In Matthew 16:13, Jesus asked a seemingly simple question. “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” I believe it is a safe conclusion that Christ wasn’t looking for validation or identity when He asked this question. He stated within His question, “I, the Son of Man.” That brief nomenclature is loaded with the weight of His character, purpose, and destiny. It is validation. It is His identity. In the verses following, the disciples provide an answer and Christ asked the question of them. He pressed further and received an answer from Simon in Matthew 16:15-16, “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'” It is safe to say, in accordance with 2 Timothy 3:16, that there was a valid and important reason for this dialogue. At the very least, we learn here that Christ is emphasizing the importance of who we believe Him to be, but there is a lingering “why”. Within an understanding of the sovereignty of God, there is a solid recognition that His identity is in no way affected by people’s perspectives. The purpose of His questioning must, therefore, be something else. As Christ goes on we see that who we believe Him to be has a substantial effect on every aspect of our life and being.
And Jesus answered him, “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.” Matthew 16:17-18
It isn’t just important, it is vital. It is “the rock,” He says He will build His church upon. That’s not a light statement. As I read and reread these verses from Matthew 16:13-18, the gravity sunk in deeper. It is the foundation of Truth that hell cannot prevail against. In the absence of that, we have no standing. If we distort Christ in any manner or by any degree we slide off that rock and no longer have solid footing. This can be seen just a few verses later in Matthew. Simon Peter – having just had the Spirit of God reveal to him that Christ was “the Son of the living God” – takes Christ aside to rebuke him.
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew 6:22-23
My pride wants to raise up reading this. Simon Peter was just standing on the “rock”. He grasped “it”, but was told just a short time later, “you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Simon Peter is not a dimwit and I have to get my pride in check as I reflect on these scriptures. If Christ is the Son of the Living God, how dare Simon think he can emphasize his desires above the will of Jesus. Coursing through Christianity is a partial view of God that cries, “Jesus Christ is Lord” and then distorts the meaning of that statement on the basis that His Lordship should subject to our desires and presumptions. This is not a judgment; I find in my own profession of faith many times! In one breath I can declare God is sovereign, completely just, and His unparalleled mercy upon me brings me to my knees. The next breath I speak my will over the will of God. The Lord is sovereign. My prayer should reflect a heartfelt pursuit of Him and a desire to be lead and sustain by His Spirit, not a rebuke. This scenario plays out in different ways over and over again in my life. Sometimes it is obvious but sometimes it is very subtle to me. I can’t judge Simon Peter; I am like him in this regard. I desire to grow pass it into a mature view that recognizes that God is good in the midst of uncomfortable and painful circumstances.
God alone reveals the truth of who He is. Back to Matthew 16:17; Jesus says Father God brought revelation to Simon Peter. The declaration that Jesus was the Son of God was a work of the Holy Spirit and outside that, we can’t answer that question correctly. It’s my prayer that God help me to correctly answer this question in every aspect of my life. Let’s set our affections on who God is and not be bound by our perceived identity of Him. After all, our perceptions don’t actually change the nature and character of God. Rather they prevent us from truly knowing Him. That’s my desire; to know God and through that revelation by His Spirit to bring Him glory.
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11