Matthew 16:13-21
Upon This Rock

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. Next week, our church will hold its general session business meetings. [The council] will seek for consensus on the upcoming year's evangelistic and pastoral services objectives, plans for activities, and a draft budget. The church will set up a plan for the year. We will put the plan into effect hoping for churches to form and to grow. As the pastors and the believers offer themselves and their money, they will work on evangelism and church formation. Then as the year passes, all the work will be summarized into a report to be given at the general session. It is imperative that these things be done in a sound manner. What we plan and how we pull it off is very very important for the formation and the growth of the churches.

2. But, since it is going to be us during [all] that time we must listen quietly right now to the message from the Lord today. Jesus said to Peter, "I will build my church upon this rock. Not even the power of hell can oppose it," (verse eighteen). This is the message from the Lord given to us today.

3. Jesus said, "My church." We must start by discerning what this means. The church is Christ's church. Regardless of the definition, the church does not exist for us to possess as our own thing. Because the church is Christ's church, it is also Christ's business to build the church. The Lord said, "I will build my church." Since he is building it, whatever work that we plan and put into practice is the same as participating in Christ's work. Christ uses us for his precious work in building his church.

You Indeed Are The Messiah, The Son Of The Living God

4. Next, today, what I'd like to focus on with you is the foundation of the church. Were we to build a church of our own, we should have to set its foundation also. We could say, "Let's build a church based on such and such of an idea." It might be our church, but it isn't Christ's church. If it were the church that Christ built, Christ himself would be the foundation upon which it was set. The church of Christ is only built upon the foundation that Christ deems fit.

5. Now, what might that foundation be defined as? The Lord said, "You are Peter. I will build my church upon this foundation." Jesus called the disciple Simon as Peter. Since it was Aramaic that the Lord used it would have been "Cephas." "Cephas" has the meaning "rock." The Lord said, "Upon this rock (Cephas) I will build my church." Therefore, in the immediate sense, "this rock" stands for Peter.

6. But, this statement is a continuation from the previous dialog. The Lord said, "I truly say to you." In other words, we have the statement of Peter before that. It is the words from verse sixteen. "You are the messiah, the son of the living God." This is the confession of faith from Simon Peter regarding this [man] Jesus of Nazareth. In short, "this rock" was not just pointing to the human Peter, but pointing to Peter "confessing [his] faith [in the Christ]." Were it only speaking of the human Peter, nothing from this scene would be worth anything. As a matter of fact, if it were about Peter, in spite of the fact that he was called "the rock" here as the foundation of the church, he had been scolded immediately after this with "Satan, get back" (verse twenty-three). He is both the rock and the satan. That's Peter the human. Therefore, rather than the importance being on Peter the man himself, the important thing instead is the confession of faith that he had expressed. Getting to the point then, the foundation of the church is the confession of faith, uttered by Peter, that "You are the messiah, the son of the living God."

7. His faith confession is given in contrast with the voices of the people written in the text just before. Jesus asked his disciples, "Whom do the people say is the son of man?," (verse thirteen). Whereupon, the disciples gave the reply, "Some are saying 'He is John the Baptizer,' some are saying 'He is Elijah.' Others are saying 'He is Jeremiah' or 'He is one of the prophets.'," (verse fourteen). The one saying "He is John the Baptizer" and who was afraid of him was the ruler Herod. He cut off [John's] head and was thinking that John the Baptizer had re-appeared back from the dead after killing him, (14:2). Or they heard that there were even some who were thinking of the coming of Elijah, who was expected back as the messiah's forerunner, or else [there were people associating him with] the second coming of the great prophet of Jeremiah.

8. Even today, there's all kinds of talk about all kinds of images of Jesus. Plenty of people are impressed with the way Jesus of Nazareth lived and wish to live by his example. Lots of folks recognize the great significance in Jesus' teachings and hope to live in accordance with those lessons of his. Just like the people in that day felt, today as well, there are many who feel the greatness of Jesus. Yet, no matter how sincere their sentiments may be, that is not the Christian faith in any specific sense.

