“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Matthew 16:18
The name “Peter” means rock. Some believe that Jesus is telling Peter that he is the rock upon which He will build His church, but that is not what Jesus is saying here. The true meaning of this statement is found both in the context of the passage and the subtle differences in the words Jesus used for “Peter” and “rock”.
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Matthew 16:13-18
In this passage, Jesus is checking the understanding of His followers concerning who Jesus is. To Peter’s correct answer about Jesus being the expected Christ, promised by God, Jesus responds with a proclamation meant to deepen His followers comprehension of who He is and their vital relationship with him:
“I also say to you that you are Peter (Petros – a piece of rock), and upon this rock (Petra – mass of rock, complete boulder) I will build My church….”
Peter was part of God’s plan for building Christ’s church, and yes, Peter was a main leader in that. But I believe Paul defines what Jesus meant by His proclamation.
“And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:17-22
The apostles and prophets are the foundation, each one being a piece of The Rock; but Jesus is The Rock upon which the foundation is secured, the cornerstone upon which all is secured as one. Then each of us who are firmly secured into our place in Christ form the building blocks of His church. Together we are ONE in CHRIST, each part of the whole.
The apostles and prophets of the foundation signify the Word of God sent through them. Jesus being The Word makes the foundation one whole with the Cornerstone. Each one of us who are firmly seated on the foundation of truth taught through these founding fathers, are secured by Christ, the Cornerstone. He will not let us fall or fail. The more we become one with Christ and The Word, the greater our unity as The Church.
Added thought: Jesus called Peter “Simon Barjona” when he responded correctly to His query. Simon was Peter’s birth name. Barjona means “to stab” as with a Sword. May we be Swords in the Lord’s army, stabbing hearts with the truth of God so others may be secured to the firm foundation.