Saturday, May 15, 2021

Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 16:13-23)

"Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ [Messiah; Anointed One], the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

Caesarea Philippi is located in a rocky region. In one prominent rock face was a cave and spring known as the Gates of Hades. It was a strategic source of water controlled by a Roman garrison. Perhaps standing near this rock, Peter affirmed to Jesus that He was the promised Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus called Simon Peter (Petros) and then said that upon that “bedrock” (petra) He would build His church (Matthew 16:15–20), and the gates of Hades (that is, the Romans, indicative of worldly powers) would never overcome it. Ephesians 2:20 says that the church is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, with Christ as Chief Cornerstone. This apparently is the “bedrock,” and Peter is one of the stones.

Christ the Rock is Christ the Messiah. Messiah means “anointed one.” In the Old Testament, priests and kings were anointed officially with oil, while judges and prophets were anointed informally by the Holy Spirit. All of these various messiahs of the old covenant pointed to the Messiah to come.

Jesus blessed Peter for his forthright confession of faith, ascribing its source to the Father. A few minutes later, Jesus completely inverted His words to Peter, calling him a faithless rock of offense (skadalon) and ascribing the source of his opinions to Satan. This was because Peter objected to Jesus’ prediction of His forthcoming suffering and death.

Peter should have known better. The messiahs of the old covenant suffered and died, often because of the sins of the people. How Moses suffered because of the people. So did King David. So did the high priest Zechariah. So did Jeremiah the prophet. Prophets, priests, and kings—all the righteous messiahs of the old covenant suffered, and many were killed. Peter should have known that the same would be true of the Messiah.

Since Jesus was the Son (Son of Man and Son of God), Peter came to understand later that He had to suffer. Just as Abraham was called upon to offer his son, and just as the animal sacrifices substituted for the sons of Israel at Passover, so Jesus the Son would be Jesus the Sacrifice.

Paul, in Philippians 3:10, said he wanted to share Christ’s sufferings. As believers we are called to follow the Savior in this way (Matthew 16:24 ff.). A measure of your faithfulness is to consider how you suffer for your Lord. When you do suffer, cling to the Rock of refuge.