- For what reasons does Christ condemn the religious outlook of the Pharisees? How may we be in danger of similar failure?
- These verses emphasize the importance of man’s heart. Cf. 5:8, 28; 12:34; 18:35. What is meant here by the word ‘heart’? Cf. Is. 10:7, AV and RV. How then can a person’s actions be put right?
- What are the three groups of people to whom Christ speaks in these verses? Do you notice any difference in his manner of teaching them? Has this any implication for Christian teaching today?
- Verses 21-28. Why did our Lord treat the Canaanite women in this way? Do you see the purpose behind it? Cf. Luke 11:8; 18:1; 1 Pet. 1:7. Contrast Matt. 8:23, 26; 15:28, 30, 31.
- In all the miracles in this passage Christ seems to be dealing with Gentiles. Note the phrase ‘the God of Israel’ in verse 31. This seems to be contrary to the principle of verse 24. What was our Lord thus beginning to reveal concerning the full purpose of his mission? Cf. Matt. 24:14; 28:19; Rom. 1:16 (the last eight words).
Note: Verse 37. The word for ‘basket’ here is sphuris, the large Gentile basket, contrasted with the Jewish kophinos in 14:20. The same accuracy of distinction is found in 16:9, 10.
- Christ condemns, in verses 1-4, the Jews’ inability to read ‘the signs of the times’. What does he mean by this? How were the disciples similarly guilty? See verses 5-12. What response should such signs produce?
- Verses 13-20. This incident at Caesarea Philippi is clearly the ‘hinge-point’ of the Gospel narrative. From now on Christ withdraws from the crowds, and concentrates on teaching the disciples. Why is the question about this person so crucial? Cf. 1 John 4:2, 3; 5:1a, 5.
- Note the three things that our Lord says to Peter in verses 17-19. With verse 17, cf. 1 Cor. 12:3; with verse 18, cf. 1 Cor. 3:11; 1 Pet. 2:4-6; and with verse 19, cf. 18:18; John 20:23.
Note: Verses18, 19. There is a play on words in Greek in verse 18 (see mg.). ‘Petros’ means ‘stone’; ‘petra’ means ‘rock’. Note that Christ did not say, ‘On you I will build my church.’ Peter had just made the classic confession of faith in Christ. Equally in verses 22, 23 he can be seen as an agent of Satan. The power of the keys, i.e., of ‘loosing’ and ‘binding’, is one of the great authority; but it is that of steward rather than a door-keeper. The keys are the keys of knowledge (cf. Luke 11:52) which Christ entrusts to those who preach the gospel, and thus ‘open the kingdom of heaven to all believers’.
- 16:21 indicates Christ’s clear awareness of the cross ahead. The word ‘must’ expresses a sense of inward necessity. What does this reveal about the character of Christ’s death?
- What are the terms of discipleship (verse 24)? What incentive does Christ put forward in verses 25-28 to encourage his disciple to pay the cost? What did Peter particularly need to learn (verse 22, 23)?
- In the story of the transformation (17:1-14), can you see its purpose: (a) for Christ himself, and (b) for his disciples?
Note: 16:28. The reference here to ‘the Son of Man coming in his kingdom’ would seem to be not to his second advent but to his post-resurrection triumph and exaltation to the throne.
- Verses 14-20. What were the reasons for the powerlessness of the disciples? What does Christ tell them is the one indispensable secret of success?
- Verses 24-27. What practical lesson is enshrined in the story of the temple tax? What does it teach about the Christian’s responsibility towards his fellow-men? Cf. 1 Cor. 10:31-33; Rom. 13:6, 7.