The Great Confession
The Great Confession (Matthew 16:13-20)
Sometimes the apparent insignificance of a place contradicts the significance of what happened there. Such is the case with Caesarea Philippi. That remote site on the other side of the globe witnessed the Great Confession concerning Jesus Christ. There Simon Peter testified, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (v. 16). This confession was not made at Rome because it does not need man's political endorsement for its power. It was not made at Athens because it does not need man's academic certification to be true. It was not made at Jerusalem because it does not need the stamp of established religion. Only God can reveal to the individual the truth of the Great Confession.
The Question Posed
Jesus begins with a request for the popular opinion concerning Him. That question may have been either educational or informational in its nature. He asked the question in terms of His favorite self-designation, "Son of Man." "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (v. 13). That title minimized who He was rather than advertised who He was. You find "a son of man" in Daniel 7:13, a figure of humiliation who is exalted into God's presence. The question of Jesus' identity touches today with a new force. More has been written about Jesus in the last twenty years than the previous two thousand.
Popular opinion about Jesus changes little. Some base their belief on superstition— "John the Baptist." Herod thought Jesus was a resurrection or reincarnation of the Baptist (Matt. 14:1). Some deal with Jesus by categorizing Him with others rather than recognizing Him as unique. Some base their answer on misinterpretation—"Elijah." The last words of the Old Testament indicated that Elijah would return before the Day of the Lord. Some quickly applied those words to Jesus, even though He Himself applied them to John the Baptist (Matt. 11:14). Others based their opinion on mere human observation—"Jeremiah or one of the prophets." They saw in Jesus some of the characteristics of other great Jewish preachers. In each instance the people stopped short of the full confession and surrender to Jesus Christ.
Jesus continued with a request for the disciples' personal confession. Jesus is not concerned with popular opinion. He is concerned with the adequacy of His church's confession. Is it accurate, authentic, biblical?
The Affirmation Given
The Great Confession represents a culmination of other confessions. Preliminary confessions had been made earlier in Jesus' ministry. The first days that His followers spent with Him they confessed that He was the Messiah, King of Israel, and Son of God (John 1:41, 45, 49). What then made the great confession great? It was great because it was born out of the personal experience and observation of the disciples. Our greatest confession about Christ ought always to be our latest confession about Christ. We ought to know more the longer we walk with Him.
The Great Confession represents a new comprehension about Christ. He is not only the Jewish Messiah, but He is the universal Son of God. The Jews expected a human Messiah. There was no expectation that the Messiah would be God-man, very God, invested with the Godhead Himself. This was the flash of revelation that moved Peter beyond anything before confessed—He is the Son of the living God.
Peter made that confession at a location which recognized other gods. Near that site were the worship of nature gods and human gods. In the face of all other gods, Peter confessed Christ as the Son of the living God.
The Foundation Acknowledged
On the bedrock of the confession of Christ's Godhead, Jesus Christ builds His church. The erection of the church begins with Peter's confession of the messiahship and Deity of Jesus Christ. The first layer of that foundation is the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). Jesus builds His church on the bedrock of their confession.
Since that time He continues to build His church out of living stones (1 Pet. 2:4-5). Every believer coming into contact with the great Foundation Stone comes to life as a living stone, part of the universal church that God is building through the ages. When the last living stone has been added, He who is the Foundation Stone and the Cornerstone will become the Capstone.
We must turn the Great Confession into our confession. It must move from the second person—"You are the Christ"—to the third person—"He is the Christ." On Sunday we confess to Jesus our belief, "You are the Christ." But every other day we must confess to. the world outside, "He is Christ."