Matthew 16:13-20:  “Jesus Asks His Disciples Who They Think He Is, Then Peter Makes His Great Confession


Jim Bomkamp

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1.                 INTRO


1.1.         In this next section we see that the entire focus of Jesus’ ministry has now come to hinge upon one result:  Jesus’ disciples must be sure that they truly know ‘who’ He is in His person


1.1.1.  It is very curious to me that Jesus had not spoken in clear and direct terms about who He is to this point with His disciples, and it is believed that the events of this story are occurring approx. 1 week before Jesus was crucified

1.1.2.  If the disciples don’t now get the message of who He is then His mission will have failed and they will not be able to comprehend His death upon a cross nor His resurrection

1.1.3.  Notice that after He questions them as to who He is and Peter makes His ‘Great Confession’ of who He is, that it is immediately afterward that Jesus begins to tell them directly and openly about His coming death on the cross and resurrection would not be ready for this until Peter had made his confession and all of the disciples had been confirmed in their understanding of who Jesus is in His person


2.                 VS 16:13-16  - “13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”” -  Peter’s ‘great confession’


2.1.         It is very intriguing to me how that Jesus went about His ministry with the apostles, for the thing that was most important about His ministry was really ‘the revelation of Himself (He was as the Messiah, ‘God the Son’), and yet all throughout His ministry He never came out and proclaimed clearly to them who He was.  Jesus intended to reveal to the disciples who He was by the things that He did and said, not by making His own confession and declaration.  Yet as I say, the most important thing in a person’s life is their coming to that understanding through faith of who He is in His person.  Also, if Jesus is not ‘God the Son’, co-equal with God, and the Messiah, then His mission must fail, for He cannot have procured for us the forgiveness of our sins if He be not the Messiah, ‘God the only unique Son from all eternity’

2.1.1.  So then, what is happening here beginning with this verse is that we see Jesus take His disciples to the point of revealing to them who He really is in His person, and this is really then the culmination of all His work and ministry to this point, as this is now the most important part of His ministry to them, for they must get this point if they are to be able to continue to follow Him and eventually accept the sacrifice upon Calvary which He is soon to endure for them disciples will never be able to accept the humiliation and horrors of their master’s crucifixion if through the eyes of faith they do not see that it was a divine work of God on their behalf for providing a way for their penalty of sin to be paid through the blood of the Lamb of God, blameless and without spot or imperfection, and thus one which is able to be the perfect sacrifice and atonement for sins

2.2.         Jesus begins here by asking His disciples who it was that ‘people’ (the populace) thought He was?  What were the popular theories people had concerning Him?

2.2.1.  In asking this question in this way, Jesus is trying to make His disciples truly ponder ‘for themselves’ whom He was, for by asking this question He wanted them to put together in their minds all that they new about Him and the things that He had done, and then come to the only logical and sane conclusions concerning Him which they should come to

2.2.2.  They said that some people thought that He was ‘John the Baptist’ raised from the dead or somehow transported directly from hades (the place of the dead) saw earlier that Herod Antipas’ guilty conscience from beheading John had caused Him when He heard of Jesus to consider that Jesus might be John the Baptist raised from the dead

2.2.3.  Others thought He was ‘Jeremiah’ was seen by the populace not as a valiant warrior, but rather as a weeping and sorrowful prophet (a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, Isaiah 53), and thus some surmised He might be a resurrected Jeremiah the Prophet

2.2.4.  Some thought that he was ‘one of the prophets’ people who thought this must have thought either that this prophet had been raised from the dead, or that he had been simply transported from heaven to earth. Luke 9:19, Luke’s account has the disciples say that some thought that he was one of the prophets ‘risen again’

2.2.5.  In Mark’s account, the disciples said that some thought that he was ‘Elijah’ idea made some sense due to Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah would return before the day of the Lord (see last verse in Malachi)

2.3.         Having caused the disciples to think about who He was by asking them who people said that He was, Jesus now asked them the most important question of all, the question whose answer only the truly redeemed understand, to tell Him who they thought He was.  To this question Peter gave his ‘Great Confession’

