Reading Time: 6 Minutes
Dave Mason, an old British rocker, had these lyrics in one of his songs, “Who is God and what’s on his mind?” Instead of a rock singer asking about God, Jesus asked his followers who they thought he was. Here’s how Matthew recorded the conversation between Jesus and his disciples.
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, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16.13-16).
Peter had the right answer, because he had been walking with Jesus throughout Galilee for a significant length of time. Peter was doubtless impressed with the authority and wisdom of Jesus’ teaching. The miracles of healing and deliverance that piled up day after day had to make an impression on him.
He was there to hear Jesus answer the disciples of John the Baptist with these words, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (Matthew 11.4-5).
Not only did Peter hear Jesus tell John’s followers this, he was present to witness each of the events Jesus referenced. No wonder Peter replied like he did to Jesus’ question.
The reason why we are traveling with Jesus and his disciples through events of the Gospel of Matthew is to have the same experiences as Peter. When we are asked by others, “Who is God and what’s on his mind,” we will be able to give them an answer that is informed by a knowledge of Jesus’ teaching and actions.
In difficult times, when we may be prone to doubt and fear, we can look at our experiences with Jesus in reading and praying through this Gospel. It will be a source of faith and strength for us.
Blessing and Responsibility
Jesus continued his conversation with the disciples. He pronounced a blessing on Peter and conferred a responsibility on Peter, the disciples and people like us.
Jesus blessed Peter with these words, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16.17-18).
Even though Peter had many powerful experiences with Jesus, he was able to declare Jesus to be the Messiah and the Son of God not because of the experiences, but because God had revealed it to him.
Paul reminds us that we can only grasp the things of God through revelation. He wrote, “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Corinthians 2.10).
People who attempt to understand God apart from a relationship with God will simply not be able to do it. Again Paul wrote, “Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2.14).
The very best way to obtain deeper knowledge of the character and plans of Jesus is to spend time with him by reading the Gospel message aided by the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Obedience to his direction is also essential for this kind of knowledge.
Jesus told Peter that he would build the church on his character and leadership. That is an astounding responsibility. However, Jesus told Peter that nothing – even death – would be able to stop the church he had founded.
Peter, the other disciples, and everyone else who has followed in the centuries after this meeting in Caesarea Philippi are stewards of God’s work on earth. Here is what Jesus told the original twelve and people like us about our role as stewards.
He said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16.19).
The literal reading of this verse is, “You will bind on earth what has already been bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth has already been bound in heaven.”
This is not so much double-talk on my part. It reflects the role that stewardship plays in our lives. God has already done the work. It is a completed event in heaven. As his stewards, he gives us the keys to his ministry.
An example may help me explain this important fact. It was God’s settled will to bring salvation to my life. The death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection for the forgiveness of my sins was something that he completed and settled in heaven.
God put the “keys to the kingdom” in the hands of Butch Roll, my friend and neighbor. The question was, “Would Butch be a faithful steward and use the keys to open the door of my life to Jesus?” He had a choice. He didn’t have to exercise his stewardship. He could have been unconcerned and left me alone. Praise God! He did use the keys and I have been a friend of Jesus since the summer of 1967.
Once again, God has done the work for humanity. The activity of his salvation and of his will is a completed fact. He has put the “keys to the kingdom” in our hands. As people who work for him and with him, our words and our lives will open doors for God’s magnificent salvation to be experienced by people around us.
Dear Jesus, we thank you that we can walk with you through the power of the Holy Spirit just as did Peter and the other disciples. As we walk with you, we know our understanding and confidence in you will grow. You have put the keys to your kingdom in our hands. Please help us to be responsible stewards of your love and grace with the people around us.