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Biblical/Doctrinal Studies:
Focus on Jesus Series

Peter’s Special Role
Notes on Matthew 16:13-17:1-8, Mark 8:27-9:8, Luke 9:18-36
by Ed Vasicek

We see three seemingly unrelated events in the Gospel narrative (Peter’s confession, Christ’s rebuke of Peter, and the Transfiguration) which are, in fact, related. After Peter’s confession, Jesus begins discussing His Church, an entity that was yet future but still part of the “Kingdom of God.” This shift in direction was planned from all eternity (Ephesians 3:6) but kept “hush” by God until Jesus uttered, “I will build my church.” Let me comment upon the first event that sparked the others – Peter’s confession of faith.

Let’s begin by noting that Jesus validated Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ.” Our Savior stated that the Father had revealed this truth to Peter. Some allege that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah. The reality is that He repeatedly made such claims (see John 4:25-26), although He was frequently tactful and evasive.

Roman Catholics believe that Peter was the first “pope” and use this passage to warrant their viewpoint. I suggest that they begin with their doctrine and try to force it upon the Scriptures. Approaching God’s Word with a preexisting agenda makes for strained interpretation at best.

Please note the following:

  1. there is no mention or implication of succession of office here;
  2. Peter is nowhere called “pope,” nor is a specific church office mentioned. The privileges given to Peter were equally given to the other apostles (see Matthew 18:18 where the privilege of “binding and loosing” were given to all church leaders, and Ephesians 2:20, where all apostles and prophets were considered foundational);
  3. in Acts 15, James seems to be the most influential, and as we progress within the book of Acts, Paul is the man to watch. Also note that Christ blessing Peter in this unique way is only found in Matthew. This does not negate the reality of the event, but it does demonstrate that whatever Jesus told Peter was not as important as are events included in three or all four gospels. Mark and Luke include Peter’s confession, but not the blessing Christ gave him. If the fate and direction of all Christendom relied on Peter, one would expect to find at least one other reference somewhere in the Bible to that effect!

What IS significant about Peter’s confession is that it is the FIRST clear cut confession from among the Apostles (although many individuals had already made this confession, e.g., the Woman at the Well). Of the twelve, Peter is the one to go out on a limb (or walk on water) for Jesus. Peter is presented as a special initiator, and he did initiate the church’s ministry to the Jews, the Samaritans, and finally to gentiles. He was the church’s “jump-starter.”

The Jews called “Abraham” the “little rock.” Because he was the FIRST in the line of Jews, all Judaism was based on his example of faith. In the same way, Christ calls Peter a “little rock” (Greek), and all Christianity is based on his example of “confessing that Jesus is the Christ.” All believers are chips off of the ultimate Rock, the Lord Himself, or, as Peter explains in 1 Peter 2:4-5, “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood....”

Pastor Ed

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Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA
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