9. The faith, which is the foundation of the church, is to be defined by looking to Jesus and confessing, "You are the messiah, the son of the living God." Jesus asked his disciples the question, "So now, who do you say that I am?" With our own mouths, we too, like Peter did, must look to Jesus and say "You are the messiah, the son of the living God." When we look to Jesus and state "You are the messiah, the son of the living God," it means that we recognize that he is truly the savior whom the Lord has given. We are admitting that he does indeed have true salvation. Then, we believe that within him there is an absolute authority and power able to save us and so we seek that salvation in him.

Not Even The Power Of Hell Can Oppose This

10. So, after Jesus heard the statement that "You are indeed the messiah, the son of the living God," then he said to Peter, "Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed. It was not a human being who revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father." Believing Jesus as the messiah or the Christ and expressing that faith is on another dimension different from human respect and reverence. The Lord said it came by revelation of God.

11. But, then on the other hand, the Lord also said [more]. Please look in verse twenty. "After that, Jesus commanded his disciples not say that he was the messiah any more to anyone." Of course, Peter's confession of faith was given by revelation of God. But, God's revelation was not yet completed. There was still more that Peter must see. There was more that he should know. It was the same for the other disciples too. What must they see and what else should they know? Right after that, the Bible says, "After that hour, Jesus began to confide in his disciples that he must surely go to Jerusalem, suffer much pain from the elders, priests, and the scribes, and be killed by them and then he would be raised from the dead on the third day," (verse twenty-one). Yes, they must. They must look upon Jesus' passion and resurrection. Through this they will begin to be able to confess Jesus as the messiah in its truest sense and then be able to proclaim him as the messiah. That is to say, they will confess Jesus as "the messiah who was crucified, who died, and who rose again on the third day," and they will be able to proclaim him in that way.

12. Earlier I mentioned that to look to Jesus and to state "You are the messiah. You are the son of the living God," means to seek for salvation in him. That's how it's supposed to be, we are seeking for salvation and the reason we are is because we are in a state where we must be saved. How would [you] define that state where we must be saved? Is it social pressure? Is it physical or mental illness? Is it economic distress? Is it some unpredictable disaster? Of course, each one of them are great problems. But, the reason the messiah had to suffer, die and be raised from the dead lies where the rock bottom misery of humanity is most deep. Namely, it is a fact of reality that people are sinners in rebellion against God. It is a fact of reality that we live as sinners in rebellion against God and we must die as sinners who have been in rebellion against God. We must be saved from that very misery. Above all else, the sin which divides humanity from God must be taken away. Sin must be paid for by redemption. [Each] person must be restored back to God pardoned for [his or her] sins.

13. Therefore, as persons who must be saved from sin, we will look to Jesus and make the following statement: "You are the messiah. You are the messiah who was crucified, died, and rose again from the dead for our sake. You indeed are the son of the living God." That's the rock. That's the church's foundation. Except for this rock, nothing whatsoever could be a foundation for the church. Upon this very very rock Christ himself is building his church. That's Christ's church.

14. So, since that is how Christ's church really is, Christ himself has made the following pronouncement, "Not even the power of hell can oppose it." "The power of hell." Literally, [it is] "the gates of hell." Hell is the world of death. Thus, you might even replace the words with "power of death" or "gates of death." Everyone of us knows quite well how mighty the power of death is. Death is certainly the greatest enemy at the end of the day, and no man, no woman is any match for the power of death. Everyone, no matter how elite, no matter how tough, no matter how affluent, no matter how superior, will without a doubt all be swallowed up by death. Yet, Christ said, "Not even the power of hell can oppose [him or his church]."

15. If we are standing in Christ's church that he is building, we are standing upon a rock that the power of hell cannot even shake. If we are standing in the church which has for its foundation a faith in the crucified messiah and in the risen messiah who lives even right now, we need no longer fear the power of hell or the power of death; for, we no longer need to die there as sinners lost to God. -- Because death can no longer pull us from God and destroy us.

16. "Upon this rock I will build my church." Christ is still continuing his work of building his church even now. Christ has been building his church upon the same foundation both two thousand years ago and today. If we are Christ's church and if we are to continue being Christ's church, we must cherish this constant and unchanging foundation. The Lord puts that very question to us today as well: "Whom do you say that I am?"

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