Commentary on Matthew 16:13-23, the Rock

Gospel Mt 16:13-23

This is another wonderful passage which I frequently use to explain the Papacy to Protestants.  To anyone really.  The Bible text is in bold.

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippiand he asked his disciples,

Jesus went to Caesarea Philippi and asked His disciples a question.  Now, the way it is phrased, it almost sounds as though Jesus went to Caesarea Philippi EXPRESSLY to ask the question which He asked.  But even more, to make the specific statement which He made.

I love to read Biblical commentaries because, I personally, have never been outside the U.S.  But Biblical commentaries can tell you so much about the context in which the Scriptures were written.  This one, I learned from reading one of Scott Hahn’s books.  Caesarea Philippi is a very special place.

In the time of Jesus, a river flowed through this area and went into a cave, a hole in a huge rock.  It was the belief of the Romans that this cave was the entrance into hell.   On the top of this rock, the Romans had constructed a temple, in our terms, a church to one of their gods.

And this sets up the rest of this Gospel.

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Jesus asked, “who do the people of Israel say that I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

They answered what they had overheard the people saying.  Some thought that Jesus was John the Baptist.  We recently saw that Herod thought that Jesus was the reincarnation of John the Baptist.  The disciples said that other people thought He was the second coming of Elijah, one of the greatest Old Covenant prophets.

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

But Jesus was just warming up.  He puts them on the spot with the next question.  “Who DO YOU, my students whom I have been guiding for at least two years now.  Who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter said in reply,“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And this is why St. Peter is one of my most beloved Saints.  There is no indication in this Gospel that he hesitated even one little bit.  “You are the Son of God who is to come into the world!” 

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.

And Jesus says to him, “you are right.  But it isn’t because you are so brilliant.  You can only know this if you are given the inspiration from my Father in heaven.”

And so I say to you, you are Peter,and upon this rock I will build my Church,

“And now, since you have correctly revealed who I am, I will tell you who you are.  You are Rock and on this Rock I will build my Church.”

Right here, think back on where they are standing.  As Jesus says these words, I envision that His arms sweep out to point towards that huge rock in the horizon and the temple that sits on top.  But that is a Pagan church on top of that rock and that is a place where idolatry and orgies regularly take place.  Therefore, hell has prevailed upon that church.  Therefore, Jesus continues:

and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus then gives St. Peter the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.  Essentially saying, in my opinion, that St. Peter will have the power and authority to save people’s souls.

Then he strictly ordered his disciplesto tell no one that he was the Christ.

Then Jesus instructed His disciples to keep quiet about the fact that He is the Messiah.

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciplesthat he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatlyfrom the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,and be killed and on the third day be raised.

At that time, Jesus also began to reveal that He would suffer greatly and die on the Cross in order to rise on the third day.

Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”

St. Peter, out of love and concern for Jesus, could not imagine these things happening to Him.

He turned and said to Peter,“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

But Jesus instructed St. Peter that this is trick of Satan.  Jesus was sent to do the Father’s will and even His love for His Apostles will not sway Him from His appointed task.

If you found that interesting, see also Why did Jesus give Simon the name Rock


  1. Mark Thimesch

    Great post De Maria!
    There are LOTS of other passages and correlations within the Scriptures that support the concept of Simon Bar-Jona becoming St. Peter who is to play a leadership and authoritative role.
    Just correlate the following versus to each other and note the similarities:
    Genesis 24-32 vs John 1:40-42
    Genesis 35:9-13 vs Mathew 16:18

    How important was Israel? How important was St. Peter?

    God Bless and Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

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