Study | On This Rock

Matthew 16:13-20

The Church is established on the divine revelation of Christ’s deity and followers’ profession of faith

In this Bible story, Jesus and his disciples are traveling to Caesarea Philippi after an encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus strikes up a conversation as he and his friends go. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” he asks. The replies range from John the Baptist to Elijah to Jeremiah to other prophets.

But these answers reflect others’ opinions. Jesus follows his first question with one more pointed – “What about you, who do you say I am?”

Our main man, Peter, speaks truth. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus calls Peter blessed, telling him that this knowledge was not revealed by flesh and blood, but instead by God. He continues, “Peter, on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

There are many interpretations of what Jesus means by “on this rock”.  Jesus had already given Simon his name of Peter (Petros) meaning rock in Greek – Jesus could be building the church on Peter’s testimony as he plays a major role in starting the church (read more in Acts). Jesus could mean that the disciples together are the foundational rocks on whom the church is built, as referenced in Ephesians 2:20 and Revelation 21:14.

The prevailing thought on what Jesus means is that he intends to build the church on the Truth that he is the Christ, the Messiah. Maybe all of these play into Christ’s meaning – Jesus is the cornerstone who brings the church (his bride!) into existence, and the church carries on because of the faith of his disciples, including us today.

If you’re reading the Scripture, Jesus doesn’t stop after he tells of the church ultimate victory of sin and death. Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that the very keys to the Kingdom of Heaven are theirs. Heaven isn’t far, but is near to them. Heaven is not achieved by good works, but by their belief in the deity of Jesus and the way he bridges the gap between sinful humans and a perfect God.

This story ends with Jesus insisting the disciples keep the knowledge of Christ’s deity to themselves for the time being. Again, there are so many explanations of why Jesus would say this. Please, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the this topic, the questions below, or anything that sticks out to you. Happy Wednesday!

Questions for discussion:

  1. Why does the knowledge of Christ’s deity matter in His story? Not His actual deity, but others’ knowledge of it. Does Christ’s deity affect you?
  2. What did Jesus mean when he told Peter “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”?
  3. Have you seen the power of the church? How can you make known Christ’s power through the Church and through you?
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