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©Laura Haverkamp

Chapter 16:13-20 (ESV)

Posted on November 08, 2022  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 16:13-20 (ESV) - Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Question to consider: When did Jesus actually command the disciples to tell everyone that He was the Christ?

Mark wrote about a blind man whom Jesus healed in Bethsaida before they walked to the villages in the region of Caesarea Philippi. The blind man received his sight in two stages, the first being too blurry to make out details of what he was seeing. This was a picture of Peter and his confession of Jesus. He could see well enough spiritually to recognize that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, but not clearly enough to really know what that meant. 

Caesarea Philippi was located about 25 miles north of Bethsaida. There was a spring in this region which fed the Jordan river. Because of this, it was a fertile region and there were many temples to foreign gods including one to the Greek god, Pan. Matthew did not say why they went up there, but it may have been a place where Jesus could speak privately with His disciples without the crowds. He used this as an opportunity to ask the disciples who people said that He was.

Some agreed with Herod the tetrarch that He was John the Baptist raised from the dead. To them, it was logical to think that the miracles performed were from something supernatural, and John raised from the dead would have fit that description. Elijah was a prophet known for working miracles, and he was seen being taken up into heaven by Elisha so the thought was that he had come back, especially in light of Malachi’s prophecy that the LORD would send Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD (Malachi 4:5). Jeremiah was known more for speaking against the religious authorities of his day which Jesus had developed a reputation for doing. While all of these men were types and shadows pointing to Christ, Jesus was of course the substance of the shadows, and the Holy Spirit had revealed this to Peter who responded to Jesus’ question.

Jesus’ response to Peter was a play on words. Peter’s given name was Simon, but Jesus gave him the name Peter which meant “rock” (in Aramaic, he was called Cephas). The church has argued for millennia about the meaning of this word play. Some say that Jesus called Simon “rock” because He would build His church upon the man as the vicar of Christ, the first Pope. Others proclaim that Jesus was saying that the church would be built upon what Simon had confessed, Jesus as the Christ. When thinking through this statement by Jesus, we should remember that the stone in which a structure was built was called the “cornerstone.” Peter himself referred to Jesus as “the stone the builders rejected which had become the cornerstone.” (1 Peter 2:7) If Jesus’ statement was meant to refer to Peter as the Pope, I would think that Peter would have mentioned it in his epistle when he referred to Christ as the cornerstone.

When Jesus proclaimed that they would be given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, He was referring to them being the ones Jesus would use to spread the gospel at the appointed time (after His resurrection). At that time, they would declare the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and all who believed would be saved. Until that appointed time, however, Jesus told them to tell no one that He was the Christ.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You that we live in the time in which we can proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against the good news of salvation in Him. May we be faithful heralds and disciples so that everyone around us may bring glory to Him. Amen.