When you look at Jesus’ life, you will see that He was perceived as a radical among the religious establishment of His day. He did everything different than what others expected.
- His peers would travel a few extra miles to avoid going through Samaria or coming into contact with Samaritans, but Jesus went directly through Samaria and would engage Samaritans.
- As people avoided getting near a leper and risk becoming ceremonially unclean, Jesus was drawn to them and healed them.
- His followers consisted of unlearned fishermen, tax-collectors, and even former prostitutes.
In Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus retreats up north to an area known as Caesarea Philippi. This was the most unlikely place you would find a Jewish Rabbi and his disciples.
Caesarea Philippi was an idol worship buffet. This city has had a longstanding history of idol worship.
So why would Jesus retreat with His disciples here?
It’s nice to go where everyone knows your name. (Insert Cheers’ theme music) But every once and a while, you need to get away where there are few distractions.
This is a good practice for us all. The demands of life can dull down our spiritual edge, so it’s essential we recharge.
- We can do this daily by engaging with God’s word and in prayer.
- We do this weekly by gathering with the church body for a time of worship, prayer, and hearing God’s word.
If we are always on the giving end of the spectrum and not taking time to recharge, we are going to burn out. When we get to that point, we are most vulnerable to spiritual attacks and to sin.
When we get alone with God, we position ourselves to receive fresh revelation from Him. This time away with the disciples sets the stage for one of the most important questions they will ever answer.
In verse 15, Jesus gets personal with His students and asks them, “Who do YOU say that I am?”
It’s your understanding of who Jesus is that matters. Not what your friends think, your parents or your spouse thinks but what you think.
Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” He recognizes Jesus as the promised Messiah and identifies Him as the “Son of the living God.”
As the Son of the living God, Jesus is alive, active, and involved.
Jesus makes five significant statements regarding salvation and the kingdom of heaven, starting with verse 17.
#1 For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” John 6:44
If you are a follower of Jesus, you have heard God’s voice at least once!
You may not have realized it at the moment, but it was God’s invitation that led you to accept His gift of forgiveness.
#2 You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.
Jesus uses a play on Peter’s name to illustrate an important truth. The name Peter is “Petros” in the Greek and means rock, a fragment, or a small stone.
He says, you are Peter, a small stone, and on this “rock,” I will build my church.
The word rock is petra in the Greek, and it means a massive rock or cliff. Jesus is explaining that on Peter’s testimony, his confession of faith, His church will be built.
Secondly, the illustration of petra was a direct attack on the massive rock that was carved with altars for idols that littered the area, emphasizing they can’t save you.
There is no forgiveness of sin apart from Jesus the Christ.
#3 “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
God’s church will not be defeated. The church is an unstoppable kingdom.
Kings and kingdoms, rules and rulers have tried to silence God’s people and the church, but they cannot. God’s kingdom will be here when He returns.
#4 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
Those who make a confession of faith are now entrusted with the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Having the keys is a commission to share the good news.
#5 “and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
The idea of binding/loosing is that we are responsible for making available or unavailable the kingdom of heaven through our witness, preaching, and ministry.
Be that someone who points others to knowing God and eternal life. You are a part of an everlasting kingdom!