For an introduction to this series, click here.
Dec. 26, 2006
Chapter 16 has a series of episodes. It's possible they all took place on one day or a couple of days, but it's also possible these events took place over the course of weeks or more. Not denying inspiration, just a reminder. The chapter starts with Jesus once again clashing with the Pharisees and Sadducees. At the beginning of the chapter, they ask Jesus for a sign, and He says they will not get a sign other than the sign of Jonah, which Jesus explained earlier would be that He would be buried for three days and three nights just like Jonah was in the whale's belly. The ironic thing is that He did give them a legitimate sign. If they had been paying attention, they would have seen it. But no. They wanted to see Jesus put on a show. A show He was of course perfectly capable of, but not a show that would have seriously changed any hearts by this point.
After the opponents leave, Jesus tells the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. The disciples foolishly thought that He was talking about bread, but Jesus explained and warned them to beware of the Pharisees' teachings.
Next Jesus asks a question: "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (16:13) After hearing various answers, Jesus asks who they think He is. Peter answers, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."(16:16) Jesus responds with one of His most controversial statements:
"Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is 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."(16:17-19, ESV)
I don't claim to have the ultimate number one answer, but I think the correct interpretation falls somewhere between the Protestant views - which say that the church is built on either Christ or Peter's profession - and the Catholic view, which says the church is built on Peter, which I think is untrue. I think, mostly based on verse 19, that Jesus was addressing all the apostles when He made this statement. Basically, Jesus was saying that Peter, whose name means "pebble," was a rock on which He would build the church. In Ephesians 2 Paul speaks of the church built upon the foundation of the apostles, with Christ being the head cornerstone. Peter himself wrote that every Christian is a "living stone" in the house of God, with Jesus being the cornerstone. If Peter were the one complete foundation of the church, it would have been mentioned clearly somewhere in Scripture, not in a vague statement that can clearly be interpreted in many ways. He is certainly a part of the foundation, but not the whole thing.