Sunday, July 01, 2007



Matthew 16:13-20

As we continue to move through Matthew's perspective on the Kingdom, we have arrived at Matthew 16:

13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" 14They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

15"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

17Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And 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. 19I 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." 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

Years ago when working on university campuses, we made it our goal to do whatever we could to make Jesus the issue on the campus. We did this by speaking to the needs of the students and then relating Jesus as the solution to those needs. This was the atmosphere during the times of Jesus in the 1st Century. He was the issue that everyone was talking about and everyone had an opinion about Him.

Jesus asked "What are people saying out there?" Then, turns the corner and asks, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter came through with the answer: "YOU ARE THE CHRIST (Messiah), the Son of the living God!"

Just when Peter was about to take credit for this observation, Jesus points out that His Father gave him that insight.

Then Jesus makes one of the most important statements of His early ministry. "You are Peter (little rock) and upon this rock (big ledge) I will build My church." He refers to some sort of huge rock or ledge upon which Jesus will build His church. Here are the most common options:

· He is speaking of Peter as the foundation of the church. (This would place Peter as THE leader-even the Pope of the church. This would give great power to the leadership of man and especially those who are successors of Peter.)

· He is speaking of the words Peter spoke-the confession of who indeed Jesus is-the Messiah, the Son of the living God. (This would place words and theology as the governing foundation and force of the church of Jesus.)

I have difficulty accepting either of these explanations of Jesus' words. And, in fact, at the rate of 70+ churches shutting down in the USA every week, it seems that the gates of Hades or something may be overpowering them. These are not the churches of Jesus. They are based upon man's leadership and man-made theological structures. I think the best is the third option:

· He is speaking of the actual living confession of Peter to make this testimony and assessment of Jesus. The church of Jesus that will not be destroyed by the gates of Hades is the testimony of the followers of Jesus as they speak of Him. It is the beauty of people from a variety of backgrounds and status who are given by the Father the power and courage to confess that they are followers of Messiah Jesus, the Son of the living God.

NOTE that Jesus says that He will build His church. That's the only kind of church that will not be overpowered. So if Jesus is building the church, what does He want us who follow Him to do? Let's get it straight: HE BUILDS THE CHURCH; WE ARE TO BE THE CHURCH.

ONE MORE THING: What is this "church" that Jesus says He will build? The Greek term is ekklesia. It literally means those who are "called out" for a reason. This could refer to a city council, an assembly or a gathering of any kind. So, this term is a very common term and has no great significance at all. This is one of two times Jesus even uses the term.

When Jesus speaks of "building" His "church", He is speaking of a gathering of those who are followers of Jesus. The revolutionary movement of Jesus is being built-energized-by Jesus Himself. Nothing can stop this movement. Don't you see that this kind of movement is the Kingdom movement.

NOTE that those who are actively expressing this confession of being followers of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God are given the "keys of the Kingdom" to bind things on earth. And, those things that are bound on earth are also bound in heaven. This is the essence of the Kingdom teaching. There is no separation between the earth and the heavens. Why? Because the Kingdom of heaven is all about living life on earth. It's the presence of God in and through us right here, right now. Here's how it works: Confess that Jesus is God's deliverer for planet earth and He wants to set up His Kingdom right here among us RIGHT NOW.