13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"16 Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Meditation: At an opportune time Jesus tests his disciples
with a crucial question: Who do men say that I am and who do
you say that I am? He was widely recognized in Israel as a
mighty man of God, even being compared with the greatest of the
prophets, John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. Peter, always
quick to respond, exclaimed that he was the Christ, the Son of
the living God. No mortal being could have revealed
this to Peter; but only God.
Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD), an early church father comments on Peter's profession of faith in Jesus:
Peter did not say "you are a Christ" or "a son of God" but "the Christ, the Son of God." For there are many christs [meaning anointed ones] by grace, who have attained the rank of adoption [as sons], but [there is] only one who is by nature the Son of God. Thus, using the definite article, he said, the Christ, the Son of God. And in calling him Son of the living God, Peter indicates that Christ himself is life and that death has no authority over him. And even if the flesh, for a short while, was weak and died, nevertheless it rose again, since the Word, who indwelled it, could not be held under the bonds of death. (FRAGMENT 190)
Jesus plays on Peter's name which is the same word for "rock" in
both Aramaic and Greek. To call someone a "rock" is one of the
greatest of compliments. The ancient rabbis had a saying that when
God saw Abraham, he exclaimed: "I have discovered a rock to found
the world upon". Through Abraham God established a nation for
himself. Through faith Peter grasped who Jesus truly was. He was the
first apostle to recognize Jesus as the Anointed One (Messiah
and Christ) and the only begotten Son of God. The
New Testament describes the church as a spiritual house or temple
with each member joined together as living stones (see 1
Peter 2:5). Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into rocks or spiritual
Jesus then confers on Peter authority to govern the church that Jesus would build, a church that no powers would overcome because it is founded on the rock which is Christ himself. Epiphanius, a 6th century Scripture scholar who also translated many early church commentaries from Greek into Latin, explains the significance of Jesus handing down the "keys of the kingdom":
For Christ is a rock which is never disturbed or worn away. Therefore Peter gladly received his name from Christ to signify the established and unshaken faith of the church... The devil is the gateway of death who always hastens to stir up against the holy church calamities and temptations and persecutions. But the faith of the apostle, which was founded upon the rock of Christ, abides always unconquered and unshaken. And the very keys of the kingdom of the heavens have been handed down so that one whom he has bound on earth has been bound in heaven, and one whom he has set free on earth he has also set free in heaven. (INTERPRETATION OF THE GOSPELS 28)
The Lord Jesus offers us the gift of unshakeable faith, enduring hope, and unquenchable love - and the joyful boldness to proclaim him as the one true Savior who brings us the kingdom of God both now and forever. Who do you say he is to yourself and to your neighbor?
1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the angels I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted above everything your name and your word.
3 On the day I called, you answered me, my strength of soul you increased.
6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he knows from afar.
8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures for ever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Christ, the Son
of the living God, by Epiphanius the Latin (315-403 AD)
Did the Lord not know what people called him? But by questioning he brought forth the conviction of the apostle Peter and left for us in the future a strong affirmation of faith. For the Lord questioned not only Peter but all the apostles when he said, "Who do you say that I am?" Yet one on behalf of all answered the King, who is in due time to judge the whole world. He is God, both God and man. How miserable does this make those who are false teachers and strangers now, and to be judged in eternity. If Christ is the Son of God, by all means he is also God. If he is not God, he is not the Son of God. But since he himself is the Son, and as the Son takes up all things from the Father, let us hold this same one inseparably in our heart because there is no one who escapes his hand. (excerpt from INTERPRETATION OF THE GOSPELS 28)