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Upon This Rock

I don’t think you understand

One day a wife said to her husband: “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” When we read the word in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock”, I wonder if God sometimes says the same thing. Is Peter the rock on which God would build His church?

Peter’s name means “stone”

Certainly God used Peter to build the church. We don’t want to make light of how God worked through Peter to accomplish His plan for the church. In Matthew 16:17-18, Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter. The name “Peter” is derived from Greek Πέτρος (Petros) meaning “stone”. Many times in the Bible, God changed someone’s name because He was calling them to live out a new mission or identify with a new identity that God was giving them. This is exactly what Jesus was doing with Simon, seeing in him some great potential that no one else saw. Everyone else saw Simon, Jesus saw Peter.

Simon’s Character

Simon was anything but a rock. He wasn’t dependable the way a Christian leader needs to be. Without God’s Spirit, he often spoke or acted in a way that would be inappropriate for a Christian. His actions belied an underlying insecurity in spite of his outward confidence. Some of his impulsive actions included:

  • He invited Jesus and the disciples to his house even though his mother-in-law was sick (Mark 1:29-30)
  • When he saw Jesus walking on the water, He said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” But then allowed his fear to be stronger than his faith and he began to sink. (Matthew 14:28)
  • He attempted to kill the servant of the high priest when they came to arrest Jesus, not understanding that the events about to happen was God’s plan for salvation of all mankind. (John 18:10)
  • When Jesus appeared to Peter and some of the other disciple while they were fishing, he plunges into the sea to swim back to shore where Jesus was. (John 21:7)
  • Peter denies Jesus (just as Jesus predicted) three times showing his fear, cowardice, and lack of commitment. He even curses and swears. (Matthew 26:73-74)
  • When Jesus predicts his own death, Peter pulls him aside and attempts to correct him. (Matthew 16:22)
  • At the transfiguration of Jesus, Peter interrupts the discussion between Jesus, Moses and Elijah and “answered”—even though no one had asked him anything or invited him to speak! (Matthew 17:3-4)

Peter’s characteristics

In spite of Simon’s impulsiveness and inconsistencies, Jesus prophetically Changed his name to Peter for what, by God’s grace, he would become: a rock-solid pillar in the Church and part of its foundation. We find in Acts 2, Peter is a strong preacher of the gospel that results in 3000 being saved. In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested and the Peter that was fearful, cowardly, and uncommitted at Jesus trial is now fearless and inspired by the Holy Spirit. After Pentecost, Peter was no longer self-centered and vain. He sought to do all to the glory of God. 

Who do you say I am?

It’s easy for us to assume that Peter is the rock Jesus was talking about. However, the “rock” that Jesus was referring to was the truth of what Peter had said just before Jesus changed his name. In Matthew 16:13, Jesus had asked the disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” The disciples give various answer and then Jesus asked the disciples, “Whom do you say I am?” In verse 16, Peter answers, “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is this truth on which God built and established the church. It the most basic foundational truth about which we build our spiritual beliefs as Christians. In fact, you cannot be a Christian until you first settle and answer Jesus’ question for yourself: “Who do you say I am?”

Peter didn’t build the church

Peter understood Jesus’ true identity as God had revealed it to him. It was this foundational truth that Peter took with him as he preached and played an important role in the spread of Christianity. However, it’s also important to note that Jesus said, I will build my church. It wasn’t Peter’s responsibility to build the church. Peter’s job was to tell others about Jesus and then Jesus alone holds the responsibility for the growth and expansion of the church. Peter’s job was to “go and tell.” Jesus’ job is to build the church.

Who do you say that I am? What is your answer?

As followers of Christ, We have the same job today that Peter had – to go and tell. Then we leave the rest up to God and allow Christ to build His church. We are all responsible for telling others about our Savior. But first we must settle in our hearts the answer to the question that Jesus asked the disciples. If Jesus asked you today: “Who do you say that I am?” What would be your answer?

Would Jesus’ response to your answer be “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard it not what I meant” or would He say to you, like Peter: “Blessed are you, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that on this rock I will build My church.”

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