When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?…
This renewed retirement of our Lord is best accounted for by his need of quiet. What was now to be done? Another Passover was coming round. To proclaim himself at Jerusalem was indeed certain death; and yet was not the hour for taking this step at last come? Filled with inward conflict, our Lord journeys on and on until he finds himself at the very edge of the land of Israel But when his own mind is made up he at once communicates with the disciples, because it was necessary that those who were to be his witnesses should understand the state of matters and should willingly accompany him on the fatal journey to Jerusalem. And in asking them to declare frankly what they thought about him, he wished them to do this in presence of their remembrance of other and more generally received opinions, and feeling that the weight of authority was against them. With that generous outburst of affectionate trust which should ring through every creed, Peter exclaims, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Our Lord does not conceal his intense relief and keen satisfaction. "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for this faith is wrought in thee not by mere logical inferences from my works, nor by weighing other men's opinions, but by that enlightenment which God produces and suffers never again to be obscured." In this divinely wrought conviction of Peter's our Lord finds at last the foundationstone or solid rock on which the earthly building of his Church can be raised. Now for the first time does he introduce his disciples to the great idea that this divinely wrought power to see his nature and confess him is destined to form men into the most distinct and permanent of associations; that a new society is now begun in this little circle, a society, however, formed of those whom God calls, and who are distinguished from all others by their attachment to what is Divine, and by their being recipients of a Divine teaching. The significance, therefore, of this moment cannot be exaggerated, though it has been misunderstood. When our Lord says, "On this rock will I build my Church," he introduces to the minds of his hearers a new idea. They see their future associates in the faith forming together an edifice or spiritual temple in which God will dwell. And they are assured that amidst the wreck of other societies this shall stand. The power of "Hades," "the unseen," that mysterious region into which all human things pass, is to have no power over the Church. This is the fact: while empires moulder into a mere memory, the Church renews herself from age to age, and is as living now as ever before. But that Christ should have predicted this, and at the very time when all seemed over with his hope of being received by Israel, seems almost as wonderful as the continuance of the Church itself. "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven" - this certainly involves that Peter should have a position of the highest authority in the Church. And in point of fact, it was Peter who opened the gates of the kingdom to the Gentiles. This power is further explained in a form of speech common among the Jews, and which bore a perfectly definite meaning. The power to bind and loose was what we speak of as legislative power, power to introduce new laws and to repeal old ones. Such is the overwhelming return which our Lord makes to Peter for his confession. No confession can rival the first, or can bring the comfort, the relief, the hope which Peter's brought to the overburdened spirit of his Lord - no confession now made can seem to our Lord as the firm rock on which the Church may rise. And yet every acknowledgment must bring gratification to his spirit, and must be responded to by some recognition more or less distinct. Perhaps it is not easier for us than it was for Peter to come to a clear decision regarding the Person of Christ. Certainly there was a great weight of authority against Peter, but our own judgment is not free from the disturbing effect of similar influences. The verdict of the leaders of thought in our own day is almost unanimously against the distinctive claims of Christ. Christians, too, betray a consciousness that they are in a less secure and certain position than formerly, and are too careful to let it be seen they appreciate the difficulties of belief. There is all the louder call upon us to make our confession of Christ full, clear, hearty, and steadfast; to form an opinion for ourselves; so that we come to Christ with what he can accept as a fresh tribute, and not as a mere echo of some other people's confession. We see here that the difference between acknowledging him as a Prophet and acknowledging him as the Son of God is just the difference between faith and unbelief. In answer to Peter's "Thou art Christ," comes our Lord's "Thou art Peter." It is an instance of the fulfilment of his promise, "He that confesseth me before men, him will I confess before my Father;" but it is more than this. In recognizing who Jesus was Peter learned what his own character and his own prospects were. Now, for the first time, he saw the significance of his own name. It is so with every one. It is in the vision of Christ's true nature and purpose that a man awakens to a sense of his own worth and of the possibilities that lie before him. For you as for Peter he will mark out the proper work; he will give you a place as a living stone; he will impart to you every quality you need in the difficult circumstances of life and in the actual career that lies before you. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?