Matthew 16:17-18 (NIV) Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by 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 overcome it.
Peter had boldly declared his solid belief that Jesus was in fact the Christ, the Messiah, and the Son of the living God. Now, all eyes turned to Jesus to see how He would react. To be honest, pretty much all of His disciples believed this to be the truth. But none of them had dared to say it to His face until now. And, to their amazement and relief, Jesus confirmed His identity to them all.
Jesus Himself was relieved that His followers were getting it. He knew that, even with all of the things that they had seen and heard, if they were making their decision as to His identity based on purely human logic, they could believe Him to be a great and powerful prophet, or a “teacher sent by God” (John 3:2), but no more than that. The fact that Peter really had a grasp of who He was showed that the Holy Spirit had gotten through to his mind and his heart. This was very good news indeed!
Jesus was fond of plays on words (His teachings and His parables include many), and He used one now. When He first met Simon, the brother of Andrew, He gave him the nickname of Kefa (Aramaic) or Peter (Greek), a play on the word for Rock (John 1:42). He now used that pun in His declaration that on this very rock He would build His Church. The word for rock that He used was not Petros, Peter, but petra, the same word that He used to describe the solid foundation of the wise man’s house (Matthew 7:24-25). It was not Peter the man on which He would build His Church, but His identity so clearly stated by Peter. Those who make up the Church, now as always, are those who can identify Jesus as both the Messiah, and the Son of the living God with as much confidence as Peter himself.
If the Church has as its foundation that solid faith in who Jesus is, then there are no plots or machinations of satan that will ever be able to prevail against it. The gates of the kingdom of hell that hold captive so many people mired and enmeshed in sin and despair will be no match for the expansive power of the Church, and will crumble before it like the walls of Jericho before the shouts of Israel.
Father, this is such an inspiring portrait of who we are to be as the Church. But unfortunately, too many of us have been taught a picture of the Church that is purely defensive in nature; able, perhaps, to hold on until Jesus comes, but with little power to take on the enemy or to break captives free from his clutches. Oh, how we need a restoration of Jesus’ view of us as the Church to permeate our hearts and souls, so that we can be truly transformed into the bold and victorious witnesses of the gospel that he painted for us. Lord, make is so! Amen.