This is a well-known passage recounting the first open confession of the disciples that Jesus is the Christ. Much has been said about the content of Peter’s confession (verse 16) as well as Jesus’ declaration that He will build his church on “this rock” (verse 18). What fascinated me when I read this passage again, is what happens here on a relationship level.
Although Jesus introduces this conversation with a question about what people were saying (verse 13) He immediately brings the focus to the group of followers around Him. The important question is not about “the people”. It is: “But who do you say that I am?” (verse 15 RSV).
However, the focus does not stay on this small group of followers. In verse 18 Jesus tells them about the church that He will be building. This small group will grow. Many will be added. Many will be included. Although this is not the right time yet (verse 20), the time will soon come when they will be using the “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (verse 19) to gather many into Jesus’ church.
By inviting his disciples to a confession of their faith in Him, Jesus brings them into a closer and more personal relationship with Him. He knows them well and He knows that Peter has flaws and that there will be disappointments, but He embraces him. What Peter confesses may be open to misunderstanding, but Jesus accepts it as a revelation by his Father in heaven (verse 17). By calling him a “rock” Jesus affirms him in his first steps of faith with the end in mind.
Peter is indeed a blessed person (verse 17a) – not because of who he is, but because of what Jesus has done. Not because of what Peter has done, but because of who Jesus is. (Freely quoted from the song “Who I am” by Casting Crowns. (Cf http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/castingcrowns/whoami.html )
To think about (or discuss): Why is it so difficult to embrace people when we know their flaws or when they have disappointed us? Is it possible to embrace people with the love of Jesus?