What did Jesus mean when he said to Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”? There are three main interpretations:
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ” (Matthew 16.13-20).
Good eyesight is a marvelous blessing, and in order to see better, Americans spend billions of dollars a year on eye care. About seven percent of the population is considered legally blind. Jesus faulted the Pharisees because they were unable to “interpret the signs of the times” (Matthew 16.3). Are you able to interpret the times? Above all, are you able to interpret the times well enough to come to faith in Christ? Romans 13.11 uses this imagery when it says, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”
We can understand the failure of the Pharisees and Sadducees to perceive the signs of the times. They were unable to understand because they would not understand. It is exactly why people are unable to believe on Jesus Christ today: They do not want to believe. What really is incomprehensible is the dense minds of the disciples. To reapply the title of a movie, the Pharisees may have been spiritually “dumb,” but the disciples were “dumber.” They were dumber because they had every reason to understand.
Every chapter of the Bible is important, but you know what they say about all persons being born equal: “Some are equaler than others.” So also with the Bible. Some chapters are more important than others, though all are important. Matthew 16 is one of these “more important” chapters. It is the central chapter in Matthew’s account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Or to put it another way, it is the high point in Jesus’ teaching and the disciples’ growth in spiritual understanding.
In Matthew 15 the story of Jesus’ response to the Canaanite woman is followed by an account of His feeding of four thousand people near the Sea of Galilee, much as He had fed a somewhat larger group earlier. What are we to make of this story?