Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, Who do people say the Son of Man is?
Caesarea Philippi was a center of paganism about twenty-five miles north of the Sea of Galilee. They worshipped Caesar, Baal, and the Greek god Pan. There among the false gods, Jesus led a conversation about himself.
Matthew 16:14 Some say [you are] John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Jesus’ real concern was not what others thought, but what his disciples thought. But what about you? he asked. Who do you say I am? (Matthew 16:15). It was an important question for them, and for us. In fact, what we think about Jesus Christ is the most important thing about us, and Jesus wants to know our answer.
Matthew 16:16-17 Simon Peter answered, You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. 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.
Peter was not smart enough to figure this out on his own, or even to learn it from others. He may have thought he did, but Jesus informed Peter that his understanding was a revelation from God—a special revelation.
God has revealed himself generally through general revelation. We know that he exists, because someone made the world. We know that he is powerful, because the world is big. And we know that he has rules, because he has given us a conscience.
But knowing that God has a Son, or what he plans to do in the future, or how we can know him personally requires special revelation. These are things that God reveals to some, but not to others.
I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children (Matthew 11:25), said Jesus. [N]o one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Matthew 11:27), said Jesus also.
If you believe in Jesus Christ, it is not because you are smarter than others, but because God has revealed himself to you through the gospel. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ, it is because you have closed your heart to God. Light received brings more light; light refused brings darkness. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them (Luke 8:18), said Jesus.
This is what happened to Judas Iscariot. First he listened carefully, then he listened selectively, then he turned away. We depend on God for revelation; it is our duty to receive it.
Matthew 16:18 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 and rock are similar in Greek, so Jesus was making a play on words. Peter was foundational to the church, as seen in the book of Acts (Acts 2:14-41). But the builder of the church is Jesus Christ, and he’s been at it for thousands of years. If you want to make your life count forever, simply join a church and make it better.
Sadly, many join a church and actually make it worse. I was guilty of that in my youth. I was apathetic toward Christ, and a bad example to my peers. I went to church on Sundays, but lived for myself the rest of the week. I even tried to miss church whenever I could. But all that changed after I truly believed.
The first Sunday after I came to faith, I arrived at church early, and sat in the front row. It felt a little strange, but I did not want to miss a thing. When the music played, I sang with all my heart. And when the offering came, I gave what I could. When the service was over, I stayed for a while, because I wanted to connect with God’s people.
All we have to do to make our life count forever, is to join a church and make it better. It is how we partner with Christ as he builds his church throughout the ages.
Matthew 16:19 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.
Whoever has the gospel of Jesus Christ can open the door to the kingdom of heaven. Peter used the gospel keys on the day of Pentecost, and thousands entered in through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:14-41). Whenever the gospel is preached, the door is open to all who believe.
But what about binding and loosing? In some of the rabbinic literature the words mean forbidding and permitting. The church is not bound by the words of Moses, but by the words of the apostles. It is not bound by the Old Testament, but by the New Testament. By calling this covenant new, he has made the first one obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), says Hebrews.
For many years I had a typewriter on which my children played. They enjoyed pressing the keys and watching the bars strike the paper. But when it was time for homework, they wanted nothing to do with it. It didn’t have spell-check, grammar-check, or even a delete key. At one time it was useful, but now it is obsolete.
Likewise, there is much in the Old Testament that is interesting, and even helpful. But when it comes to dietary laws, and many other laws, we are no longer bound. We have been loosed. This is a wonderful freedom, and reason to rejoice. Now we live for God in the simplicity of the gospel, not through countless commands.
Reflection and Review
Why does God hide certain things from unbelievers?
What is an easy way to make our life count forever?
Are there any laws in the New Testament?