Matthew 16: "Thou Art the Christ"

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 24–25


By the time of the events described in Matthew 16, many people had witnessed the Savior’s miraculous power. Those who truly believed in Him, however, were still small in number. Why weren’t more converted? Weren’t His miracles evidence enough that He was the Christ, the promised Messiah? As you read Matthew 16, look for what the Pharisees and Sadducees asked for that Jesus refused to give. Also look for what Jesus taught His disciples that truly brings testimony and converts people.

Understanding the Scriptures

Matthew 16

Discern (v. 3)Decide 
Leaven (vv. 6, 11)Yeast; used to make bread rise 
Reason (v. 8)Examine 
Prevail (v. 18)Overcome 
Bind (v. 19)Tie together (or seal together) 
Rebuke (v. 22)To demand someone stop doing something, to correct 
Savourest (v. 23)Desire 
Deny himself (v. 24)Forget one’s self and interests 

Matthew 16:18—What Is the “Rock” Jesus Spoke about to Peter?

Joseph Smith

The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Jesus in His teaching says, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ What rock? Revelation” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,  274).

President David O. McKay wrote: “By that [Matthew 16:18] He meant that as Simon’s name ‘Peter’ means rock, so this testimony that comes by revelation shall be the rock upon which Christ’s Church shall be built” (Ancient Apostles [1964], 34; see also Matthew 16:18, footnote a).

Jesus taught Peter what Peter and all other prophets and apostles have taught since—that the strength of the Church is the testimony that Jesus is the Christ, which comes by revelation through the power of the Holy Ghost to the individual members.

Matthew 16:19—“The Keys of the Kingdom”

Peter was promised the priesthood keys that would allow him and the other Apostles to direct the Church on earth after the Lord’s death and resurrection, including the right to lawfully administer all of the ordinances necessary for exaltation. Especially notice that Peter was promised that the ordinances he performed on earth would be valid in heaven as well. Thus, among other things, he eventually received the power to seal husbands, wives, and children together forever. We read about how he obtained those keys in Matthew 17.

Matthew 16:20—Why Did Jesus Not Want His Disciples to Tell Anyone He Was the Christ?

Toward the end of Jesus’ three-year ministry, He taught more openly that He was the Christ—the Messiah of the Jews. This angered the Jewish leaders and led directly to His Crucifixion. Asking His disciples not to publicly teach this doctrine at that time allowed Him to continue teaching the gospel message and not anger the Jews before it was His time to be tried and crucified.

Studying the Scriptures

Do activities A and B as you study Matthew 16.

Activity A Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—Matthew 16:15–19

  1. 1.

    Jesus asked a question in Matthew 16:15. After Peter answered, what did Jesus teach him about that answer?

  2. 2.

    According to what Jesus told Peter, how important is it that Church members receive their testimony in this way? (see also the “Understanding the Scriptures” section above).

  3. 3.

    Instead of the kind of testimony Peter had, what did the Pharisees and Sadducees want? What did Jesus say about what they wanted? (see Matthew 16:1–4).

  4. 4.

    Why was the testimony Peter received more powerful and converting than the “testimony” the Pharisees and Sadducees asked for?

Activity B iconFollowing Jesus

In Matthew 16:24–28 we read what Jesus taught His disciples about what it means to follow Him. For each of the following situations, tell which phrases or verses you would use to respond to the following situations (do not forget to use the Joseph Smith Translation):

  1. 1.

    You are offered a scholarship to a university to play on a sports team. The only condition is that you agree not to serve a mission, since the coach feels it would hurt your development as an athlete.

  2. 2.

    Fasting gives you a headache and you do not feel that it helps you. No one is home to stop you from eating so you head for the kitchen.

  3. 3.

    You are offered a job that pays a large salary but will keep you from Church every Sunday and will require you to spend a lot of time away from your family. The man who offers it promises you that it will only last about 10–12 years, saying, “If you’ll devote yourself to this, in the end you will gain great wealth for yourself, which you could then use to enjoy whatever you want with your family and to do things for your Church.”

  4. 4.

    A class member at school has obtained a copy (with answers) of a very important upcoming exam. A group of class members are meeting together to study it. They have invited you.