2.3.1.  Some have speculated that Peter’s response was merely the consensus of opinion of the whole group of apostles and that he was really acting as their mouth piece

2.3.2.  Peter may have been way ahead of some of the apostles in making this confession, however since he spent so much time with Jesus and would therefore have a better grasp of who Jesus might be

2.3.3.  The ‘Great Confession’ of Peter was a confession that revealed the knowledge of who Jesus was, and that revelation was of His being ‘divine’, co-equal with God, God the Son from all eternity who came down and was made incarnate as a man was really not a new revelation to Peter since in the first chapter of John (John 1:41) when Andrew his brother called him to come and see Jesus, Andrew said that they had found the Messiah concept which Peter had heard at first had finally to come together in his mind and made sense, for who else could Jesus be but God the Son, the Messiah come in the flesh apostle John wrote in his epistle to combat the errors of the cult of Gnostics of his day who did not believe that Jesus had been God the Son from all eternity but rather that divinity had merely come upon Him temporarily at His baptism, and in  1 John 4:1-3, he wrote about how that it is only by or as the result of the Holy Spirit residing within a person that He would be understand that Jesus had come in the flesh, “4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 12:3 that no person could say that Jesus Christ is Lord except through the Holy Spirit, “3 Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” John 20:30-31, the apostle John recounts the reason why he had written his gospel in the first place was to tell of the great works which Jesus had performed as well as His teachings and that as a result they might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, God come in the flesh.  John writes, “30 Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name the scriptures all mankind are sometimes referred to as being ‘sons of God’, and in some senses they are.  Likewise, in some places angels are spoken of as being ‘sons of God’, and so also are they.  However, Peter confesses that Jesus is the ‘Son of God’ in a way that is unique from any other person upon the earth.  He is the ‘Son’ of God with a ‘capital C’, for He is a Son in a sense in which no other man can ever be, even though we as Christians all share in Christ’ inheritance the book of Romans, Rom. 1:1-5, Paul begins that book (which is a treatise which covers to some degree every doctrine in Christianity) that Jesus was ‘declared’ by God through His resurrection from the dead to be the ‘Son of God’ with power through His resurrection from the dead.  In other words, God powerfully and unmistakably confirmed Jesus’ claim to deity by raising Him from the dead, “1:1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake


3.                 VS 16:17  - “17 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven -  Jesus tells Peter that he is blessed because Jesus’ Father in heaven had revealed this truth to him


3.1.         As I have mentioned before, a person does not suddenly figure out who Jesus is and then come to believe in Him for salvation.  Rather, a person can only understand who Jesus is by divine revelation, revelation by the Spirit of God

3.1.1.  In Gal. 1:11-12, the apostle Paul, the one whom God chose above all of the other apostles in the early church to preach and reveal what the good news of the gospel of Jesus consists of, reveals that he himself did not figure it out but rather it came about by a revelation from Jesus Christ, “11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ

3.1.2.  In 1 Cor. 2:12-14, Paul writes about how in effect that the Lord has given us the Holy Spirit in order that we might be able to understand spiritual things, and that without the Spirit in our lives we cannot understand any of the things of God, “12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised

3.1.3.  The apostle John wrote in 1 John 2:27 about the anointing of the Holy Spirit which we have received which enables us to understand the things of God, “27 And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him

3.1.4.  It is truly a ‘blessed’ thing to be given the ability by the Lord to understand the things of the Spirit of God.  Remember we read in Matt. 13:16-17 about Jesus telling His disciples that they were so blessed and that even many prophets and kings had desired to see and hear the things they were seeing and hearing and were not able to do it, “ 16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 “For truly I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it; and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it”””


4.                 VS 16:18  - “18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it”” -  Jesus tells Peter that His Name is ‘Peter’ and that upon ‘this rock’ He would build His church


