“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”….
I remember reading, back in the late 80’s, a commentary on this sentence. It explained what the rock was not and then went on to explain what it was. First, the rock was not Peter. As a fairly new believer I thought “who would believe it was Peter anyway?” but I learned that some of the more traditional religions at one point believed this.
Jesus first named Simon Bar-Jonah, Peter, in this passage. Peter is translated from the Greek word “Petra” in Greek and means “little rock”. So Jesus was saying in essence “You are petros, a little rock, but there is a rock greater upon which my church will be built.” (The Aramaic word for “little rock” which is more likely what Jesus used, is “Cephas”).
Most all Christian teachers now agree. That greater rock is the confession of Jesus Christ. But that is not what Jesus was saying at all. Let me give a little background.
The scene is the base of Mount Hermon, in the region of Caesarea Phillipi.
Mt Hermon is the tallest mountain in Israel (2800 m or nearly 2 miles high)
It is also the Mount of Transfiguration.
It is the mountain where Jesus looked at Peter and said “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail”
The dew of Hermon, the sweet dew that seeps into the mountain and forms streams and rivers of living water in its belly, this dew that flows down from Hermon and onto the smaller mountains providing grace and sustenance and refreshment, is grace, is provision, is sustanence, is transformation, is miraculous, it is hidden. It flows deep deep into the ground so that even the rocks give water and refresh the fertile valley.
And it sits behind the mouth of the cave of worship to the mythological god PAN.
PAN literally means “All” and is the mythological god of nature, fields, forests, mountains, flocks and shepherds. Greek travelers came to this place and saw its fertility and set up an altar to worship their god, PAN. At the base of Mount Hermon, PAN, represented as half man, half goat, was worshipped. This is the land of Cesarea Phillipi, where the mouth of the cave of PAN exists.
There was so much fruit here, for it was fertile in this land. There was also so much lust here. The mouth of the entrance to this land was filled with all kinds of fleshly acts. PAN was said to have fallen for ECHO, a mountain nymph who loved the sound of her own voice, but she was in love with Narcissus, one who was in love with the sound of his own reflection.
In the land of Cesarea Phillipi was where PAN was worshipped. The Greeks called this land Paneas.
In Caesarea Philippi there was a great temple of white marble built to the godhead of Caesar — it had been built by Herod the Great. “At Paneas, Antiochius III defeated the Ptolemies of Egypt in 200 BCE, thus establishing Seleucid rule in Palestine and Syria In 20 BCE, Augustus gave Paneas to King Herod who erected there a temple of white marble to his patron (Josephus, Antiq. 15, 10.3/360); but the city was built only later by his son Herod Philip. During the First Jewish War (66-70 CE), Vespasian together with Titus and his army encamped there, and were entertained by King Agrippa II (Josephus, War, 3, 9.7/443-44). After the death of Agrippa II, Caesarea Philippi was attributed to the province of Syria, and later to Phoenicia.” (Rousseau and Arav, Jesus And His World, p. 34).
In short, Caesarea Philippi was a wealthy, fertile, religious land, where the worship of self and the worship of creation existed heavily. It was this land that Jesus chose to stand in front of and use as a backdrop as He asked Peter the question “Who do you say I AM?” and this confession was followed by a journey to the top of Mount Hermon, the place of Transfiguration, the place of the Revelation of the Deity and Glory of Christ.
The dew that falls from Mount Hermon is the melted snow, the water, that refreshes, the provision for this fertile land, the grace of God every morning, and unless one has a revelation of Jesus, and sees His mercies new every morning, the temptation to see all the fertility and beauty and provision that is in front of our eyes and give another credit and glory is waiting for us, saying “come, enter the mouth of the cave of self-worship.”
“But who do YOU say I AM?” He is asking this in every area of our lives. Is He Lord over all? Upon WHAT was Jesus saying His church will be built? Clearly, it is not on the rock (petra). But not as clearly, it is also NOT the confession of Jesus Christ as most Christian teachers have taught before. Why is Peter blessed? “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. ” “Blessed are you FOR FLESH AND BLOOD HAS NOT REVEALED THIS” Peter was blessed NOT because he was told Jesus was the Christ. Peter was blessed because he received revelation from the Father. In the cave of the mouth of self worship and earth worship, was revelation of the One who deserved worship alone. And then they were led to the Mount Of Transfiguration where they saw with their eyes what was revealed in their spirit. “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father who is in Heaven”… and it is on THIS ROCK that I will build My Church” Folks, this is not a one time confession of Christ. This is a daily revelation of who Christ is in our lives. The church is not built with numbers of people who confess Christ as the son of the Living God! It is built by daily coming to a greater revelation knowledge of who Christ is in our lives. Confession of Jesus can be by flesh and blood or by revelation but it is only by revelation of the Son of God can the gates of Hades not prevail against it. Daily we must be asking “Who is Jesus in my life today?” Is He Lord? Is He the Healer? Is He the Deliverer? Is He Alpha and Omega? Is He the First and the Last? Is He the Spirit of Prophecy? Is He the Good Shepherd? Is He The True and Faithful One? Is He the Word, Living, Written and Spoken? Is He the Bridegroom King? We need to press in to get revelation from our Father in Heaven who Jesus is in our lives daily in order to overcome the desire to worship self and nature (and ultimately satan). The church has been busy getting confessions. The church does not like to be still and just wait for Him. The church has been busy with programs. The church has been ANEMIC. So let’s be like the boy Samuel who hears his name being called and says “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” and then wait in silence til He comes. Get revelation. Let His word be formed in you. Let HIM be formed in you. Don’t be part of spreading INFORmation… be part of TRANSFORmation.