Caesarea Philippi was considered the birthplace of the world and the entrance to hell. Jesus took His disciples there!
12 Ears that hear and eyes that see–the LORD has made them both.
For Jesus to go to Caesarea Philippi was no big deal because He is Creator of everything (Hebrews 1:2). He knew the legends and He knew the Truth. He wanted to make a point to His disciples: By taking them there, He was saying that He was beginning something new.
So far, Jesus had only eluded to being the Messiah. Today, we read His declaration.
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will [already] be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will [already] be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Mathew 16:13-20
There are several things to point out about this passage.
- In Mark 8:27 and Luke 9:18, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” Matthew used the term, “Son of Man.” Why? Because of his Jewish audience. They would have immediately picked up on the Daniel 7:13-14 Messianic reference.
- Jesus makes a declaration that Simon is a “rock” and on that rock He will build His church, against which the gates of Hell cannot overcome it.
- Simon Peter was to be the lead Apostle once Jesus left. It was a passing of the baton, the mantle.
- The “rock” was the confession of Peter, not Peter himself. The confession was that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus Himself is that Rock. He was in Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13, and He is today.
- The word for “church” is “ekklesia,” which means “gathering” or “assembly.” This word is used for the sons of Jacob in Genesis 49:2, for the leaders of Israel in Exodus 3:16, and for the congregation of Israel in Numbers 8:9, 10:3, Deuteronomy 4:10, 31:12, and other places. The day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit entered the disciples and 3000 people got saved is what we call the birth of the church when in reality it is the expansion of the church. Those 3000 people were Jewish–100% of them! Not all Jews in the Old Testament times were true Jews in that they kept the Law with all their hearts, souls, minds and with all their strength, and neither are all Jews since Christ true Jews in that they believe that Jesus is the Messiah and have been circumcised of heart. In fact, in both groups, true Jews are the exception and not the rule. The apostle Paul states in Romans 2:29 that “a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.”
Jesus was making it very clear that the Old Covenant Law was done and that He was establishing a New Covenant. Later on, He based His New Covenant on love, His love for us and our love for each other, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” John 13:34-35.
Let’s ask Christ to teach us to love one another so that this world can see Jesus in us. They need hope; they need peace; they need His love reaching out through us. We can “loose” the kingdom of heaven on those around us if we learn it well enough on the inside to show it on the outside. It’s already been loosed in heaven, so what are we waiting for?!
Abba, may You teach us Your love so that we can love those around us. Help us to realize that those who don’t know You–and don’t know you very well–are going to think differently than us. They are controlled by fear and worldly desires. But, when we are obedient and show Your love to them, Your Holy Spirit convicts them and gloriously saves those who will come to You in repentance and obedience, pledging their heart and life to You, dear Jesus, just as we did. We look for those to whom You are speaking and working in their lives. Help us to see with Your eyes, Lord. Amen.