Summary: What was the ’rock’ that Jesus promised to build His church upon? What does ’the gates of Hell’ mean? These are just two of the questions answered in this exegesis of Matthew 16:13-19.

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The Great Confession

An Exegesis Of Mathew 16:13-19


1. After the miracle of feeding four-thousand people with seven loaves and a few little fish (Matthew 15:32-38), Jesus and His disciples came to Magdala (Matthew 16:39).

a. It was in Magdala that the Pharisees and Sadducees asked for a sign from heaven to prove He was the Messiah (Matthew 16:1).

2. From Magdala, they sailed across the sea of Galilee to Gergesa. Jesus then warned His disciples to ‘beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees’ (Matthew 16:4-12).

a. This doctrine of which they were to beware is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1).

b. The warning came just after His encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:1-4). They had asked for a sign as proof of His identity yet He had already performed many signs.

3. From Gergesa, they traveled toward Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13).

a. It was while ‘by the way’ to the towns (Mark 8:27) that Jesus questioned the disciples regarding His identity (Matthew 16:13ff).

4. Why did Jesus ask this question?

a. Because of what was in His mind:

"From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." (Matthew 16:21)

b. As Jesus considered His coming baptism of suffering, He also had in view the reasons He would allow Himself to endure such:

"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)

I. Whom Do Men Say That I The Son Of Man Am? (16:13-14)

A. Several prevalent views among the people:

1. That He was John the Baptist risen from the dead.

"At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him" (Matthew 14:1-2)

2. That He was Elijah, the pre-runner to the Messiah (See Malachi 4:5).

3. That He was Jeremiah:

a. Some supposed that he was the prophet alluded to by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 (See Gill).

b. Or that he was risen from the dead or transmigrated into another body (See Gill).

4. That He was one of the other prophets. The correct sense is given by Mark, “…or as one of the prophets” (Mark 6:15), i.e., He was a prophetical person, resembling those of old.

B. At first, many had confessed Jesus as the Messiah (John 1:40-41; 4:28-29; cp. 9:42). But as Dummelow says:

“This belief no longer existed. Those who held it had abandoned it because of His continued refusal to declare Himself and to do what was expected of the Messiah” (J.R. Dummelow).

II. But Whom Say Ye That I Am? (16:15-16)

A. Jesus makes no comment concerning the people’s views but seeks now their own personal view.

1. The question is put to all of them but, characteristically, Peter here speaks for them all.

2. Without any hesitation, they confess, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16).

B. Much has been made of the fact that the word Peter means ‘rock,’ and have gone on to say that it is upon Peter that the church is built. We deny this because:

1. Jesus goes on to say that He would give them the keys of the kingdom, making him the door opener, not the foundation.

2. The word Peter actually refers to a small rock or pebble, while the word rock that Jesus uses, upon which the church is built, means ‘a ledge,’ i.e., A Huge Foundation.

3. We conclude, then, that the rock upon which the church is built is Peter’s confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Those who believe this fact and confess it are added to His church (Acts 8:36-38 > Romans 10:8-10 > Acts 2:47).

"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11)

III. And Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church (16:18)

A. The figure employed by Jesus, at first glance, may not seem to “work!”

1. Many people hold to the misconception that a ‘church’ is a physical building, thus, the concept of a church being built on a foundation is easily accepted.

2. However, as we should all know, the church is a reference to people, those ‘called out.’ With this in mind, Jesus is saying, ‘Upon this foundation I will build my assembly of people.’ The figure doesn’t seem to “work” does it?

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