Jesus and the disciples came to the region of Caesarea Philippi where Jesus asked them who people were saying that He was. They responded with several things He was being called. Then Jesus asked them a fateful question: “Who do you say I am?”
It was Simon who responded for the group:
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (16:16)
That was it, the missing piece of the “who is this guy” puzzle: He was the Son of God (14:33) and now they have seen that He is also the Messiah.
Throughout this section, Jesus has been intent to educate the disciples on His true identity, to educate them concerning the Kingdom of heaven, and to teach them about His true mission. They have come a very long way indeed, but there is still much for them to learn, and so in verse 20 Jesus tells them not to discuss this Messiah business with others, at least not yet. As we will come to see, they aren’t yet ready to tell people He is the Messiah, because they do not yet know what the nature of His messianic mission is, for if they went out at that moment telling people He was the Messiah, it is very likely that they would, along with everyone else, think He was there to destroy the Roman occupation and restore Israel to its place as a powerful Nation among the nations of this world.
Jesus is on a very different mission.
Yet Jesus congratulates Simon on his insight, revealed as it was by none other than God Himself (16:17). Their recognition of Jesus as both Son of God and Messiah was a game-changer, for with this knowledge in hand, everything would be different, both for the disciples and for the world in general, as verses 18 -19 indicate, yet these two verses may well be the most controversial two verses in the entire Bible… and doesn’t that just figure!
The very simple version is this: In recognition of his statement, Jesus changed Simon’s name to “Peter” which in Greek means “rock”, and on “this” rock, Jesus would build His church, but then is the “rock” Peter personally or is it the acknowledgement that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” This question is battleground number 1.
Peter would be given the “keys of the Kingdom” and “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” This is battleground number 2.
For now, I will just leave this as a game changing moment. In the next post, I will remind myself that I am a theology professor, and we’ll tackle 16:18-19; this one may not be for the faint of heart… see you then!