In response to Jesus’ question, PeterThe disciple who denied Jesus during his trial but later became a leader in proclaiming Jesus More speaks for the disciples and announces that JesusJesus is the Messiah whose life, death, and resurrection are God's saving act for humanity More is the MessiahThe Messiah was the one who, it was believed, would come to free the people of Israel from bondage and exile. In Jewish thought the Messiah is the anticipated one who will come, as prophesied by Isaiah. In Christian thought Jesus of Nazareth is identified... More, the Son of the living God. Jesus confirms this confession by Peter as a mark of God’s blessingBlessing is the asking for or the giving of God's favor. Isaac was tricked into blessing Jacob instead of his firstborn Esau. At the Last Supper Jesus offered a blessing over bread and wine. To be blessed is to be favored by God. More and announces that Peter is the rock upon which he will build his church.
This passage has fittingly been acknowledged by many as pivotal and climactic in Matthew’s narrative. The whole narrative of Jesus’ teaching, preaching, and healing thus far has led to this point. More immediately, the series of stories that have just preceded (13:44-16:12) have repeatedly pressed the issue of faith and discipleship. How will this discipleA disciple is a person who accepts and follows the pronouncements of a teacher. Jesus chose twelve disciples (also called "apostles" in some of the Gospels) to follow him and bear witness to his message Anyone who (like them) follows Jesus is engaged in Christian... More community read the signs (16:1-4)? What will they make of this Jesus? In Matthew’s telling it is assumed that the disciples (and the readers of the Gospel?) will know and expect some things about the Son of Man. So Jesus’ question assumes it (16:13; see 16:28; 17:9, 12). What is not clear is how Jesus is to be related to this expectation. After various answers, when pressed again, Peter speaks for the disciples, and thus for Matthew’s Gospel and his community, with the assertion that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God (see the title of the Gospel in 1:1).
Several things are noteworthy in this account. First, Jesus, for one of the first times, does not criticize this response as “little faith,” but instead commends it for its revelatory power. Consistent with a major theme in MatthewA tax collector who became one of Jesus' 12 disciples More it is described as a mark of God’s blessing, a blessing that so often accompanies the status of being a righteousA righteous person is one who is ethical and faithful to God's covenant. Righteousness in the Old Testament is an attitude of God; in the New Testament it is a gift of God through grace. In the New Testament righteousness is a relationship with God... More disciple of the kingdom (see 5:1-12; 11:6; 13:16; 24:46). Second, the story recognizes Peter’s central role as a representative of the disciples’ community in its confession of faith. Here, for the first time in Matthew’s Gospel, the titles of Messiah and Son of God are joined together (the only other occurrence is on the mouth of the high priestThe high priest was the most powerful priest in the temple in Jerusalem. The high priest Caiaphas held the office during the trial of Jesus. Later, in the New Testament book of Hebrews, the role of merciful high priest is ascribed to the resurrected Jesus. More at Jesus’ trial; ironically, there it occasions his being guilty of blasphemyBlasphemy is disrespecting or dishonoring of something held sacred. To use the name of God in swearing or to commit a profane act is to commit blasphemy. More; 26:63-66) as Matthew’s community struggles to understand what it means to follow this Jesus as a disciple. Third, it is that community to which Matthew now uniquely calls attention. He alone of the Gospel writers uses the word translated here as “church” (see also 18:17) and links it to talk of the kingdom. Church and kingdom of GodThe kingdom (reign) of God is a central theme of Jesus' teaching and parables. According to Jesus this reign of God is a present reality and at the same time is yet to come. When Christians pray the Lord's Prayer, they ask that God's kingdom... More are thus bound together in Matthew’s conception. Finally, this kingdom community of the church is endowed with the promise of a rich gift, the keys of the kingdom through which, in the name of God, it is invited to exercise the power of forgiveness in the binding and loosing of sin.