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Peter's Great Confession

The great confession of Simon Peter to Jesus is recorded in Matthew 16:16 – "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  The truth of Peter’s confession is widely known today, but very few people knew who Jesus really was when Peter gave his blessed answer.  Let us notice the events that led to this confession, and consider how Peter knew what others did not (read Matt. 16:13-20).

On the occasion of Peter’s confession, Jesus and His twelve disciples (apostles) had come into Caesarea Philippi.  This was the most northern point of the Lord’s travels according to the Bible record.  By this time, Jesus and His disciples had travelled throughout the lands of the Jews preaching the same message as John the baptist had preached: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  The Lord had even sent out the twelve apostles by themselves to preach this message and perform signs among the Jews (Matt. 10).  The twelve had been among the people, and they knew how the people reacted to the message and what they said about Jesus.

Jesus began His discussion with the apostles by asking, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  The term "Son of Man” was often used by Jesus to describe Himself.  This was a designation of the Christ that comes from Daniel 7:13, which was a prophecy Jesus applied to Himself (Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27).  By using this term, Jesus acknowledged His humanity and identified Himself with mankind.  Now His question to the apostles was whether mankind recognized who He really was.  This question was not for Christ’s benefit, for He already knew what people were saying about Him.  This was asked for the benefit of the apostles.

The answer given by the apostles was, "Some say John the baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”  By this time, John the baptist was dead because Herod had him beheaded (Matt. 14:3-12).  In fact, Herod was one of those who feared that Jesus was John risen from the dead (Matt. 14:1-2).  Regarding Elijah, the Jews had a tradition based upon Malachi 4:5 that Elijah would return before the Christ came, and so many had connected Jesus with that tradition.  Of course, Jesus said that John was the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy (Matt. 17:10-13).  Others believed that Jesus was Jeremiah or another prophet, but no one was giving the correct answer.

Jesus then asked the apostles another question: "But who do you say that I am?”  Jesus was not asking the apostles what they were telling other people about Him, for they had not been commissioned to tell others about Him yet.  Instead, Jesus was simply asking for their opinions.  Did they, like others, believe that He was John the baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets?

This is when Peter gave the correct answer, which prompted Jesus to announce the blessing of Peter.  Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and the knowledge of this truth was a blessing from the Father.  The Lord said, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”  Just as in the beatitudes (Matt. 5:1-12), Jesus said, "Blessed are you,” for Peter would find happiness in the fact that God had revealed this wonderful truth to him.  If Peter had relied only upon flesh and blood, then he would not have known the true identity of Jesus, but God had revealed it to him through the great works of Jesus and the Lord’s spiritual words of truth.  It was by these things that Peter had drawn the happy conclusion that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  All those others who thought that Jesus was anyone else did not know the blessing that Peter knew.

Jesus closed the conversation by connecting the truth of Peter’s confession with the foundation of His church.  The Lord said, "Upon this rock, I will build My church…”  The truth about Jesus is the basis for everything pertaining to the church, for He is the cornerstone of the church upon which all else is built (Eph. 2:19-22; 1Pet. 2:4-10).  All who make the same confession as Peter may share in his blessing, for flesh and blood has not revealed Christ to mankind, but rather He is revealed by the Father in heaven.  Those who believe in Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God stand upon that belief and collectively are His church.

Today, men say many things about Jesus, but only those who make the great confession in the likeness of Peter will be blessed.  Happiness comes to those who know the Lord, and they will gladly confess their belief in Him.  This confession is more than a casual acknowledgement or a one-time formal event.  Rather, it is a new way of life.  Anyone who confesses Jesus is transformed by that confession, for true belief in the truth of that confession requires complete devotion to the Lord.  Dear reader, have you made that great confession?  Who do you say that the Son of Man is?

Stacey E. Durham




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