When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14They 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?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ,[b] the Son of the living God.”
17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter,[c] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[d] will not overcome it.[e] 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[f] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[g] loosed in heaven.” 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
A few things came to my attention about this passage that I never noticed before.
The first is that all the disciples are sharing with Jesus what the word on the street is. Just like most of us, they have an easy time sharing the gossip. Simon Peter is praised because he’s the one who sucks it up, puts himself on the line, and tells Jesus what he’s thinking.
And what he’s thinking is that Jesus is something wholly new. Everybody else is busy trying to put Jesus into the same tired categories they’ve always lived by. (I suppose you might say that He is the new wine being put in an old wine skin.) But Simon Peter gets it– this Jesus is not like any of the profits, sages, or wise men they’ve seen before.
Lots has been made about Simon being the rock that the church is built on. I think some people consider him the first pope, the beginning of Catholicism.
But what if the meaning is quite different? Jesus doesn’t say anything about official positions, inheritance, organizational structures. In fact, all these things strike me as quite counter to what Jesus was all about.
Within the context of the passage, it seems to me that maybe the thing that makes Simon Peter the rock is the fact that he sees something new is occuring before his eyes. While others will try to categorize Jesus in their tired old constructs, Christ’s church will be built by those who define everything by Jesus, rather than defining Jesus by what they’ve seen before.