Jesus’ question was more than a popular opinion poll. He was not interested in hearing what the majority of people think, or what the important people think. Jesus, of course, knows who he is. He is more interested in finding out how those closest to him, those who had been walking with him, who had witnessed his actions and words both publicly and in private would answer that question. And He asks us this same question today.

We read in the scripture that some of the people say that Jesus is, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Today, you might hear things like, Jesus is a great philosopher, a great moral guide, a champion of social justice, or the one who will bring me happiness and wealth if I seek him and his kingdom first. The answers of the people of Jesus’ time and those of our own time, fall short.

Simon Peter’s answer is the focal point of this part of the passage. “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds instantly with, “You are the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of the living God.” Seeing the depth of Simon’s answer, Jesus responds, “I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it.”

There are two very important thoughts to be considered here. First, Jesus does not want to be merely a key figure of the past for us. He wants us to know him today in the same way that Peter came to know him in that moment, by and through the grace of the Father. He wants us to know him as the one who is intimately interested in each of us, who is present to us with his whole being, here and now. He wants us to know that he walks with us in the good times, especially in our most troubling and painful times. He wants us to know that he desires to enter our hearts, to come into our very souls in every moment of our days, no matter how broken we are.

The other important word here is that Jesus, in recognition of Simon Peter’s insight into the truth of who He really is, says to him, “you are Peter (the rock), and upon this rock, I will build my church…” These words should greatly challenge us today. The word Jesus uses here is singular, “church”, not churches. The church is one, not many. The greatest scandal of Christianity to the world today is its state of division. The church is suffering today and is under attack from without and from within. Should we be surprised at this? Division is of the evil one, not of God.

But we have reason to hope in this passage as well. Jesus tells Peter, “…and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it.” It is not just that the church will withstand these constant assaults from hell, but even more, that the gates of hell will not prevail against the overwhelming power of God, that is, if the church remains one with God. Let us all pray with great faith, hope, and love that the church may finally come to be, in and through the grace of God, one body in Christ, and let us all work toward that goal with all of our being.

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