Summary: This is a lesson for primary age children used in the Awana program. It deals with Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Jesus and his disciples were traveling in the north part of Galilee when Jesus asked them a question he had never asked before. “Who do the crowds say that I am?” That sounds like a strange question, but his men knew what he was talking about for the people who heard him preach and watched him perform miracles were full of ideas about who Jesus was.
So Jesus men said, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah, and still others , that one of the prophets has come back to life.” From this answer we can see that the crowds hearing Jesus teachings were assuming that something miraculous had happened. Though the Jews didn’t believe in reincarnation (that is a Hindu belief), they often spoke about the reappearance of Elijah or some other prophet to give a prophecy or to announce the coming of the Messiah. In saying this his men were admitting that the crowds were off target in their assumptions about Jesus true identity. They thought Jesus was somebody important, but they missed the truth of who Jesus really was.
Jesus next question cut to the heart of the matter. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” It was obvious that the crowds had guessed wrong about Jesus. Would the disciples be able to get any closer to the truth?
Peter, who was often the first one of the disciples to speak up gave an immediate and matter-of-fact answer. He said, “The Christ, of God.” (Matthew’s account adds the phrase, “the Son of the living God.”) The point is that Peter’s answer was right on target. Though the crowds got it wrong, Peter got it completely right.
In order to hear what was said next we need to move over to the account in Matthew which is the only place where we see Jesus’ response to Peter’s bold confession.
17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
How did Peter know what was the right answer? He knew who Jesus was because (as Jesus said) The Father in Heaven had revealed it to him. Peter’s answer was not the result of reading a book, or taking a class, or doing a crowd survey. His answer came from God revealing the truth to him; from God’s mouth to his obedient heart. What Peter confessed that day was not the first time such things had been said. In fact, if we go back to the night when Jesus calmed the storm after inviting Peter to walk with him on the water, you may recall that on that occasion, all the men in the boat, said the same thing at the same time. “Truly you are the son of God.” (Matt. 14:33) This is Peter repeating what all of them had said before.
Jesus not only commended Peter for his confession, but he also let all of them know that on the basis of what Peter had confessed about Jesus being the Christ (Jewish messiah), that Jesus would build his church on the foundation of him being the Messiah. He went on to promise his men that when the church would begin, his men would be handed the keys to the kingdom of God. The disciples would become the gate keepers of the church which is God’s heavenly kingdom. We already know that on the day the church started in Acts 1, it was Peter himself who preached the sermon that brought in the first 3,000 new believers who were all baptized that day.
This conversation ends with Jesus warning his men not to say anything publically about who Jesus is yet. Why, if it is true that Jesus is the Christ, would he tell his men to keep it quiet? The reason is that this kind of information, broadcast at the wrong time could have not only brought about Jesus death before the proper time, but could also result in the deaths of all the disciples. The revelation of who Jesus really is, needed to unfold bit by bit as Jesus taught and performed miracles. It needed to dawn on the people slowly and naturally through time and example, rather than through a startling announcement all at once that might stir up the whole nation and bring the wrath of the Roman Legion against the Jewish nation. Jesus knew how all this would unfold, and he wanted to be in control of how this truth spread beyond the knowledge of his small group of disciples to the crowds at large. If all this got out of hand too quickly, the people might force Jesus to do things he was not ready to do quite yet. Jesus was messiah, and soon enough it would become known to everyone. In fact, that was the message preached on the day of Pentecost by Peter and the other apostles.