Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.
There are two massive misconceptions concerning the content of these passages because many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers misconstrue the metaphorical meanings of the context. Context is King and the author’s aspiration to his audience is apex. We also consider the entire Bible–we call this, Expository Exegesis of Examples. We will also take note of the Genre, which is primarily what we call, gospel. After we consider all these things, we will be able to Divide rightly the word of truth. We call it the CAGED method, to those of you who may be reading my missives for the first time. The CAGED method is a hermeneutical tool used to unlock the scriptures that we have caged by our tradition, presuppositions and preconceived notions. CAGED is an acronym for; Context, Aspirations, Genre, Examples and Divide rightly the word of truth. Let’s unlock the metaphorical meanings.
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi…” Another specific location that some may misunderstand. Caeserea is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, equidistant from Haifa to the north and Tel-Aviv to the South. However, Caeserea Philip was many miles away. It was not on the edge of the Sea as was Caeserea, but was located near Mount Hebron on the Eastern side of Galilee. Both under control of Rome at the time, both named after Caeser but two entirely different places. The point is that Jesus was zig-zagging around the region of Galilee but not in Jerusalem and the Bible keeps a detailed record.
“He began asking His disciples, saying, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?'” Jesus questions his disciples as to whom others think that he is. Notice that he refers to himself as, “the son of man.” We also notice, that according to the context, the disciples know that Jesus is referring to himself. Apparently the disciples were listening to Jesus as he preached in Matthew 8, and elsewhere. And although Jesus so recently called them, and especially Peter, men of little faith, he had great expectations concerning this question. Otherwise, why ask it? Jesus is, at the appropriate time, seizing the moment.
“And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.'” I don’t believe that the disciples in unison replied this in one voice like a responsive reading. Nor do I think Matthew recorded every word that the disciples said but that he gave a summary of what the disciples answered. Nevertheless, the context suggests that the disciples had heard many people remarking about the identity of Jesus. People were discussing that he could be a prophet reincarnated, like John the Baptist or Jeremiah. However, it appears that no one grasped his true identity. Because Jesus asked them who he was and Peter’s answer was entirely different.
Notice the but; “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?'” Jesus didn’t ask if they agreed with the people. He asked who do the people think I am,.. but, who do you think I am? The grammar indicates that Jesus was expecting a different answer directly from the disciples. And he received that answer, from the seemingly unlikely, Peter.
“And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.'” Forgive my 1975 NASB translation, which still uses Elizabethan English when speaking directly to the Deity. The disciples used no such dialect. Actually it is quite ironic because the New Testament was written in Koine, pronounced coy-nay, or common man’s Greek. Some traditions die slowly. I will use the ESV or NASB 1995 at times but I am pretty set in my ways (he said hypocritically). Nevertheless we understand that Peter has made a full confession concerning the Christ. He is the Messiah, the son of the living God.
“And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.'” Jesus calls Peter by his given and family name here; Simon, the son of Jonah, or something like that. “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona.” However Jesus is about to give Simon a new name. But we also derive from the dialogue that Simon is blessed because the Father chose to reveal the true identity of Jesus to him. We see this unfold. Jesus, in the flesh, was not convincing people. We have read how on multiple occasions that the Pharisees, who saw the miracles, still wanted a sign from heaven. The disciples themselves, still struggled with Christ’s words, parables and preaching. They worried about not bringing bread when Christ warned them about the leaven of the Pharisees. We have seen many people miss the mark of who Jesus is and what he is doing. But now Peter, also called Simon, makes the confession of Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus tells him that he is blessed because the Father revealed it to him.
But the next statement of Jesus has confused many people for many years. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers believe that Jesus is placing Peter as the foundation of the church, but I highly disagree. Unfortunately, the grammar used by Jesus doesn’t offer much help to prove or disprove this belief. The name, Peter is in the nominative case, coupled with the verb, “to be” (“You are Peter”). Therefore it is entirely possible that Peter is the subject or the object of the sentence. Yes, I am confusing myself. This is why we have the saying, it’s all Greek to me! Let’s forget grammar and stick to the CAGED method.
We can use an expository exegesis of examples to enlighten this enigma. But before we do, let me state the other belief concerning this content. Some pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, teach that it is actually Peter’s confession of Christ that is what the church, or, called out assembly, will be built on–namely, Christ himself. That is Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, the Son of man, the Son of the living God. I agree with the few, based upon the context and more so, an expository exegesis of examples.
For instance; Peter, himself, quotes Isaiah and writes; “For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” Paul, in Ephesians, does refer to the prophets and apostles as foundational, but calls Christ the cornerstone. Paul also writes to the Corinthian called out assembly, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Search the Scriptures and you will see that no single person is ever called the foundation. Yes, the prophets and apostles are collectively called a foundation. But the foundation of foundations is always Jesus.
Continuing in the context: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, children’s church leaders and Sunday School classes, movies and books, jokes and songs, place Peter permanently poised at the pearly gates, gifted with the keys thereof, based upon this content but not the context.
Jesus has many names, as we have already seen. A few examples are, the Christ, the Son of Man, Lord, Teacher, Master, Rabbi, Messiah, King of kings, Lord of lords and the Prince of Peace. But after reading all of this wonderful, weighty context in Matthew, could we not also call him, the Prince of Parables or the Metaphor Man? Do we honestly take the uber-literal position that Peter is outside heaven holding the keys to let people in? Think about it. That is not reward for Peter but punishment! Picture Peter, outside the gates, saying, “welcome, I hear it’s great in there. Actually, I heard it was great in there but that was long ago. I have been stuck outside with these keys, letting people in but no one ever comes back out to talk to me.” It sounds silly, but that is the literal dogma that we have created.
Perhaps the Prince of Peace presented a parable? He has been known to do that from time to time. Remember the genre, recall the way in which Jesus spoke. If you need more silliness, picture Peter placing his hands on a a first-century follower’s frock, to loosen it, saying, “this will also be loosened in heaven because I loosened it on earth.” Sometimes silliness shows our set ways.
Yet we don’t need silliness, we have the CAGED method. Context, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience, Genre, Expository Exegesis of Examples and Divide Rightly the Word of Truth. Divide it up! Was the Metaphorical Man, the Prince of Parables, being literal and dogmatic with Peter? Or was he sticking to the script, painting a picture repleate with metaphorical meaning?
It reminds me of that old song we used to sing, “Peter is the rock of my salvation, his banner over me is love.” I may have that wrong.