Jesus’ ministry at Caesarea Philippi: Peter’s confession and the promise of the Church.
Reading 1: Matthew 16:13-28
Reading 2: 1 John 4:14-16
Reading 3: Philippians 2:5-11
So far, Jesus has only told one person that He IS the Messiah (the Samaritan woman at the well). He has been giving enough indications that anyone who has a heart to figure out who he is, will be prompted to do so by God the Father.
And that is exactly what happens when the apostles get their first “pop quiz” – “Who do you say that I am?” Peter has the heart for God, and the bluntness, to say what the others are thinking: “You are the Messiah.”
So it is the work of God in a person’s heart that causes them to recognize and accept Jesus as the Messiah. Trying to convince someone by argument alone is unfruitful. Trusting God to reveal Himself unilaterally can sometimes work, but ultimately the combination of consistent witness to God’s love, demonstration of God’s power, and God’s work in a person’s heart, combine to bring a person to faith. Keep that model in mind as you pray for friends and relatives who have not yet found a living relationship with Jesus: it is most effective to pray for God’s working (and trust Him to do that while you humbly live as a believer, serving them as described in Philippians 2). Often our persuasion and challenge can be a hindrance to a loved-one encountering God!
Now a word about Peter’s confession, and Jesus’ response: church tradition has taught that Peter is the first leader of the Church, and that the authority to choose who enters the Kingdom of heaven belongs to him, but that is a misunderstanding of what Jesus said. Contradicting this position is another mistaken interpretation: that Jesus used the Greek word petros (little rock) for Peter, and the Greek word petra (big rock) for the foundation of the Church. This interpretation then uses logic to say Peter cannot have been the first Pope, and guardian of heaven’s gateway, because the two words are different.
Neither of these interpretations do justice to the text: Jesus says clearly that Peter will be the foundation of the Church, because he has a revelation from God that Jesus is the Messiah. In Acts 2:38 Peter fulfills this promise when he answers the question “what shall we do to be saved?” He literally begins the Church by giving instruction based on his revelation from God and his experience of the teaching of Jesus.
And the promise that Peter will also be the keeper of the keys of the kingdom/church is also fulfilled when he tells his hearers in Acts 2 to “repent and be baptized” – he is showing them the doorway to relationship with God.
So the promises to Peter are based on his receiving the revelation that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), and the revelation is the foundation for his role in the Church. So you and I likewise can follow in Peter’s footsteps, by faith and revelation; accept Jesus ourselves, and point others to repentance and faith.
Have a great day!