A preacher visited a nursing home that had some patients with Alzheimer’s. He went around and greeted the people. He walked up to one lady and asked, “Do you know who I am?” She said, “No, but if you go to the Front Desk, they can tell you.”
When Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” he wanted them to search their hearts and minds to know what they really believed about him. Simon Peter immediately spoke up. His answer was a confession of faith that showed great spiritual insight.
In Matthew 16, Jesus first began with the question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (New Revised Standard Version, NRSV). The disciples said there were a lot of opinions. “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Evidently, since Jesus taught repentance (Matt. 4:17) and baptism (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15-16), some theorized John the Baptist, who was put to death by King Herod, had come back to life. Others thought that Elijah reappeared because it was predicted that a great prophet would come before the Messiah arrives (Malachi 4:5). Jeremiah was also believed to appear in the guise of Jesus. Yet there were some who believed he was one of the other prophets because Jesus claimed to be a spokesman for God just like they did.
When Jesus asked his disciples who THEY thought he was, Peter hits the proverbial nail on the head. His confession of faith reflects the truth that includes a profession, revelation, declaration, foundation, and conviction. Each of these features have an influence in our lives as Christians.
PROFESSION. Another word for “confession” is “profession.” For example, Hebrews 4:14 reads, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB). “Confession” is from the Greek word, “homologia,” which means, “(from homoú, “the same, together” and lég, “speak to a conclusion, lay to rest”) – properly, a conclusion embraced by common confession (profession, affirmation),” (HELPS Word Studies, Biblehub.com.). When one confesses one professes what one believes. Peter, therefore, is confessing what he is professing to believe: “[I am convinced] You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (Matt. 16:16).
Peter’s profession is profound for three reasons:
(1) While there were some Jews who thought of Jesus merely as a prophet, Peter could see that he is more than that. He was the “Christ” which is from the Greek; or “Messiah” from the Hebrew. Both words mean the same, “the Anointed One” of God. In other words, Jesus is the LORD’S Anointed as the prophets predicted (cp. Psalm 2:2). He is the anointed King that God sent to deliver and save Israel (Luke 1:31-33).
(2) The nature of Jesus is identified as both Son of Man (Matt. 16:13) and Son of God (Matt. 16:16). As the Son of Man, Jesus is 100 percent human. As the Son of God, Jesus is 100 percent divine (“of God”). The humanity of Jesus is implied in the fact that his Messianic roots go back to King David and the covenant God made with him including a son who will reign on his throne forever, (1 Chronicles 17:7-14; Psalm 89:3, 4, 27-37; Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-12; Jeremiah 23:5-6). When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would give birth to a son who will “sit on throne of his father David,” he also said that her son “will be called the Son of the Most High,” (Luke 1:32-33). This passage ties together the truth that Jesus is both Son of Man and Son of God.
Interestingly, Peter never professes Jesus to be “God the Son.” In fact, nowhere are these words found in the New Testament. Rather, Peter confesses that Jesus is, indeed, the “Son of God” which indicates the unique relationship Jesus has with his Father and how it reflects on those who become one in fellowship with God through Christ (John 17:1-21).
(3) Peter professes that Jesus is “….the Son of the living God.” This is important because God is a personal being. To the devout Jew, there is only one person who is the living God. It was the primary teaching of their Law: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one,” (Deuteronomy 6:4; cp. Isa. 45:5-7; John 17:3; 1 Timothy 2:5). There is no other living God, but the one true God. It’s this one, true, living God that his people are to love with all their heart, soul and might (v. 5).
DECLARATION. Peter’s confession is truly a sincere declaration from the heart. His response is not just a statement of fact but a personal statement of faith based on, “Who do YOU say that I am.” It is a declaration affirmed by many in the scriptures including Jesus’ own Father who calls him, “my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5); Gabriel, the archangel (Luke 1:32, 35); John the Baptist (John 1:34); Nathanael (John 1:49); the Disciples (Matt. 14:33); Martha (John 11:27); the Roman centurion (Matt. 27:54); John (John 20:31; 1 John 4:15); and Paul (Acts 9:20; Rom. 1:4; 2 Cor. 1:19).
REVELATION. Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, because God, himself, revealed this truth. Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven,” (Matt. 16:17, NRSV). “Flesh and blood” is an idiom that indicates no human being showed him this truth. Rather, it was a divine revelation from the living God who not only showed him that Jesus the Christ is his Son, but the ability to embrace this fact into his life.
FOUNDATION. Peter’s confession forms the foundation of faith. That is why Jesus uses the metaphor, “…upon this rock, I will build my church,” (Matt. 16:18). “Rock” is an Eastern idiom for truth. Jesus, who himself declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life….” (John 14:6) is the founder and true foundation of the faith we profess to believe. As the Rock of our Faith, Jesus provides the stability and security, upon whom our lives are built (1 Cor. 3:11).
In the course of his conversation with Peter along with all the disciples listening in, as well, Jesus uses the literal meaning of Peter’s name, “stone” (Greek, Petros) to indicate the role he would play as part of the “rock” (Greek, petra, “large rock, bed-rock”) upon which Jesus would build his church. I think of Peter (stone), therefore, as a kind of “chip off the ol’ block (or, Rock)” who would eventually grow stronger in the faith and become a prominent figure in the formation of the early church.
CONVICTION. Peter’s confession of faith reveals truth that affects us in three wonderful ways in that it (1) requires us to respond responsibly; (2) inspires us to live in accordance with our beliefs, and (3) aspires us to fulfill our place in the church Christ is building. Because we the Church are required to respond responsibly, we obey the teachings of Christ, God’s Son. Because we the Church are divinely inspired to live in accordance to our belief in God and his Word, we are motivated to grow in grace and truth. Because we the Church are aspired to fulfill our places, we use our gifts and talents to serve in effective ways for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Our aim is to be like Jesus Christ, and follow his perfect example while we await the glorious return of our Savior and coming Kingdom of God.
Through Christ, we know that nothing will ever be able to stand in the way of keeping him from accomplishing his work. Not even death (“the gates of Hell” or Hades, the grave) can prevail against the church and the mission of spreading the Good News of Christ and his Kingdom. Christ, who holds the keys of the Kingdom, opens the door of opportunity to proclaim salvation through Christ so that others may enter through their confession of faith.
The act of “binding” and “loosing” (v. 19) are Rabbinic terms indicating discipline and rules of conduct. The Church is responsible for maintaining discipline and order according to God’s instructions so as to effectively proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. We will be blest just as Jesus blest Peter when we make our confession of faith and abide in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God.
For your inspiration, here is a nice song titled,” Jesus Christ, the Son of God”:
Good News to YOU!