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The Matthew Series 39. On this rock I will build my Church

Matthew 16:13-19 New International Version (NIV)

Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

The church has had a somewhat mixed history throughout the world. It has subsequently driven the progress of human civilisation and been the uplifting of human rights and give hope to countless millions around the world, and yet in the same breath has been the ideology of the crusades, the inquisition, it propped up Apartheid, to name a few atrocities done in the name of the church.

You see Jesus says in this passage “…on this rock I will build my church.” And how we define this statement, how we understand it, will define how we go out into the world as Christ’s church. So, to start off and give clarity before we even get into tonight’s study, not all who have the name church on their buildings are Christ’s church. Christ is building his church and he is building it in his own way, and as he says, the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

So to understand the church, we must first look into

1. The Context - The gates of hell

From the opening statement of this passage tonight we see that Jesus has moved into a new area, into the region of Caesarea Philippi. This was a Roman City that was a hot spot of pagan worship. In fact it always had been. In the Old Testament it was called Baal Gad, which literally is translated “Master Luck” in the current time frame that Jesus enters into it it had become the hotspot of worship for the Greek god Pan – who was the god of desolate places and spring. In fact, we get out word panic from his name. He was a half goat and half man type being who was worshiped through sacrifice and degrading sexual acts to ensure fertility and a large goat herds.

Now in Caesarea Philippi there was a pool in a cave called the Cave of Pan was a large pool that was called the gate of hades or the gates of hell. It was in the mind of the city that this is the portal to the underworld, a place where hell and earth interchanged. Now, another interesting titbit of information is that Pan is one of the few Greek God’s who died. There is no information about his death except that he died. This is important because next to this Cave of Pan, a temple was erected to another god by Herod the Great. It was erected to Augustus Caesar who was called the son of god, who had also recently died before Jesus arrived here.

All this gives us insight into Peter’s reaction to what Christ will say next week about his coming death. Not only that, but this area was noted for the place that Pan taught Apollos prophecy, it was mythically the starting place of revelation (this will become important in the next point).

So, we have a context of paganism, idol god’s giving revelations and dying and the outflow of the underworld – literally the gates of hell before them and Jesus calls his disciples together and asks them a question;

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

And this is the point of tonight; everyone has an opinion on who Jesus is; everyone has their perspective of how the world works of who made it, of what is true. Jesus is calling us to see that which is false, will fade, and the truth will endure, His church will be built and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Ceasar and his cult, although would become a dominating force in the world, and would send many Christians to the lions and to be killed will not endure, the cults and paganism which was prevelant before the disciples would fade and be forgotten. But Christ’s Church will be built. The question is on what. Because at the end of this question Peter makes

2. The Confession - on this rock I will build my church

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it.

Now, there is a play of words in the Greek because, when Jesus you are Peter and on this rock, he is saying in the Greek, You are Rock (Peter means rock) and on this rock I will build my church. So, many have thus concluded that the rock that Jesus will build the church is Peter, therefore the church will be a hierarchical structure lead by a succession of leaders who will lead the church and Christ will build on them. But to make that statement is to miss the entire context of the passage, and to make the minor reality overshadow the major reality of this passage.

Was Jesus celebrating Peter and his boldness? No, in fact he says, you did not come up with that it was revealed to you by my father.” Jesus was celebrating the fact that in this simple confession was the establishment of his continued work in the world, and therefore the establishment of the true church. The church, as I said at the start of this message is not a building that has the word church printed on it. there are millions of those. It is not a church that says, I believe in Jesus, because what does that even mean? The true church that Christ is building is a church that confesses the Messianic and Divine realities of Jesus. Peter’s revelation from the father, was not of gods and prophecy, it was a revelation of the true nature of life, Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!”

Everyone has an opinion of Jesus today, he was a nice guy, he is a myth, he was a loving teacher etc… etc… etc. The Father reveals Jesus as the Messiah, the son of God. Why does this matter? Well it is this confession that will define the work of Christ in the world and the true church throughout the ages.

So let’s look at the;

3. The Consequence - the keys of the kingdom will be given

Jesus in justifying what he has just said, says,

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d]loosed in heaven.” The keys of the kingdom of heaven have been given to mankind. This is not some Marvel Cinematic Universe power. It is not magic, it is a confession that will bring hope to all who believe and will literally turn the known world on its head in the next 2000 years. Church, what freed the world from perverse paganism, what overthrew the evils of Emperor worship? What established the foundations for human rights and the sciences? It wasn’t a new philosophy, it wasn’t a great army, it wasn’t a movement. It was a simple confession.

This confession was, “you are the Messiah the Son of the Living God.”. Now, wrapped up in this simple confession is the hope of the gospel and the very power of God to save people. You are messiah, in other words God’s chosen one, who would suffer for the world, who would as Zechariah 3 and 4, 500 years before this, declare would take away the sins of people in a single day. In this is the wrapped up reality of the Old Testament that as people we are not who we want to be, there is a crisis in every single one of us. Wanting to be good we end up doing evil. We all want to be on the side of good, but deep down are fundamentally horrified to find out that we are not. We pretend we are, we lie to ourselves that we are; but left in vacant silence, come to the chilling realisation that we are flawed. We excuse it away saying, I’m only human. But that doesn’t actually change the crisis! We need, desperately, fundamentally to know we are okay! Simple forgiveness will not suffice because we know it does deal with the problem.

If there is a God up there who just waves away sin, well then there is no justice in the world. Sin (we know) needs to be punished. And if you don’t believe me in this regard asked yourself does the injustice that you have experience in this life, should it be simply waved away? Of course not! But, then again there is a crisis; what about my short-comings, my nastiness, my hidden evil. Well, again we justify my sins by saying ja I sin, I mess up but I’m not that bad. I haven’t… killed, raped, stolen, whatever. But again, that is disingenuous, in this we acknowledge that there is a God, that creation has a purpose, but we will live how we want and how we please and God must just deal with it. He must respect us. How arrogant. He is God we are not. You might reply to me, well that’s just your interpretation of God. The problem is Jesus is saying this not me; He is making the claim that He is the son of God. And to use an overused Lewis statement; A man who says the kind of things likes this must be either shut up for a lunatic on the level of a man who says he is an orange or spat on as a lying demon of Hell. But you cannot let someone say this and say; you know what He had a nice message. He was a nice guy. The Bible doesn’t give us that option. It makes claims that make us either close our ears and say we don’t want to hear or fall on our knees and recognise our need. And this is why the true church always is build on this confession. The keys of heaven have been given to the church to preach. These keys of heaven are the good news that declares that what we feared the most is true; that there is a God out there and He is displeased with us, but he has not left us condemned, rather He has sent his only son, into the world to live the life we could not live and receive the punishment we deserved so that we could receive the reward that he deserved.

The church is always built on that confession; on the confession of the gospel: and this is the gospel, that God sent his son into the world to die for sinners of which I am chief. Church the gates of hell, the evil of the world will not triumph against that. I will rile against it, it will kill the messengers of this news, but it will never stop it. for 2000 years the simple message that God has come into the world to save sinners has endured and grown. And it is this that build the church. It is that which build us even today. We are not a church because we are special, we exist because the Father has revealed to us, that there is hope for sinners. There is an answer for the afflicted and outcast. There is joy for those without hope! Jesus came into the world and loved us so much that He died for such as us! I pray that we would continue the work of Christ by going out with this simple confession and living completely in this simple confession.

Let’s pray.

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