The Solid Rock

The Solid Rock

Matthew 16:13-20

“Upon this rock, I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

 

            Peter was never shy about giving his view.  Of all the disciples, Peter was the most outspoken.  At times, we rightfully criticize Peter for his verbal bravado, for there were times when he spoke without genuinely understanding the implications of his words.  However, on this occasion, Peter makes an incredibly insightful statement.  In 16:13, Jesus takes the disciples to the remote northern city of Caesarea Philippi.  It was a relaxing area away from the crowds.  Visit the site today, and you will walk along the gently flowing Jordan River in a park-like setting.  So, it is not hard to imagine Jesus wanting to take his disciples away from the crowds for a respite. It allows him to spend time out from all the pressing crowds just to spend time with his disciples.  Here, away from the public, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” While the other disciples gave the answers of the groups, Jesus pressed them further, “But who do YOU say that I am?” For the first time, anyone makes an unequivocal statement, Peter affirms that Jesus is “Christ” (that is, the Messiah), the Son of the living God.  With remarkable insight, Peter declares that Jesus is not only the Messianic King but that Jesus has a unique relationship with the Father. This statement would be the basis for establishing the deity of Christ.  

            In response, Jesus blesses Peter for his insight and points out that this recognition was a testimony of the Father’s work in Peter’s life.  The recognition of Jesus as the Son of God is the self-revelation of God to his chosen followers.  In his blessing, Jesus affirms that Simon is “Peter (that is the Rock), and upon this rock I will build my church.”  But what did Jesus mean by this statement?  Commentators have been divided.  Some regard the word to refer to the confession of Peter, that is, that the church will be built upon Peter’s confession of faith (wanting to avoid the false idea of Papal succession).  Others view it to mean that Peter would be the initial leader of the church.   Either view makes theological and contextual sense; the most likely is that Jesus refers to the fact that Peter would be the initial leader in establishing the early church, which we find fulfilled in the book of Acts.  

            While we may not fully answer the debate, the point that we must not miss is that the church will be an unassailable fortress that even Satan and his minions will not be able to oppose or prevent its growth.  Today, the church is facing increasing opposition as people embrace post-modernism and reject the gospel message that points to the reality that one must embrace Christ to obtain salvation.  Because of this, the church can shrink back in silence.  But in Christ’s words, we find the encouragement and basis for boldness.  We can continue to proclaim the gospel without fear, for not only is it true, but Christ assures us that it will continue to grow no matter how severe the opposition.  Church history has repeatedly shown that the significant growth of the church often comes during periods of intense persecution.  While Jesus never promises us freedom from persecution or rejection (he promises the opposite), he assures us that nothing will be able to thwart the growth and impact of the Church.  We can remain bold in our witness because we have God on our side.  Our calling is not to remain safe in the church walls and avoid hostility by staying silent.  Our calling is to take the gospel into the world, recognizing that the gospel will be advanced no matter how intense the opposition may be.  Now is not the time to slip away to the safety of the church building in fear, but to bold proclaim the gospel for “it is the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16), and nothing is more potent than that.  

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