Theme: Our Foundation
In this week’s lesson we reveal the Rock of the Church.
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. “‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
Jesus Christ is the very heart of Christianity. Christianity is Christ. But to know Jesus we must understand two great things about him: 1) who he is, and 2) what he did. In theological textbooks these two points are usually referred to as: 1) the person of Christ, and 2) the work of Christ. They emerge here, in Matthew 16, explicitly for the first time.
This means that Matthew 16 is an important, critical chapter in this gospel, what I called in last week’s study the climax or high point of the chapters in which Jesus has withdrawn from the masses of the people and is specifically teaching his disciples. In this chapter we learn that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” that he came to suffer and be killed and on the third day rise again, and that those who would be his disciples must follow him by taking up their own crosses daily. Yet strikingly, few chapters in the Bible have been given such widely diverse interpretations of lesser points. Hundred of books have been written to answer questions like: Who is the rock on which Jesus says he will build his church? What are the gates of hell? What did Jesus promise Peter when he said he would give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven?
Not everything in Matthew 16 is puzzling, of course. The most important things are not, and foremost among these most important teachings is Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ. Jesus approached the matter indirectly by asking his disciples two probing questions.
First, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (v. 13). The disciples would have been in a better position than Jesus to have known what people were saying about him, but Jesus did not need to elicit this information from his followers. These identifications were standard speculations for anyone who stood out above the common people. For example, they were raised about John the Baptist, when he was asked whether he was the Christ and, if not that, whether he was Elijah or “the Prophet” mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15 and 18. John denied being any of these figures, claiming to be only a “voice . . . calling in the desert” (John 1:19-23).
Some time has passed, however, and now one of the popular speculations was John the Baptist himself. John had been killed by Herod (Matt. 14:1-12), and even Herod has been wondering whether Jesus was somehow John the Baptist returned from the dead (v. 2).
A second speculation was Elijah. Elijah was always on the list because of the last verses of our Old Testament: Malachi 4:5-6. “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
Jeremiah was also mentioned because the Jews had a tradition, preserved in 2 Maccabees 2:4-8, that he had hidden the Ark of the Covenant and altar of incense at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and that he would come again to restore them at the start of the Messianic age.‘ And some were throwing out names of other prophets as well (Matt. 16:14).
The surprising thing is that no one seemed to be suggesting that Jesus was the Messiah, though that speculation had been made of John the Baptist. Apparently Jesus did not match up to anyone’s messianic expectations.
What two defining questions does chapter 16 answer?
How have some used this chapter to get off track?
What were some speculations as to the identity of Jesus? Why did no one suggest Jesus was the Messiah?
In this chapter we learn that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” that he came to suffer and be killed and on the third day rise again, and that those who would be his disciples must follow him by taking up their own crosses daily.
Pray that you are able to answer firmly that you are a follower of Jesus Christ.