It’s great to receive a compliment. Even better is a compliment with a promotion. It’s awesome and beats demotion.
That is what Simon Peter gets here. But we will see the compliment and promotion comes with a challenge to see past what is on the surface.
“17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.”
The challenge starts with the “son of Jonah” part. I say that because Jesus calls him that as an additional name of calling to distinguish him. We know from John 1:42 that Simon Peter was the son of John (no relation to the NT writer). Jesus was no stranger to that. We know that James and John were the sons of Zebedee but Jesus calls them Boanerges (Sons of Thunder). There is a dig in that because Jesus was in a scene with them being impulsive.
More on Jonah. Jonah in the OT means “Dove”. Jonah was called to preach repentance to Nineveh. He ran from God, was interrupted by a whale and still fulfilled his called. Simon Peter would keep being a follower of Jesus but would go astray only to come back into the Shepherd’s fold.
“[T]his was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” More on the dove part. Jesus said “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” John 14:26). The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus as a dove specifically. Really the three persons in this exchange are the Trinity and Peter. So on the bright side, there is hope long-term because of the well that Peter draws from is the same Spirit of sonship that helps us to cry out “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:14-16 (in Context) Romans 8 (Whole Chapter) Other Translations
Galatians 4:6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
Much earlier, Jesus told Simon son of Jonah that he would be called Cephas, or Peter. Now we see him to be a “son” of a world changing calling. Moreover, it would be upon his mission that he would become the prime minister of the church also known as the pope (there have even been several Protestant theologians that say he was a pope, albeit the first and last).
So on this revelation of sonship brought about by the Holy Spirit is the church. It is important to know that it was not stained glass windows, pews or steeple that was on Jesus’ mind. It was the called out community that is called into the joint experience of Christ. The important lesson here is the you cannot divorce the Body from the Head. The Spirit of God is integral to binding together Christians but with the human leadership to keep things in perspective.
But why the authority of man? For one thing, take apart the word for church, ekklesia. That word in the Greek was used for small towns that operated as democracies. When it was time to vote, there was an ek rallying cry to come together for the joint purpose of voting.
So how can people who want to follow Jesus be drawn to a common purpose unless there is someone on earth in leadership? Somebody needs to announce what is going on with the mind of Christ. So for a start, the “Apostle and High Priest of our good confession” (Hebrews 12:1) chooses an impulsive, loud mouthed, thrice denying fisherman from Galilee to be the first in that role. Jesus was grooming Simon Peter for a role that would be immensely dependent on revelation from the Spirit, that it is now wonder that his words for him were passionate in encouragement and in rebuke (as we will see next time).
Maybe if you are reading this, it is too difficult by experience to be open to organized religion. For a start, open your heart to the call of Jesus. Ask Jesus “Who are you? Where do I belong? How do you see me?” The journey for Simon Peter or any other humble seeker is to let those questions boil in our hearts and out through the lives we lead.