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Bible Study Notes

Matthew 16: 13-20

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Who do you say I am?


Who do you say I am?

General Idea: Jesus is surrounded by a crowd of people, all wondering, who is this Guy? Perhaps, in the wonder and excitement, the crowd is perplexed and confused, yet, willing and able to give their opinions. Then, Jesus uses this as an opportunity to test His Disciples. Who do the people say I am? Who do you say I am? Are they ready to know? Do they know? The women from Canaan knew (Matt. 15:21-28). And, the previous passage seems to indicate the Leaders must have known, but refused to accept the Truth. Peter boldly steps up with his opinion, which does not adhere to the opinions of the crowd, rises, and proclaims his faith. He takes a risk, and even, perhaps, ridicule from both the crowd and the other Disciples as he proclaims, He is the Great I Am. This is a lesson to us that we have to remain in His truth and not worry about what crowds have to say. Their wonderings are conflicted opinions that are rooted in mere ideas rather than facts. Would they want to know the Truth if they knew their beliefs were wrong? Or would they not care, desiring rather to stay in their wrong beliefs? This passage is about not following the crowds, but rather allowing the Father to reveal, by the work of the Spirit, who Jesus is. He is the One who reveals; no person or opinion, no matter how good and informed, can take the place of His Revelation.

 

1.   Caesarea Philippi was not the costal city of Caesarea; rather it was a small city, 1700 feet above sea level in the foothills of Mt. Hermon, 25 miles north of the Lake of Galilee near the source of the Jordan.

a.   This was the northern boundary of ancient Israel in the territory of Gad. In Jesus time, this was a Greek territory where Pan was worshipped. Herod had also built a temple there to worship Caesar.

                                                  i.      This land was one of the most distant, culturally, to the Jews, because it was so pagan. It was not the usual place to confess faith. To the Jews, only the Temple or Synagogue would do.

                                                ii.      Jesus takes faith and brings it to the daily places of life and in the mist of sin so we can respond to who He is and climb out of that sin.  

b.   So they said. These were the responses from the masses. It is interesting that all of the recorded responses are in the prophet category. It has been 400 years since the last prophet came before John the Baptist.

                                                  i.      The popular opinion was that a prophet would come to usher in the end of the ages (Mal. 4:5). Others thought Elijah would come back, but John the Baptist filled that role.

                                                ii.      The people thought Jesus was Elijah because each performed similar miracles and judgments (Matt. 11:20-24). Jesus' attack on the Temple indulgences was similar to that of Jeremiah (Matt. 12:6; 24:1-2).

 

2.   Who do you say? The you is plural, directed at all of the Disciples. Jesus is showing His Disciples how to take ownership of their faith by focusing on who He really is. Peter seems to answer on behalf of them all.

a.   Peter had the right idea, yet, he did not fully understand at this time. He said Christ (meaning messiah) the son meaning, as adopted (Psalm 2:7; 89:27), like David was adopted in God's royal line (2 Sam. 7:14; Psalm 2:7). But, Christ is the One who adopts us. The only way we can know who Christ is, is by the Spirit's illumination. 

b.   Blessed are you, a standard rabbinic praise meaning, "Peter, I am happy and proud for you!" It is like being told by our parent/father that he is proud of us. This term is also an emotional state of satisfaction, well-being, and contentment that results from being approved by God for fulfilling our duty. In the Sermon on the Mount, it suggests enjoying God's special favor as His Grace is working in us (Matt. 5:1-12).

c.   Bar-Jonah means "son of Jonah," and is, perhaps, Peter's father's name; or, it might mean that Peter is finally "getting it," as Jonah did after all he went through. The way someone was properly addressed then as a full name was a first name, then your fathers name as your last name.

d.   Flesh and blood refers to study and learning; Peter received his information from divine illumination.

e.   Peter is from the Greek word, petros, which means "a small stone" or "rock." The image in Scripture is Christ as the foundation stone and we as the little stones that lay on His support. We all are called His living stones, while Jesus is the ultimate Rock-petra (Psalm 118:22; John 1:40-42; 1 Pet. 2:4-8; Acts 4:11-12).

                                                  i.      The "rock" Jesus refers to is not Peter himself, but rather the foundation that His Church is built on. The foundation is Christ (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph 2:19-22). The OT often spoke of people being used to build a foundation (Ruth 4:11; Jer. 1:10). But the key is God, and our prayer for Him that build us up (Psalm 51:18; 69:35; 147:2; Jer. 24:6; 31:4; 28). We become the living stones who remain in Him by the confession of our faith, as Peter did.

                                                ii.      Confession is not just a statement; rather, it is a realization to take hold of the Father's leading/election and make it real in our lives so we bubble over to tell others about Him (John 6:46-49).

                                              iii.      It is important to note that the rock is not Peter, but the truth about which Peter is confessing (Isa. 51:1-2). Church traditions (not the Bible), stress that Peter is the foundation, and all those who confess build on his foundation. In Catholicism, the line of Popes all directly ascend from Peter-not by birth, as kings, but by confession and the laying on of hands.

