Peter’s Profession of Faith

Posted by Thaddaeus

Matthew 16: 13-20


Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”   Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.   I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.


Background:  Leaving the region of Sidon and Tyre, Jesus takes the Twelve west through Dan, the northern boundary of ancient Israel, to the region of Caesarea Philippi.  The ancient city of Caesarea Philippi is a former Greek, pagan cult center known as the Rock of the Gods dedicated to the Greek god Pan.  Pan was the god of shepherds and flocks.  There is a kepha (Ara., “massive rock”), a foundation stone, 100-feet high and 500-feet long.  Herod the Great erects a temple of white marble in his honor.  There is a cavern at the base of the rock called the Gates of Hades, which is a  reference to the entrance of the nether world.  Hades is the Greek god of the nether world.  The Church Fathers understand it as metaphor for “the powers of death.”  The strength of a ancient fortified cities is determined by the power of their gates.  Thus, the church he will build shall prevail against the powers of death.


Background:  Jesus gives Simon a new name, Kepha.    A new name signifies a new mission, to shepherd the flock.  To be the foundation of the church He will build.  The wordplay only makes sense in Aramaic, “…you are Kepha, and upon this kepha I will build my church.  Here Peter is given preeminence over the others.  In a monarchy, the king presides over the kingdom, but the king does not run the day-to-day administration of government.  The government is run by the prime minister and the other cabinet officials.  Every cabinet officer has limited authority to make executive decisions, but the prime minister always has final say.  The keys symbolize complete, unfettered authority to bind and loose.  While the limited authority to bind and loose sins in the confessional is given to the others, and their successors, final say in all matters of faith and morals is Peter’s and his successors.  The one with the keys.