4.1.         In John 1:40-42, we see that John recorded that when Jesus first saw Simon, when his brother Andrew had brought him to Jesus, that Jesus changed Simon’s name from Simon to ‘Cephas’, which when translated from Hebrew to Greek is pronounced, ‘Peter’

4.1.1.  The name ‘Peter’ means a rock, whereas the name ‘Simon’ meant “heard”, and thus Peter as a man and as an apostle shall be a rock for he shall stand upon a very great authority, the authority of God Himself

4.2.         We have to ask the question as to what Jesus meant when He said, ‘upon this rock’ here?

4.2.1.  The Roman Catholics have said that Peter was being placed as the sole head over the church, and that he was thus made the first pope because of these words.  However, that theory has some problems: Roman Catholics believe that the papacy was established over Rome, and that therefore the pope has always ruled from Rome, however despite their claims there is absolutely no evidence anywhere that Peter ever made the journey to or lived in the city of Rome Roman Catholics believe in the infallibility of the pope and that when he speaks upon the throne of Peter that what he speaks is considered scripture, and in fact it takes precedence over the scripture obvious problem with this is that the Lord is omniscient and omnipotent and thus He cannot contradict Himself for it is not possible for Him to do so, and newer revelations which contract His previously revealed will would cause Him to contradict Himself, as the papal declarations have done scripture never speaks of any man as being infallible, for only the Lord is infallible pope sits as an intermediary to the Lord, much as the Catholics believe that Mary and also the saints are intermediaries to the Lord, however the scripture teaches us just the opposite, for in instance Heb. 4:16, it teaches that we may always come boldly before the Lord’s throne of grace to receive mercy in time of need, the scriptures contradict the entire priest order of the Catholic Church for it teaches the priesthood of all believers (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; and 20:6), which would only make sense if we need no intermediary ourselves between us and God

4.3.         The ‘rock’ of which Jesus then speaks is actually ‘the truth contained in Peter’s confession’ itself, as it is upon the foundation of this truth that all the doctrines, truths, and practices of Christianity are based, and without this confession there would be no church as it exists upon this earth.

4.4.         Jesus tells three things here about the church:

4.4.1.  It is ‘His church’ church of Jesus Christ does not belong to anyone, for men are only Jesus’ caretakers over His flock, not the owners of that flock then should teach us the importance of seeking the Lord’s guidance in decisions made concerning the church

4.4.2.  He will build His church is so important, for those of us who are leaders within the church must realize that we are not the ones who are building Christ’s church, for though we are cooperating with Him in the establishment of His church, He is the One who is doing the building of us who are leaders can take courage (and never be discouraged) and rest in the fact that the Lord is concerned about His church, for He has each one in mind whom He will bring into a local assembly, and He will orchestrate events in such a way as to cause the healthy growth and establishment of His church’s church is a not a religious organization but rather a living spiritual organism, and each member of Christ’s body is called into that body, and having been called to the body he or she is to perform a unique function within the body, if the body is to be healthy and prosper

4.4.3.  The gates of hades shall not prevail against it can and does attack Christ’s church as he tries his best to subvert the establishing and healthy functioning of the church, however ultimately because the Lord’s hand is upon His church satan and the demons are going to fail and be overthrown and the church will grow and prosper the last several years I have seen time and again churches go through some of the most catastrophic trials and spiritual attacks only to prosper through and because of them and be much stronger afterwards, and thus I have learned that Christ’s church is much stronger than I ever imagined that it could be 6 years ago, when we were early in the planting of a Calvary Chapel in Helena, MT, the pastor of our home church began having an affair with his assistant pastor’s wife.  The affair went on for two years while he remained in the pulpit, however with his living in sin during that entire time, the spiritual edification of that body was severely hindered, and there was always a strange atmosphere when the church was together.  Then, when he was finally found out, 2 years later, he ended up leaving his wife for this other woman (who also left her husband for him), and though we feared that the entire church might collapse and disperse, the church instead pulled strongly together, found another pastor, and today is much stronger and sounder than ever before. year and a half ago a pastor friend of mine whom I had encouraged to leave a denominational church and become a Calvary pastor began a church plant in a city in Utah.  A church quickly grew up to 60-70 adults in Sunday attendance within a year.  However, the pastor’s wife suddenly grew very ill with cancer and then died of a complication from her treatment just as it appeared that she would be going into remission.  The pastor couldn’t handle his wife’s death and was extremely distraught, and then just one week after her death he was found dead in his bedroom.  I appears that he had a massive heart attack, i.e. that he died of a broken heart, I believe.  I thought that the church would just fall apart and disperse, especially after being together for only one year, however it continued to grow even without a pastor, as it sought a Calvary Chapel pastor.  After several months now they have gotten a pastor, and I have heard that the church is doing better than ever now.’s church will prevail against the powers of hell, for the Lord will go before it and fight its battles, for He is the one who is building the church


