Who Do You Think Jesus Is?

I am currently reading the Gospel according to Matthew. The tax collector turned disciple and apostle. He is relaying the story of when the Lord Jesus asked them who others thought He was. Let me refresh your memory of the story:

When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and 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 answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but 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 overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” Then he instructed his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20 NET)

These two questions — “Who do others think I am?” and “Who do you think I am?” — were at the heart of Jesus’ desire for His own disciples to comprehend the truth of His deity, that He was truly God in human flesh, God born as a man. And to understand His coming death on the Cross of Calvary. 

The theoretical beliefs of others about Jesus — a fanatic (John the Baptist), a powerful preacher (Elijah), or one of the prophets — were not nearly as important as each disciple’s personal belief about who He is. 

This is true of every person. Ultimately, the question that matters is, “Who do you think Jesus is? 

Peter understood that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. 

John 6:69 “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!”

John 11:27 “She replied, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world.’”

1 John 4:15 “If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God.”

Jesus goes on to tell Peter that because he knew this by revelation directly from the Father God that he would be used mightily in the Kingdom and in the Church.

Jesus used a clever play on words to teach the disciples about the Church. When Jesus referred to Peter by name (Grk. Petros), He used the word for a small, moveable stone, like a pebble (John 1:42). 

But the word rock in our passage (Grk. Petra) means an immovable foundation. Jesus was saying the Church would not be built on Peter “the pebble,” but upon Christ, the massive Rock and chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). 

The term translated built refers to the construction of a house (Matthew 7:24). Here, it refers to the building up of people or, more specifically, the “house” of God — the Body of Christ. 

And then there is the comment about the keys of the Kingdom and binding and loosing. Jesus declared that Peter had the keys to preaching the Kingdom of God to both Jews and Gentiles. This came to fruition after the resurrection, when Peter first preached and 3,000 were saved and added to the Church in one day (Acts 2:38-41). Then, in Acts 10, Peter received a vision and preached to a Roman named Cornelius, opening the door to Gentiles. 

Rabbis used the terms bind and loose to refer to whether something was permissible or not according to the Law. Peter would one day make judgements about what was permissible in the Church, although the final determination remains with Jesus (Revelation 1:18)