Jan 25, 2010
Matthew 16 opens with a discussion about SIGNS. Jesus said in verse 4,
"an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it except the sign of Jonah."
Of course, signs themselves are not the problem. Signs of the times abound, because God is constantly speaking. But when "an evil and adulterous generation" (offspring) seek signs, the only sign they will get is "the sign of Jonah."
By the way, Jesus was NOT saying that only evil and adulterous people look for signs. In fact, in the previous verse he chided the Pharisees and Sadducees for not being able to discern the signs of the times. Jesus was simply saying that when evil people look for signs, without having spiritual discernment, no sign would be revealed to them except the sign of Jonah.
The sign of Jonah, first and foremost, was the sign of the death and resurrection of Jesus Himself. That is the door opener. Even as Jonah was in the belly of the whale and then was vomited out (signifying death and resurrection), so also would Jesus die and be raised from the dead.
Secondarily, the sign has to do with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jonah's name means "dove," and when he indwelt the whale (beast body), it was a sign that God indwells human flesh. This is the great "mystery" that was revealed in the NT, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27).
This was incomprehensible to many in that day, because they could not conceive of a holy God tainting Himself by touching material objects. Matter was considered evil, and spirit good. They did not know the humility of God, nor did they believe that God had pronounced matter to be "very good" in the first chapter of Genesis.
Neither did they understand the Fruitfulness Mandate of Gen. 1:28, which shows God's intent not only to bring forth many physical children, but to bring forth the Sons of God.
Jesus had this conversation at "the region of Magadan" (Matt. 15:39). The disciples had forgotten to take food with them for the trip (16:5). Jesus then told them in verse 6, "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." At first they thought He was chiding them for not bringing food with them. But He reminded them of the two crowds that He had fed earlier. Lack of food was clearly not a problem.
Instead, He was reminding them of the real meaning of those miracles. The underlying meaning was about "leaven" (corruption, tainted food) in the teachings of the religious leaders. Their teachings were "leavened," because they had set aside the divine law and replaced it with the traditions of men (15:9).
We are then introduced to the next topic in the flow of prophetic teaching. It was the question of identity. "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" (16:13).
Peter, of course, came up with the right answer, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus responds in verse 17,
"Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."
Peter is called "Simon," and we are also given the name of his father, Jonah. The term Bar Jonahmeans "son of Jonah." This immediately connects Peter with the prophet Jonah, who is mentioned earlier in the chapter.
What is the connection?
First, you must understand that Jonah is a type of Christ, not only in His first coming, but also in the second. Jonah was called TWICE to go to Nineveh and preach the word. The first time he ran the other direction and thus had an encounter with a great fish. God used his very disobedience to give him a type of death and resurrection, and in so doing, He became a type of Christ in His first coming.
Then, God called Jonah a second time in Jonah 3:1, 2,
(1) Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, (2) Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.
Jonah then went to Nineveh, "the city of fish," and proclaimed the Word of the Lord. The whole city was converted, much to the dismay of Jonah, who would have preferred to see the city destroyed. As a prophet, Jonah knew that Nineveh, "the city of fish," was destined to swallow up the house of Israel soon. Jonah's own experience had prophesied of the destiny of the entire house of Israel for its refusal to obey the word of the Lord. Hence, Hosea 7:11 says,
"So Ephraim has become like a silly DOVE [Jonah], without sense; they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria."
Nineveh, of course, was the capital of Assyria. Again in Hosea 8:8 and 9, we read,
"Israel is swallowed up; they are now among the nations . . . for they have gone up to Assyria."
It is a marvelous thing to see how God works all things out for good. Israel's very disobedience (like Jonah) is the occasion by which Israel was to be swallowed up by Assyria, also providing a prophetic sign of the Holy Spirit being given to THE NATIONS. Or, as Paul put it in Romans 11:11, "by their transgression, salvation has come to the Nations."
All of this is prophesied in the story of Jonah. The first call of Jonah brought about the first sign of Christ--that is, His death and resurrection. The second call of Jonah brought about the sign of the salvation of the world. This is the purpose of the second coming of Christ, which has to do with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Dove) who indwells human flesh.
Even as the first coming of Christ involved the two-step process of death and resurrection, so also does the second coming of Christ bring us the Holy Spirit in two parts. Part 1 began at Pentecost with the earnest of the Spirit being given. Part 2 is the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles, which completes the work by giving us "all the fullness of God."
Getting back to the account in Matthew 16, we see here the reason why Jesus called Peter by the name, "Simon Bar-Jona." In the sequence of prophetic events which began in Matthew 14, "Peter" walked on the water, but also began to sink. The name Peter means a stone, or "Little Rock." As Peter, he began to sink in the water, because that is what little rocks do naturally. Jesus pulled him up out of the water. In this, he was portraying the first sign of Jonah--the sign of death and resurrection.
Later, in the power of His confession of faith, Peter is no longer Peter, but Simon Bar-Jona. His confession is the synopsis and focus of the entire NT message that was to be preached to Nineveh--that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. That was to be the message of God to the nations that would result in the salvation of the world.
A related prophetic story is in the two ROCKS that brought forth water in the days of Moses. The first time, Moses was supposed to smite the rock--and he did so (Ex. 17:6). Paul says that "the rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:4).
The second time, however, Moses was told to SPEAK to the rock, because it represented the second work of Christ--the work of preaching the word to Nineveh. Moses disobeyed in Num. 20:11 and smote the rock again. This disqualified him from being a type of Christ in His second coming, and so the job passed on to Joshua, the Ephraimite.
Peter represents the first "rock." Simon Bar-Jona represents the second rock, because "Simon" means HEARING. His confession of faith overturned Moses' disobedience, because he was now Simon Peter, the HEARING ROCK. Thus, Peter succeeds under the New Covenant where Moses had failed under the Old.