5.                 VS 16:19  - “19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.””  -  Jesus tells Peter that He will give him the keys of heaven


5.1.         This verse has been interpreted variously down through the ages, and the controversy is really two-fold concerning its interpretation:

5.1.1.  Were the keys just meant for Peter? Roman Catholic Church has tried throughout the ages to claim that this statement by Jesus verifys their claim that by these keys that Peter was given a position of ultimate authority over the church, and thus he was made to be the Pope, Christ’s Representative upon the earth, if the confession was a general one which all believers share in, why would not the receiving of the keys be for all true believers to share in?

5.1.2.  If the keys weren’t meant just for Peter, but for all true believers, what authority is therefore conferred upon believers through these keys? of all, we ought to acknowledge that Jesus had all authority placed under Him up to this point, and we see this in demons, sickness and disease, and even the forces of nature obeying His very word Revelation 1:18, when the resurrected Jesus appeared in all of His glory to John upon the island of Patmos, He declared which keys He possessed, “18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades really holds all of the keys in His possession, and it was prophesied of the Messiah in Isaiah 22:22 that this would be so, “22 “Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open””, we see in the New Testament that Jesus conferred His authority to His disciples in the two internships where He sent them out to preach, heal, and to cast out demons “in His Name”, it must be that what Jesus meant by ‘the keys of heaven’ had to do with His conferring ‘His authority’ to them, but the question is ‘how much of His authority did He confer upon all true believers?’ scripture that is usually quoted along with this verse is Matt. 18:19, which teaches that where two or more are gathered together He will be in their midst, “19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven”” verse does apply to this scripture and situation, however the context of Matt. 18:19 is usually not noted by those who bring it up when people get together to pray.  For though it could and does apply to prayer, the context is church discipline, for just before the verse is the verses in which Jesus taught that if our brother was in sin that we were to go to him, and if he didn’t listen to us that we were to bring a brother or two with us and confront him again, and then if he still didn’t listen to us we were to bring him before the church, the Lord is with His church whenever they come together, and He also does lead them both in their prayer in which they bind the powers of darkness and loose God’s will upon the earth;  likewise, the Lord is with church leaders when they seek Him together and confer concerning His will upon earth in matters (such as church discipline as one example), we Christians need to take it to heart that we go out into the world as Christ’s respresentatives and ambassadors and that as such we have Him backing us up as we advance, and satan and demons cannot hinder us from accomplishing Christ’s work as he leads us and conquers His enemies before us.


6.                 VS 16:20  - “20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ -  Having revealed who He was to His disciples and heard Peter’s (and their corporate confession) of Him as being God the Son, the Messiah, Jesus now warned them not to tell anyone He was the Christ


6.1.         Jesus knew that the multitudes had on a couple of occasions already considered taking Him by force and making Him king, so in order to keep something like that from being attempted by a mob, Jesus wisely warned His disciples now to keep their revelation of who He was to themselves for now

6.1.1.  This was just one of many opportunities that Jesus had and turned down where He could have utilized an opportunity to manipulate people and circumstances in order to place Himself as head over the nation of Israel as king, however Jesus knew that His kingdom was not of this world, and that His purpose was to go to the cross and procure the salvation of mankind and the total defeat and overthrow of the devil.

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