Jesus and His disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee again in our last visit with Him. Today He and His disciples have made it all the way to Caesarea Philippi. This was probably a couple of day’s journey, from looking at the map. It was at the northern end of the Jezreel Valley. I find myself, once again wondering what happened on that trip and in between the “then” and “now” in Matthew’s story. I realize that the bible would take up a storehouse if everything that Jesus did and said while on Earth was recorded. Also, as with most of our lives, there would probably be a lot of mundane minutia in such a detailed account. I suppose the writers simply skipped to the good parts in their stories. I know I do when describing my life. This account is another VERY monumental happenings in Jesus’ travels.
Jesus had a question in His heart that He wanted answered. As God, He could have simply known the answer by looking in each heart. But He wanted to hear the answer out loud. Is it possible that He wanted the OTHER disciples to hear the answer out loud? Was He using the Q&A session as a faith builder for the whole group?
The first question Jesus asked was, “Who do people say that I am?” Matthew doesn’t tell us who answered this question. I wonder if more than one of His disciples threw out answers. Their responses were John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets. I wonder where they heard these comparisons bandied about. Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead. Did the Pharisees and Sadducees believe He was one of the prophets? Jesus was believed to be a reincarnation one of the greatest prophets in Israel’s history. The people did not count Him as a minor prophet.
Now for the $64,000 question, “But who do you say I am?” (verse 15). I am not surprised that Peter was the one to answer. He seemed to be the unofficial spokesman among the disciples. He was also not afraid of taking a risk or making a mistake. He was the only one to even ask to get out of the boat. Peter replies with divine revelation knowledge; “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (verse 16).
Was Peter’s response immediate? Were the disciples contemplating this question for a few seconds or minutes before Peter pipes up? What was running through Jesus mind while He waited for the answer?
Jesus is not surprised by Peter’s answer. He informs him immediately where this information came from. I wonder if Peter recognized the significance of Jesus’ response. Peter, a simple fisherman, heard directly from God. Peter didn’t have to wonder if what he had been thinking was correct. Jesus confirmed what Peter knew in his heart. Peter’s vocalization and Jesus’ response, informed (or confirmed) Jesus’ identity for the rest of the group.
Jesus addresses Peter personally for the rest of our reading. Did Jesus’ words to Peter fill him with pride or humble him? I tend to believe that Peter became puffed up and prideful as a result of Jesus’ commendation. Mark 8:32 Peter actually takes Jesus aside and rebukes Him for foretelling His death. Mark’s gospel has this event immediately follow Jesus’ commendation of Peter’s answer.
The statement Jesus made regarding “building His Church on the rock brings” a lot of controversy. I am NOT an expert and will not even try and convince you of Jesus’ exact meaning. I will however offer my opinion and you can take it for what it is worth.
Peter has just confessed that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. That belief is THE cornerstone, or rock, for salvation. In John 3:16, belief in Jesus as God’s Son is all that is listed as a requirement for salvation and eternal life.
I believe Peter is also being addressed as the speaker and receiving prophecy directly from Jesus that he will be a vital part of building the group who will eventually believe the same truth that Peter received directly from God. Peter himself is not the foundational piece of the unborn church, but he will be used by God in its birth. In fact Peter preached the first sermon following Pentecost, which was essentially the birth of the church.
The Church, founded on the knowledge of Jesus being the Son of the Living God, will be able to stand against anything Satan can throw at it. The gates of Hell will NOT prevail against it. Nothing Satan does can change the fact of who Jesus was, is, and forever will be.
Peter did not become “super saint” that day, as evidenced by the many problems he got into during the rest of his recorded history. His denial of even knowing Jesus is a perfect example of Peter’s fallibility. He is also confronted by Paul in Galatians 2:11-13. Peter remains Peter, one of Jesus’ beloved disciples.
Father God, thank You for plainly stating for ALL of us Jesus’ exact heritage. Peter’s statement, in its direct simplicity, leaves no room for discussion. That statement draws a line in the sand, and those who step across that line of belief receive You and all You have to offer. Thank You for establishing Your Church so long ago. Thank You that no doctrinal disagreement, no law passed, and no invention of man can destroy the work Jesus completed. NOTHING Satan can do about it. His history is written in stone.
Thank You Lord for allowing me to be part of Your body of believers. You don’t put labels on us. Please help me see You beyond all the labels. Help me demonstrate Your love, regardless of doctrinal divisions. You drew only one “line in the sand.” Help me see only that one and no more.