 

3.   Gates of Hades refers to the realm and power of death and not necessarily the actual place of Hell. Hades normally refers to the place of the dead, not just Hell and torment (Job 38:17; Psalm 9:13). But, in this phrase, death itself shall not stop we who are in Christ. Not immortally, in a physical sense, but our place in eternity is secured. Death cannot silence His message or His church-great words of hope and comfort for the soon to be persecuted Church!   

a.   Church (Greek ekklesia) means "to call out." This term was used by the Jews then for a "remnant community" such as the Qumran community who composed the Dead Sea Scrolls and who founded this term, versus the name for a synagogue or gathering (Matt. 18:17). The Greeks used this term to refer to people assembling in the cities for clubs or organizations. Later in the NT, this term jumps to its full meaning as ones who are called out (Acts 7:38). In its context, Jesus is using this term to expand His claim of Messiahship (Matt. 16:21-23; 26:28).   

b.   Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven differs from the "Keys of Heaven" that only Jesus holds. (Rev. 1:18). The Key is simply our faith that turns the tumblers to the lock of His door, locked because of our sin. He is the One who opens the door for us (Matt. 18:18; Acts 2; 8:14-25; 10; 14:27; Eph. 3:5).

                                                  i.      In ancient cultures, the person who had the keys was the most powerful, or the leader of the servants (Mark 13:32-34). In the OT, a high official held symbolic keys to God's Temple (Isa. 22:20-22).

                                                ii.      A key represented the authority to choose who would enter.

c.   Binding and loosing were court terms, referring to what was both prohibited and permitted by the Law of Moses, and/or civil law (Matt. 18:18).  

d.  Tell no one, to prevent people from an uprising, forcing Jesus into political power. People did not understand the sufferings that had to take place and that could not be impeded (John 6:15).

 

          A lot has been said about what the purpose or meaning of life is. Some say the purpose is up to you to figure out, while others say it is what you do after you find out what you like. It is not enough just to live; we have to have something to live for, a hope and a direction that is imbedded in a prime purpose. But, Jesus gives us a clear picture of His purpose for us, which is to acknowledge Him as LORD and worship Him. He is our meaning; He is our purpose. Unless a person comes to faith in Christ, His teachings are meaningless, and we have no purpose. It takes the Father, through the power of the Spirit, to illuminate our hearts and minds so we can receive His Truth, and so we can have purpose. This purpose gives us keys to eternity that death itself cannot take away. This illumination becomes our faith by Christ's work on the cross. This work becomes our redemption, our salvation; it is not of us-not our repentance or our prayer; it is of Him. He is our purpose and the meaning of our life, both here on earth and for our life to come. When we have received His confession and have made it our own, then we can confess His wonder to others and God will use His Spirit to empower that confession as a small part of His revelation.

 
 

Questions:

 

1.   To you, what is the best place to confess your faith-a church, a public setting, to your family, or where?

 
 

2.   How did you find your purpose before you were a Christian? In other words, what was the meaning for your life? How has that meaning changed as you have grown in age, in maturity, and in faith? What is it now? What does it need to be?

 
 

3.   Why do you suppose people are so willing and able to give their opinions, even when they have no idea about what the facts and truth are?

 
 

4.   What did it take for Peter to boldly step up with his declaration, and not adhere to the opinions of the crowd? What would it take for you?

 
 

5.   The real practice of our faith may involve a risk and even, perhaps, ridicule from others. Does this scare you, or fuel you?

 
 

6.   What would be the reason for Jesus to take the practice of faith out of just being a Temple thing and bring it to the daily places of life? Why would this be so threatening to the leaders?

 
 

7.   Why do you suppose that all of the people gave responses from the prophet category?

 
 

8.   Would people you know want to learn the real Truth if they knew their beliefs were wrong? Or, would they not care, desiring to stay in their wrong beliefs?

 
 

9.   When and how did you take ownership of your faith? Did it help you to focus on who He really is?

 
 

10. So many Christians take the winning of souls as a purely personal endeavor and responsibility to the point that they forget it is a work of the Spirit. It is good to be passionate, but we are just the witnesses-not the Witness. How can we let the knowledge of who Christ is, by the Spirit's illumination, give us passion to tell others, but not fear their rejection or feel responsible if they do not respond? Remember, we are only to be responsible to make Him known to the best of our abilities and resources; we are not responsible for how people respond.

 
 

11.  The image of Christ in Scripture is that He is the foundation stone and we are the little stones who lay on His support. How can the fact that you are His living stones help give you purpose for your life?

 
 

12. Confession is not just a statement; rather, it is a realization to take hold of the Father's leading/election, and make it real in our lives. What does it take to make it real at all of the daily places of your life?

 
 

13.  Death itself shall not stop we who are in Christ! How can this fact give you confidence to live the Christian life, and make Christ known with more passion and distinction?

 
 

14. How did this passage become great words of hope and comfort for the soon to be persecuted Church? How can you receive hope from this passage?

 
 

15. Why did Jesus first use the term "Church" to mean a remnant community, as in small yet purposeful, instead of the term to mean a gathering of people? How do you define Church from this passage?

 
 

16. What have you done with your "Key to the Kingdom of Heaven?"

 
 

17. For you, what is the purpose or meaning of life? Why is this so important? Why do some feel it is not?

 
 

18. What do you need to do to feel confident in remaining in His truth and not follow what the crowds have to say?

 
 

19. How can you make faith your own, and not just an idea, or what you do, or where you go to church?

 
 

20. Knowing what you now know about the Faith, do you wish you had come to Christ sooner? Why, or why not? If you had come to Christ sooner, what would your life be like now? You cannot go back in time; so, what can you do to further your faith as if you had come to Him earlier in your life?

 

 

© 2003 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org

 

 
 
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