One day, Jesus asked the disciples what they believed about Jesus’ identity. They told Jesus what the word on the street was about Him. They told Jesus that some people thought Jesus was John the Baptist. John the Baptist brought a message of repentance. Repentance was certainly an element of Jesus’ message. You could see why some people would confuse Jesus and John the Baptist. Some thought He was like Elijah who worked miracles. No doubt Jesus did amazing things, things that couldn’t be explained apart from the Divine power of God. They were bonified miracles. Others thought He was like Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Jesus spoke with a prophetic voice for sure. But He was more than a messenger like John the Baptist. He was more than a miracle worker like Elijah. He was more than a prophet like Jeremiah.
Then, in a dramatic and pointed moment, Jesus locked eyes with Peter, and He said, “Peter, what about you? Who do you say that I am?” And without hesitation, without flinching, Peter boldly said in Matthew 16:16, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon (Peter) son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
What a declaration! What a proclamation! Wow! God had revealed to Peter who Jesus was. He had been given special, divine grace to see that Jesus wasn’t just a miracle worker, or a simply a prophet or a wise, spiritual teacher, but He was the Messiah! He was the very Son of God. Peter had been choking that back for some time. He had been holding that information in. He had been chomping at the bit to say it out loud. It was like graduation day for Peter. He was graduating “Magna Cum Laude” from the first class of disciples.
I wonder when it had been revealed to him. I wonder how long he had known about Jesus’ true identity. I believe he shouted it with great joy and conviction, and what I want you to see is what immediately follows. It contains the words of Jesus, words that Peter shouldn’t forget, words that should shape Peter, words that should embolden Peter, words he should be able to cling to in any situation because when Jesus speaks, He means what He says, and He says what He means.
Here they are: 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.”
In response to Peter’s proclamation about Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, Jesus spoke words of intent, words of declaration over Peter. Jesus’ response showed His commitment to be at work in Peter. The name, “Peter,” means “rock.” Impetuous Peter, impulsive Peter, was an unlikely rock, but Jesus could see something in Peter beyond where Peter was in that moment and even beyond where he would be just a bit down the road. Jesus’ intent was that Peter would become a solid Christ-follower, someone that would be reliable and could be counted on, someone who would not only proclaim Jesus’ full identity in front of the disciples, but someone who would preach it to the masses.
Jesus declared that it was Peter’s profession of faith in Christ as Lord, as the Messiah, as the Son of God, that profession was the building block for His Church. Peter, the “rock” would become a “living stone” in the Kingdom of God. That’s how I Peter 2:4-5 puts it. Every believer becomes a living stone, a building block in God’s Church. Peter may not have viewed himself that way, but the words had been spoken. Listen, when God speaks a word, He doesn’t take it back. It doesn’t go under review. It doesn’t have be approved by someone else. It cannot be canceled. It is done. What God declares, He will accomplish, and He not only said that Peter’s assessment of Jesus was accurate, but He was saying that Peter would have authority to be a building block in God’s Church, that Peter would have authority and power to bind and loose whatever needed to be bound or loosed here on earth as Jesus gave him the keys to do so. Peter’s assessment had been approved by Jesus and Peter’s authority could now be accessed because of Jesus’ words. Listen, what Jesus approves and what Jesus gives us access to cannot be limited or stolen by anyone. Not even Satan and all of the powers of Hell can stop what Jesus sets in motion when He gives approval and access!
Jesus would build His Church as people embraced the same declaration as Peter did, and He would build His Church using living stones like Peter. Peter had a Kingdom role to play. Jesus said it, and Hell itself couldn’t undo what Jesus had spoken. Jesus was promising to work in Peter, to build something using Peter as one of His building blocks. He declared it because Peter declared Christ as Lord and Messiah.
When Jesus handed Peter the keys to bind and loose, He was imparting to Peter that the world’s systems and the world’s people, and the circumstances of the world and even threats from Satan himself weren’t supposed to rule over Peter. Peter was to live with the authority of Heaven from that day forward.
Fast forward to moments just before the crucifixion. Jesus was arrested by some soldiers and a mob sent from the religious elite and was being questioned by the Sanhedrin. We read this in Matthew 26:
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” 74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Two servant girls and a few bystanders, people without any real authority became a threat to the guy who had been given the special, authoritative keys by Jesus. Why didn’t Peter wield his authority? Where were his keys?
Often, in the heat of the moment, when fear begins to seize me, when people seem to be coming at me, when circumstances seem to be overtaking me, when the world and the opinion of other people starts to feel like pressure, when it might seem that my back is to the wall, I sometimes forget what God’s Word has said. I forget the authority I have been given as a Christ-follower. I forget that when I got saved, I was also handed a set of keys. I forget that God holds my future in His hands. I fail to acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit who is there to help me. I sometimes forget to turn to the ultimate Rock and Refuge in prayer. Like Peter, I sometimes forget my keys.
God’s Words are the keys we need in every situation. We can open doors and shut doors by declaring and standing on the Word of God. Peter listened to the world instead of to the Word. He let fear speak louder than His faith in Who Jesus is and in what He had come to do.
Have you been there? Have you been caught off guard by an accusation or temptation and forgotten that you have spiritual authority? Have you given your feelings the credibility that is reserved for God’s Word? Have you let the world shape your responses instead of allowing the Word to give you the courage to stand?
Jesus had spoken over Peter. His words prophesied His intent for Peter’s life. He had proclaimed that Peter would proclaim Christ as Lord and that the Church would be built up through that proclamation. Peter didn’t need to fear a couple of servant girls. Peter didn’t have to cower to a few antagonists. Peter didn’t need to question what his future held because Jesus held his future and had spoken as much in Matthew 16.
Good thing for Peter, and us, that God doesn’t have a “three strikes and you’re out” rule. Good thing for Peter, and us, that God anticipates our moments of failure and weakness. Good thing for Peter, and us, that Jesus doesn’t give up on those who confess Him as Lord. Peter was restored and went on to preach powerful messages that saw thousands of people coming to believe in Jesus. He went on to become the living stone that Jesus had said he would become.
What does God want you to take away today? You can trust God’s Word because what He declares, He intends. What He declares is good and right, and you can trust it. What He declares becomes an invitation for you to be used of Him when you lean on and obey what He has said.
When we choose the world over the Word or when we choose our feelings over the Word, we are going against what God has declared, what God intends, against what is good and right and away from the opportunity to be used of Him. Jesus sees something in you that is beyond where you are in this moment. It might even be beyond where you find yourself just down the road. Don’t take your cues from culture. Don’t let your feelings inform your faith. Trust what God says and watch Him fulfill every Word He has spoken.