Jesus had been preaching and teaching about the kingdom of God and doing miracles for some time when He asked His disciples a question: "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (Matthew 16:13). The title, "Son of Man," was one Jesus used for Himself frequently. It actually comes from Daniel 7:13-14 where Daniel describes Jesus' ascension into heaven hundreds of years later:
"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14).
Jesus was at the point of His ministry where He was beginning to be opposed by the religious leaders of the Jews. He knew that if His disciples were going to stand firm and be His instruments to build His Church, they needed to be able to answer one very important question: "Who was Jesus?!" So He first asked them, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" This was at the same time a question and a hint. They replied that some were saying He was Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets, come back from the dead. Jesus then asked them, "But what about you? Who do YOU say I am?"
Peter answered Jesus: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" (Matthew 16:16). Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (verse 17-18). Some have wrongly understood this to mean that Peter, himself, was the "rock" upon which the Church would be built. The entire papacy has been built around this erroneous misunderstanding.
Jesus was talking about Peter's confession: "You are the CHRIST, the Son of the living God!" This confession is the core of the Gospel and the foundation upon which the Church is built. Jesus is the "Christ," the Messiah, the Anointed One. He is the Son of Man spoken of in Daniel 7:13. No one else qualifies as fulfilling all the requirements of the Messiah, the coming King that the entire Old Testament points to. Jesus came to be King, and even Pilate unintentionally declared that He was the "King of the Jews."
As the Christ, Jesus endured God's wrath on the cross to pay the penalty for sin. The cross is not just some symbol of Christianity. It was there that Jesus made a public spectacle of Satan and the powers of darkness, the "accuser of the brethren." Paul writes to believers in Colossians 2:13-15: "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
Because Jesus was and is the Christ, He opened the door to heaven, to life, to God's presence, for all who believe in Him. Every person will one day have to answer Jesus' question: "Who do you say I am?" Have you answered that question? The Bible says that this is "the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2). God is offering forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus to all who believe, but judgment will come to all who give the wrong answer to Jesus' question. On Peter's confession: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus is still building His Church - the "called-out ones."
If you are one of those who have believed, give thanks to God, for even as Jesus said to Peter, "flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." Only by being born again by the Spirit of God will you come to Jesus for forgiveness and trust in His sacrifice on the cross for eternal life. Then you will be a Christian - a Christ-follower, and you will be able to take this good news to others. "On THIS rock I will build my Church!" Praise the Lord!!