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50: Confession Time

May 14, 2009

Major Text: Matthew 16:13-20

Harmony Texts:

Matt. 16:13-20      Mark 8:27-30      Luke 9:18-21

Outline:

  1. Who Do the People Say that I Am? Matt. 16:13-14
  2. Who Do You Say that I Am? Matt. 16:15-19
  3. Don’t Say a Word Matt. 16:20

Context/Discussion/Comments:

The Area of Caesarea Philippi was and is still a very beautiful area. It has tall trees, running streams, and the headwaters of the Jordan River. The streams are fed by the snow capped mountains. We visited this area twice; the second time it was snowing. You can sit on the rocks beside a stream and below a large cave opening in the cliffs. This cave entrance was supposedly the Gates of Hades which went to the innermost parts of the earth where evil spirits dwelt. The people in the area were idolatrous, worshipping a god named Pan. One can still see statues carved in the cliff walls.

So Jesus has taken His disciples into the heart of evil and idolatry to answer the most important question of man, “Who do you say that I am?” At this moment Peter’s faith becomes mature; it comes of age; it is capable of bearing fruit; reproducing. True, there is room for more growth; there always is until we see Him face to face. Peter’s confession tells Jesus that Peter’s depth of belief and faith will sustain him even if Jesus is not present in the flesh. In the next lesson Jesus begins to reveal to His disciples what the future holds. True, Peter has trouble accepting Jesus’ death and true, Peter will deny his Lord before His death. But this bold confession reflects Peter’s heart, his belief, and his faith. Peter expresses and possesses the faith needed to withstand the assaults of Satan himself. I believe two other disciples, James and John, also expressed a similar commitment that day because these three disciples were the only ones to go with Jesus to see Him transfigured. The other disciples came to this same saving faith between His transfiguration and His ascension. They did not see Christ transfigured until after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Catholics interpret this passage as Christ announcing that Peter [Rock] will be the head of the Church when Christ has ascended; their first Pope. Protestants interpret the confession [Rock], that Jesus is the Christ, as the foundation of the Church and that each one who sincerely makes this confession has accepted the awesome responsibility of carrying on the work of Jesus Christ.

Historically, Peter was a leader in the Church. James, Jesus’ half brother, was the leader in Jerusalem. Somebody else was over the church at Antioch. Catholics hold to the tradition that Peter ruled in Rome. My personal belief is that Peter did not arrive in Rome until just prior to Paul’s martyrdom. He came from his area of responsibility, northwestern Asia Minor, to befriend Paul. Peter was martyred in Rome shortly thereafter [see my introduction to I Peter].

The verses concerning “the keys to the Kingdom” and the “loosing on earth and heaven” are to be interpreted as follows. Every true born again believer has the “keys”. After all, the kingdom will eventually be residing in Heaven and we believers all have a mansion being built for us. Those who have the keys know and share the truth that Jesus is the Son of God and only through faith in Him can one receive eternal life. The “loosing” passage simply indicates that we Christians are given an awesome responsibility. What we do for God on earth has an effect in heaven. Every believer has an inheritance [See my commentary on Ephesians, chapters 1-3].

Lessons/Applications:

1. How one answers the question “who do you say that I am?” determines where one will spend eternity. It is the most important question one will ever answer. And everyone answers the question. Ones answer determines how you will live on earth and where you will spend eternity. We are commended or condemned before God by what we believe and confess while on earth.

2. Peter gave the right answer; “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. Jesus is God Incarnate [see my commentary on II John]. His belief resulted in true faith; saving faith. With belief and faith comes responsibility, a responsibility to do the will of God.

Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

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