Matthew 16 follows the story of Jesus feeding the four thousand in chapter 15. There, Jesus demonstrated his compassion for the crowd, not wanting to send them away hungry. After all, they had been with him for three days. What we find in Matthew 16 was a very different attitude. Jesus used harsh language to criticize the Pharisees and Sadducees. He highlighted their lack of discernment or perception when he said, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” They were oblivious to the very signs Jesus had performed. They seemed to be missing who Jesus truly was and is.
Peter was no different in that he correctly identified Jesus as the Christ, only to be rebuked by Jesus a few verses later, showing he may not have fully understood what the Christ was meant to do—die on the cross. One thing is clear from this section in Matthew: if anyone is to follow in the ways of Jesus, if they genuinely want to understand who he is and have their lives shaped by him, they must deny themselves, take up their cross, and be willing to die for him and follow.