Matthew 11:27 may not seem like a “hard saying,” that is, difficult to understand, but it is indeed. It reads: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” What is Jesus really saying here? Did this apply in His day only? Or is it still true today? What Jesus said was that the only way both God the Father and the Son could be known is by means of divine revelation. In brief, one simply cannot decide to become a Christian, and his wish be granted. Most theologians would strongly disagree with the above statement, and even with what Jesus Himself said. They would ignore it, or put a spin on it to change the meaning. But the Bible means exactly what it says, and Jesus’ statement is very plain. The fact is: Human intellect and intelligence will not of themselves guarantee the knowledge of God. This truth comes by revelation from God only. For most theologians, Jesus’ statement is indeed hard!
Look at verse 27 again. Jesus said: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father . . . . ” Jesus states that even what He taught was not of Himself. It came from the Father by means of revelation. He then went on to say, ” . . . no man knoweth the Son, but the Father . . . .” He meant that only the Father really comprehended who the Son was, His mission and purpose, and who He was before His human birth. During Christ’s time the Jews were utterly confused about Christ’s identity and pre-existence. The same kind of confusion exists today. The doctrine of the Trinity is an example. As one theologian admitted: “One is in danger of losing his soul by denying the Trinity and of losing his wits by trying to understand it.” Many people are just as confused today about the Father and the Son as those living in the time of Christ.
Jesus continued, ” . . . neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son . . . .” Clearly, the Jews in Christ’s day did not know the Father. Jesus said He came to reveal the Father. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). Christ made the Father known; But He did not reveal the Father to everyone. Jesus said, “. . . neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matt. 11:27). The Father inspired Christ when He was on the earth, and since Christ is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), He inspires us today. Those called of God know the Father, and the Son, and the knowledge of the Truth (John 14:16-17, 26). Divine revelation is the means by which the knowledge of God is given.
A statement that supports Matthew 11:27, is recorded in John 6:44. We read: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him . . .” Jesus clearly revealed that those allowed to enter into a relationship with Him do so as the result of a call from the Father. For proof, Christ quoted the prophets. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God . . .” (v. 45). This quote comes from Isaiah 54:13. “And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.” Why did Jesus quote this text? Because it provides proof that the only way one can enter into a relationship with Christ, and understand the Truth, is by inspiration from the Spirit of God. Human intellect, intelligence, or mental prowess do not give anyone an understanding of God’s Truth. The words of Christ are in opposition to the views of many theologians today who believe their insight into the Scriptures is the Bible revelation. They cannot accept this “hard saying” of Jesus.
Matthew 12:30 is another “hard saying” because it appears to be in contradiction with Mark 9:39. Matthew 12:30 reads: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” On the other hand, Mark 9:38 states: “. . . Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.” Notice Jesus’ reply: “. . . Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me” (v. 39). So, in the one instance Jesus seemed to say that anyone not with Him was against Him, while in the other, He seemed to say that anyone who performed a miracle in His name (whether with His disciples or not) was for Him. Do these two texts contradict?
Christ’s comment in Matthew 12:30, refers back to the Pharisees, who accused Him of performing miracles by the power of Satan. See Matthew 12:22-29. In verse 30, Jesus made it plain that there are only two parties in the universe-God and Satan. The Pharisees, who belonged to Satan, did not act with Christ, but were against Him. Therefore, those who do not aid Him, in effect, oppose Him, though most are unaware of it. Jesus made it plain by this remark there can be no league between God and Satan.
In Mark 9:38, the man who performed the miracle gave sufficient proof that he was attached to Jesus, even if not in His immediate company. By working miracles, the man gave proof that he was not the enemy of God. Christ opposed no one who gave evidence that he loved Him. What the man did was in the name of Christ, and, therefore, had the approbation of God. The man obviously believed the gospel, and did not belong to Satan or promulgate false doctrine, as did the Pharisees (John 8:44). This is why Jesus said: “For he that is not against us is on our part” (Mark 9:40). Therefore, the man should not have been prevented from doing God’s service. Matthew 12:30 and Mark 9:39 do not contradict.
Matthew 16:18 is another “hard saying” because it has been misunderstood by so many. The text reads: “And I say also unto thee [Peter], That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” What did Jesus mean by this remark? Did He appoint Peter to be the head of the Church?
Notice what led up to this remark:
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? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven (Matt. 16:13-17).
This, then, led to Jesus’ statement in verse 18. The key to understanding verse 18 is found in the meaning of the words “peter,” and “rock.” The word “peter” means “stone.” The word “rock” means a “mass of rock,” “a rock ledge,” or “rock cliff.” See, for example, Revelation 6:15-16. Peter played an important role in the beginning of the New Testament Church, but he was not the head of the Apostles. The massive stone or rock upon which the Church was built was Christ, not Peter. See Ephesians 2:18-20, Acts 4:10-11. This was seen during the Jerusalem Conference. The Apostle James made the final judgment, not Peter (Acts 15:13, 19). In Antioch, Paul publicly took Peter to task for his conduct toward the Gentile brethren (Gal. 2:11). So, while Peter was one stone, he was not the chief corner stone. The Church was not built upon Peter. The massive stone upon which the Church was built was Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 16:19, Jesus then said: “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.” A key is used for entering-the way or means by which one may enter into the Kingdom of God. Jesus referred to this way when He told the Pharisees and lawyers: “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matt. 23:13. “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered” (Luke 11:52).
Since “thee” and “thou” in Matthew 16:19 are in the singular, Jesus was speaking to Peter. As noted above, Peter was decisive in the establishment of the New Testament Church. See for example Acts 2:14; 8:14. See also, Acts 10 where Peter was instrumental in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. But responsibility was not limited to Peter. In Matthew 18:18, Jesus gave the same instruction to the all the Apostles. The words “you” and “ye” are in the plural. After Jesus ascended into the heavens, the knowledge that He gave to the Apostles was preached to the world. All the Apostles possessed the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” All were given the responsibility of “binding” or “loosing” what was already bound or loosed in heaven. Since the Apostles possessed the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” they had the true knowledge of the doctrine of the kingdom of heaven. They were capable at all times to pronounce judgments that were binding or loosing in accordance with what God had already ratified in heaven.
Many of the “hard sayings” of Jesus are hard because they are difficult to understand. The next one to consider is Mark 8:33, where Jesus called Peter “Satan.” To understand why, we must realize that the religious leaders rejected Christ because they did not want to lose their status in society. The people followed these leaders, but also rejected Christ because they were disappointed in Him. Their concept of the Messiah was that He would free them from the Roman yoke. Peter also must have had this view. Jesus told the disciples that “. . . the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). Peter took offense at this, and “began to rebuke him” (v. 32). What did Christ do? “But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men” (Mark 8:33).
Remember, on more than one occasion the people wanted to make Jesus king (John 6:15; 12:12-13). This is what Satan promised Christ if He would worship him. Matthew 4:8-9 reads: “. . . The devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” How did Jesus respond? “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (v. 10). Jesus knew that by obeying Satan He would be guilty of idolatry.
Jesus came as the sacrificial Lamb of God-to die for the sins of the world. He did not come at that time to be the Conquering King. He will come as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” at His second coming (Rev. 19:11-16). Even the disciples did not understand this. This is why Peter said what he did. He did not comprehend the purpose of God. Christ sharply rebuked him and said that this idea was not of God, but of Satan. Had Christ accepted Satan’s offer at the beginning of His ministry, He would have sinned and could not have been our Savior. Peter unknowingly was acting as a mouthpiece for Satan. Christ rebuked him for arguing that God’s plan for the sacrifice of Christ could be thwarted by Satan’s influence over the thinking of men.