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 be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” Matthew 16:13-20

The question Jesus asks, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” is not an easy question. From the disciples response we can see that the people of Israel held very differing conclusions regarding Jesus. Some thought He was John the Baptist resurrected, while others held to a wide spread belief that Elijah would return as a forerunner to the coming Messiah. It is also interesting that some even thought He was Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet. This was probably based upon Jesus’ statements regarding the destruction of the Temple and His own suffering at the hands of Israel and Rome.

There was also a tradition amongst some of the people that there would be a long line of prophets that would call people back to God and this would usher in the Messianic age. What was important in all the answers was the simple fact that no one was confessing Jesus as the true Messiah.

Jesus now asks the disciples a second question predicated upon the first question, “Who do you say I am?” This could have been a very awkward moment in the relationship between Jesus and His disciples, but Peter answers without hesitation. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Peter’s answer is a theological breakthrough for him and if he was speaking for all the disciples, it was for them as well. We also need to answer Jesus’ question regarding who He is. Remember, last post I mentioned if we don’t understand the cross we really don’t understand Christianity. It is the same with our understanding about Jesus, if we don’t understand the fact that He was the Messiah and the Messiah was none other than the Suffering Servant of Old Testament fame, we can’t really understand the cross and its impact to us.

In other words, to be a Christian is to understand the cross and to understand the cross is to come to the knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Suffering Servant who comes to deliver us from bondage to sin, death and Satan. This freedom is not accomplished by our own efforts, but through Jesus substitutionary sacrifice at Calvary where His merits are accredited to us and the penalty of our sins are carried by Jesus.

When Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah he was confessing the Lordship of Jesus over him and the rest of the disciples. He was accepting the reality that he and the rest of the disciples were followers of none other than God Himself. Jesus responds to Peter’s confession by stating, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, 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” Matthew 16:17-18

What is Jesus saying in these two verses? First of all Peter and the rest of the disciples have accepted Jesus through revelation and not by seeing signs and wonders. Many people follow Jesus for what they think they can get out of it (think prosperity gospel) but Peter understands whom the Messiah really is because He has experienced Jesus first hand.

We have talked a great deal in the blogs about the difference in knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus. These passages in Matthew 16 really make it clear that we can only know Jesus if we understand and know Him experientially. And to know Him experientially is to have Him revealed by the Father in the deepest recesses of our heart.

The rock upon which Jesus builds His church is the confession that He is Lord and Savior and that only comes to us through revelation. These are the types of people that Jesus builds His church upon. They are the people who understand and love Him because they experience and acknowledge Him as savior in their day-to-day-life.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven,” is the verse that is most misunderstood in this passage. Remember, Peter is speaking on behalf of the disciples and his declaration that Jesus is the Messiah is key to our understanding of what is being stated in verse 19.

The keys to heaven belong to those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, their savior, and this gift of redemption is a free gift and is offered to all humanity. D.A. Carson, in his commentary on Matthew, makes it clear that what Peter and the disciples bind on earth or loosen on earth has already been accomplished in heaven. (See The Expositors Bible Commentary, Matthew, D. A. Carson, p. 373)

Peter does not have the power to force God’s hand to accept some people into the Kingdom on his say so. If he could do that then Jesus died for nothing. All anyone would have to do to have salvation is have someone declare him or her saved and God would have to accept that declaration. We, I believe, should look at verse 19 as God telling Peter and the disciples that anyone whom they witness to regarding Jesus as the Messiah and who accept the free offer of grace are redeemed. They are not redeemed because Peter declares it; they are redeemed because it has been declared so in Heaven.

This is the great promise of Scripture that when we accept Jesus we enter into salvation, and when we reject Jesus we move away from that salvation. This is the rule of Heaven, predetermined and carried out in the substitutionary death of Jesus at Calvary where redemption was made possible. When we declare the Gospel we can preach and teach with assurance that the words we offer have power behind them.

God promises that “whosoever believes in Him shall have eternal life,” John 3:16, and when we share that with people we can know positively that if they accept the gift of redemption they are saved. Why? Because it has been declared so in Heaven long before we ever witnessed to that person.

This post has become quite long so I won’t belabor the point, but it is important for us to know that just like God’s promise to Peter and the disciples in verse 19 so that promise is for us as well. When you share the Gospel you know the person who responds to it has found salvation because that is God’s promise to us. This is not the exclusive prerogative of one man or one church but a promise to us all.

* Please take the time to read some of the stories of Christians who are experiencing persecution for their total commitment to Christ. They need our support and prayers..  http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…