1. This text is paralleled at Mk. 8:27-30 and Lk. 9:18-21. At this point we are less than a year before Jesus' suffering and death. The last year of Jesus' life involved increasing rejection of Him by Israel. Jesus spent much of His time in this year teaching and preparing His disciples for the ordeal of His suffering and death. This text occurred outside of Israel to the north. The city of Caesarea was rebuilt and beautified by Philip, Herod's son. After himself he named it Caesarea Philippi.
2. Jesus took the term "Son of man" from Dan. 7:13. It is also found at Ps. 8:4 (cf. Hebr. 2:6). The term is applied primarily to the incarnate Christ with emphasis on His humanity.
3. In vs. 15 Jesus asks "But who do you say I am?" He identifies Himself with "Son of man" in vs. 13. In vs. 16 Peter says "You are the Christ the Son of the Living God." Both "Son of man" and "Son of God" are here applied to Jesus. "Son of man" stresses His humanity. "Son of God" stresses His divinity.
4. At Jesus' time there were various opinions about His identity. The Sadducees said that He was a lunatic. The Pharisees said that He was a winebibber and a glutton. The Scribes said that He was uneducated. Others had better opinions but they were not good enough. Some thought that He was the Baptist, come back from the dead, evidently because Jesus was so fearless in His preaching. Others thought He was Jeremiah, evidently because He warned them of the doom of Israel. But these opinions make Jesus only a good man, not the God-man. Likewise today, the Muslims and Jews consider Jesus as only a prophet, not as the Messiah Who was the God-man.
5. Peter spoke for all the disciples. He was not the Pope but simply first among equals, like the captain of a hockey team. He confessed correctly: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." But Peter's confession did not come from his own flesh and blood. The heavenly Father gave him this confession. It came through the Word of God. Some time earlier (Jn. 6:68) Peter had confessed: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life and we believe and know that You are the Holy One of God." But, immediately following our text (vss. 21-23) Jesus said to Peter "Get behind Me, Satan. You are an offense to Me. Because you do not think the things of God, but of men." Peter and all the disciples were sinful people like you and I. Only God Himself could make them alive and give them the proper confession. Paul too, Gal. 1:11-17, received the Gospel not by conferring with flesh and blood but by revelation from God.
6. At Mt. 10:32 we read "Whoever confesses Me (Jesus) before people, I will also confess him before My heavenly Father." Jesus confessed His disciples before His heavenly Father.
7. In vs. 18 in Greek the word "Peter" is Petros and the word for "rock" lt is petra. Therefore, Peter is not the rock. The word "rock" refers to Christ Himself. Read Eph. 2:20; Col. 2:7; I Cor. 3:9-11. Christ builds His church on Himself, not on sinful beings. The power of Satan and hell cannot conquer Christ's church.
8. In vs. 19 Jesus gives Peter, all the apostles and the whole Christian Church on earth the power to forgive repentant sinners and to withhold forgiveness from impenitent sinners. At Mt. 18:18 the same power is given to the Christian congregation. Jesus repeated this to all at Jn. 20:23. All Christians have the God-given power to forgive people their sins or to withhold forgiveness. Read the fifth chief part of Luther's Small Catechism. It is very, very important. The Lutheran Church is the only church on earth which teaches this doctrine correctly according to the Bible and the early councils of the church.
9. Jesus calls Peter "blessed" (makarios in Greek). This word always denotes the blessedness of the person whose relationship to God is correct and holy. Read Mt. 5:1-11; Rom. 4:7-8; Lk. 1:45. There is another word for "blessed" (eulogetos in Greek) which is used only of God and means "Praise". For example, Lk. 1:68.
Theme: TWO IMPORTANT QUESTIONS AND THEIR DIFFERENCE
Many people at Jesus' time had the wrong opinion as to the identity of Jesus. And therefore He was of no benefit to them. Many people in our time have the wrong opinion as to the identity of Jesus. And therefore He is no benefit to them. Christians know who Jesus is and therefore they do benefit from Him.
1. Some said He was John the Baptist. When Herod heard the report about Jesus he said: "This is John the Baptist. He was raised from the dead and therefore does miracles." Mt. 14:2. The Baptist was a mighty fearless preacher. But he was only a man, not God.
2. Others said Jesus was Elijah. Read Mt. 17:10-13. Jesus explains that this prediction was about the Baptist, not Himself. Elijah was not God but a mere man.
3. Others said Jesus was Jeremiah. Jeremiah warned the people of coming destruction as did Jesus. But Jeremiah was only a man, not God. Read Jn. 17:12.40-44. Jn. 8:48. There were also evil opinions about Jesus' identity. But all these opinions were of man, not of God.
B. How this is answered in our time.
1. Even the Muslims and the Jews acknowledge that Jesus lived. But they think that He was only a man, maybe even a prophet. That is a human idea, not God's revelation.
2. Some even call _themselves_ the Christ. Jesus warned at Mt. 24:5, "Many will come in My name saying 'I am the Christ' and will deceive many people. It happens today.
II. THE SECOND QUESTION: WHO DO YOU SAY THE SON OF MAN IS?
Peter, first among equals, said: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." At Mt. 14:33 all of them said: "Truly you are the Son of God." At Mt. 26:63-64 Jesus himself said that He was the Son of God. John the Baptist confessed the same. Jn. 1:34. All of the disciples confessed that Jesus was the Son of man (true man,)and Son of God (true God), the God-man, the Savior. Jesus told Peter that this confession came to him only by God's revelation. Christians are sinners like all people. Their confession is a gift of God which comes to them through the Word of God. Mt. 11:25- 27; Rom. 10:17.
B. How this is answered in our time.
Every time we come to church we confess with all true believers of all ages that Jesus is the Christ, true God and true man. The one, true faith unites us with Christians all over the world and with the saints in heaven.
III. THE DIFFERENCE WHICH THIS CAUSES.
B. Jesus gives His confessors eternal Protection. In vs. 18 Jesus says: "On this rock I will build My church and the gates of hell cannot overcome the church." The rock is Jesus Himself and Peter's confession of Jesus. Wherever there is faith in Jesus Christ, there you have protection from Satan, hell and all evil. Read I Petr. 5:9; Js. 4:7; Eph. 6:11-13,16.
C. Jesus gives them the keys of the kingdom of heaven. God gives Christians the power to forgive sins or withhold forgiveness. See also Mt. 18:18; Jn. 20:23. Our pastors teach us that every Sunday. At Mt. 9:8 we are told that the people praised God Who gave such authority to forgive sins to men.