Peter Declares That Jesus Is The Messiah


‘When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.’ Matthew 16:13-20

Caesarea Philippi

Situated 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and at the base of Mount Hermon, Caesarea Philippi is the location of one of the largest springs feeding the Jordan River. This abundant water supply has made the area very fertile and attractive for religious worship. Numerous temples were built in this city in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Apparently known as Baal Hermon and Baal Gad in the Old Testament period, this site later was named Panias after the Greek god Pan who was worshipped here.

There is no record of Jesus entering the city, but the great confession and the transfiguration both occurred in the vicinity of the city, Matthew 16:13, then known as Caesarea Philippi.

Jesus asked what the public thought about Him, and the disciples reported varying opinions, including John the Baptist, Elijah, etc. One disciple pointed out that many believed Jesus was John the Baptist reincarnated, Mark 8:27-30 / Luke 9:18-21.

They believed that John had come back from the grave to continue his ministry of announcing the Messiah while criticising the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, Matthew 14:1-3.

Another disciple shared the fact that many people believed Jesus was Elijah, Matthew 17:10 / 2 Kings 1:1-12 / Mark 6:15, considered by some Jews to be the supreme Old Testament prophet.

If you remember the Book of Malachi, Malachi 4:5 says, ‘See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.’ And so, some thought this Jesus was Elijah, fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi.

And even today, in modern Jewish Passover celebrations, there is an empty chair reserved at the table for Elijah, in the hope of his one day coming to announce the Messiah’s arrival.

Another disciple shared that some people said Jesus was Jeremiah but why would they think He was Jeremiah?

Well, they held this opinion because according to 2 Maccabees legend, Jeremiah had taken the Ark of the covenant and the altar of incense out of the temple and hidden them both somewhere on Mount Nebo in order to preserve them from desecration and destruction by the Babylonians.

Some Jews thought that before the Messiah returned to establish His kingdom, Jeremiah would return to earth and restore the Ark and the altar to their proper places in the temple.

So, the people who said these things were paying Jesus wonderful compliments by comparing Him to some of the greatest prophets and teachers God had ever sent.

They were giving Jesus high praise, but not enough high praise because in, their minds, none of these three prophets were the Messiah.

They were just one of the Messiah’s forerunners who had come back to life with God-given miraculous powers. When Jesus asked their own opinion, Peter boldly responded, ‘you are the Messiah’. It was a brilliant insight.

When Jesus calmed the stormy seas of Galilee in Matthew 8, the disciples proclaim, ‘what kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’ Matthew 8:27.

When Jesus walked upon the waters of the Sea of Galilee the disciples proclaim, ‘truly you are the Son of God’, Matthew 14:33. Now, Peter makes the proclamation of the deity of Christ.

Jesus tells Simon, son of Jonah, John 1:42 / John 21:15-17, that he is blessed, the word ‘blessed’ in Greek is the word, ‘makarios’, which is used in the beatitudes at Matthew 5:3-10, and it means happy.

Peter’s name, ‘Petros’ is a Greek word that is masculine in gender, the word means a stone or rock, John 1:42.

How did Peter know that Jesus was the Christ? Peter had witnessed all the Lord’s miracles and heard His teaching and preaching, John 3:2 / John 5:36 / John 10:37-38 / John 14:11 / John 20:30-31.

When anyone proclaims deity and then backs that claim up with sure miracles there is no denying it, Matthew 15:21-28. Peter and the apostles believed that he was the Christ due to divine revelation.

Peter had answered the Lord’s question by stating that he was the ‘Christ, the Son of the living God’, Matthew 14:33 / John 6:69 / John 11:27. Jesus now responds to Peter’s confession by saying that ‘upon this rock, I will build my church’.

The gender of this Greek word, ‘petra’ is feminine, and so, doesn’t refer to Peter whose name is masculine. The rock here is the fact that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God.

The rock or foundation that the church will be built upon will be the fact that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God, 1 Corinthians 3:11 / Ephesians 2:20.

Note that Jesus said, ‘I will build my church’, indicating that it had not been built or established at the point of this conversation. This is the first mention of the word ‘church’, which is ‘ekklesia’ in the New Testament. The Greek word means an assembly of the citizens regularly summoned, to call an assembly.

When the Lord’s church was built Jesus said that ‘the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’ Daniel 2:44 / Daniel 7:13-14.

The gates of ancient cities were the most vulnerable part of the city and so, when a city was attacked by an enemy, the enemy attacked the gates. If the gates fell, the city fell. The word ‘gates’ became a metaphor meaning power or strength. Hades is the unseen abode of the dead.

There is power in sin and that is death, Genesis 2:17 / 1 Corinthians 15:55-56. This power, however, couldn’t hold Jesus when He was resurrected from the dead.

When Jesus rose from the grave he went on to establish His church that all others may have power over sin and death through his blood sacrifice.

The Lord proclaims to Peter, ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven’. The word ‘keys’ is the Greek word, ‘kleis’ which means that which serves for closing, a bar or bolt.

Notice that Jesus says keys not key, Peter used one of those keys to open up the way to heaven to the Jews in Acts 2 and He used the other key to open up the way to heaven for the Gentiles in Acts 10.

Keys are sometimes used as a metaphor which refers to privilege or authority, Isaiah 22:22 / Luke 11:52 / Revelation 1:18 / Revelation 3:7 / Revelation 9:1. The word ‘bind’ means to bind, tie, to put in bonds and the word, ‘loosed’ means to loosen, unbind, unfasten.

In other words, the apostles would be given the Gospel message of repentance and forgiveness of sins through the blood sacrifice of Jesus.

Those who received this message would be loosed from the bondage of sins, yet those who rejected the message and would not repent remained bound in chains to their sin and destined for an eternity of torment. The ‘keys’ given to Peter and the apostles are clearly the Gospel message.

Jesus tells His disciples not to tell anyone at this time that He was the Christ, Matthew 8:4 / Matthew 17:9 / Luke 9:21, because it was not his time to die yet, John 10:17-18. Jesus still had much work to do, therefore He didn’t want any unnecessary hindrance from those who tried to kill Him.

Notice that Jesus teaching to His disciples up to this point was mainly about His identity but here in Mark 8:31 Jesus’ teaching ministry changes. He focuses on His upcoming death, burial and resurrection.

The real question is, who do you claim Jesus to be?