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Foundations of the Faith Q & A

What are the major divisions of the 39 books of the Old Testament? Answer...

What are the three primary names of God from the Old Testament? Answer...

What are the three parts of man? Answer...

What is original sin? Answer...

The first sin in the universe came through ________ . Answer...

What was the primary title that Jesus used to describe himself during his earthly ministry? Answer...

Work out your ________ with ________ and ________, for it is God that works in you. Answer...

Jesus said, 'You are Petros,' which means ______ in the Greek, 'and on this Petra,' which means ______ 'I will build my Church.' Answer...

When Jesus returns, He will establish His kingdom on earth for ______. Answer...

What is the oldest Christian creed? Answer...

 
Foundational Questions & Answers

Peter and the Revelation

By Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer


Question: Jesus said, 'You are Petros,' which means ______ in the Greek, 'and on this Petra,' which means ______ 'I will build my Church.'

Answer: small pebble, Rock

~

We find this passage in Matthew 16:13-20 (NASB):

"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.'

"He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?'"

"Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'"

"And Jesus said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.'"
           
"Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ."
 
We see here that Jesus had led his disciples north from the predominantly Jewish territory, more than likely to escape the crowds and to spend time privately with his disciples. They have journeyed some twenty-five miles (and seventeen hundred feet uphill) from the Lake of Galilee to the source of the Jordan River near the ancient city of Dan. This was the northern boundary of ancient Israel.

The area had only recently been renamed Caesarea Philippi, and it was the most paganized territory in Israel. It was famous for its grotto where people worshiped the Greek god Pan.

Jesus is not swayed by the paganism of the territory -- in fact, he doesn't even mention it. By leading his disciples to this place, we can see the theme of Jesus' universal mission in his Gospel. This fits in to the overall message behind this interaction with Simon Peter: that Jesus is the Christ and the time had come for Him to be revealed to the world outside of Judaism – first by His death and resurrection. Then, as the Great Commission of Matthew 28 declares, He is to be revealed by the witness of these followers going into the whole world to make other disciples.

The Matthew 16 passage is a kind of “final test” for the disciples under Jesus’ tutelage. Like all students, the disciples had to pass the final exam before they were sent out into the world. Jesus had trained his followers to teach others, and therefore it was highly important that they should understand the truth themselves.

Jesus gathers his disciples on the side of this small mountain and asks the key question: "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

Peter once again takes his role as the spokesman for the group: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Since the early part of his ministry, Jesus had avoided the word Messiah or Christ because of its political meaning to the people. But now Peter plainly calls Jesus the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Son of the God, the Living One.

This great confession of Peter shows that he and the other disciples believe in Jesus as the Messiah and are still true to him in spite of the defection of many of the other disciples. The inner circle of disciples express their conviction in the Messiahship or Christhood of Jesus as opposed to the divided opinions of the populace.

Far from correcting or rebuking Peter for his declaration, Jesus blesses him and accepts the confession as true. Thereby Jesus solemnly claims to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God -- He reveals His deity at this crucial moment.

Jesus declares to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church…" (verses 17-18)

The question that is raised from this passage is, "Who is the rock that Jesus is referring to?"

Theologians provide three main interpretations:

  • Peter is the rock;
  • Jesus is the rock;
  • The revelation that Peter receives is the rock

From the Greek we can see the meaning behind the verse. Jesus declares, “You are Petros,” which means 'small pebble,' “and on this Petra,” which means 'rock' or 'boulder,' “I will build my Church.”

Jesus is not saying that Peter is "the rock." He calls him the "small pebble." And He is not pointing to Himself in this passage, though in other parts of the Bible we see Jesus referred to as "the rock." But in this passage, Jesus is declaring that His church will be built on "the rock of revelation" from above; that is, the revelation from God in heaven about the true identity of Jesus as the Christ.

It is by revelation through the Holy Spirit that we come to know that Jesus is, in fact, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This brings us to the point of repentance and opens the doors for us to become born again as children of God. It is through this divine interaction that each of us become Christians -- and thus we are part of the Church that Jesus is building.

Later the Apostle Peter would write to the Church, "…you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5 NASB)

It is likely that Peter was looking back on this intimate moment with Jesus when he declared that every believer is "small stone" that is being fit together into the Church that Christ is building!

In his commentary, Matthew Henry notes that ministers must be examined before they be sent forth, especially concerning their sentiments toward Christ, and who they say that he is; for how can they be owned as ministers of Christ, that are either ignorant or erroneous concerning Christ? “This is a question every one of us should be putting to ourselves, "Who do we say, what kind of one do we say, that the Lord Jesus is?

Henry also points out that Christ reveals his mind to his people gradually – another element of his leadership style. “From that time, when the apostles had made the full confession of Christ, that he was the Son of God, he began to show them of his sufferings. He spoke this to set right the mistakes of his disciples about the outward pomp and power of his kingdom. Those that follow Christ, must not expect great or high things in this world. Peter would have Christ to dread suffering as much as he did; but we mistake, if we measure Christ's love and patience by our own.”

This discourse provides a major turning point in the Gospel of Matthew. The confession and rebuke of Peter is placed just before the transfiguration of Jesus in chapter 17, indicating the end of Jesus’ Galilean Ministry and beginning of His journey to Jerusalem, and the march to his death and resurrection -- the gateway to the birth of the Church!

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Craig von  BuseckCraig von Buseck is Ministries Director for CBN.com. Read ChurchWatch, Craig's Blog on CBN.com. More articles and interviews from Craig on CBN.com.

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