Matthew 16:17-19 Jesus answered and said, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Johan (son of Johan), for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Jesus said, “Upon this rock.” What rock?
- Some say that the Church was built upon Peter and he was the rock Jesus was referring to.
- The more popular understanding of the rock is the words of Peter or upon acknowledgment of Jesus being the Son of God in verse 16.
- I submit to you that the second answer is on the right track but that it goes much deeper than that.
To understand it allow me to use the “Law of First Mention.” This means that often times you can find a more simplistic understanding when you discover where it was first mentioned in scripture.
First, the more obvious answer would be that Jesus is the rock. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that the rock that Moses struck was Jesus. But, let’s go to the first mention.
The first mentioned rock in the old Testament was Exodus 17:6 where Moses struck the rock. But there is a mention of something earlier than that using the word stone – Genesis 28:18. There Jacob poured oil upon the stone that he had slept on. It became a marker of what he called, “God’s House” or “Bethel.”
On several occassions stones were used as markers to mark something extraordinary that took place.
What about the first mention in the New Testament, something used metaphorically by Jesus? That would be Matthew 7:24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house upon the rock:”
In Jesus’ conclusion for His great sermon on the mount He declares that to not only hear but practice His teachings is like building your life upon a rock. The rock here represents His teachings, His revelation.
That would make more sense in understanding what the rock was that His Church would be build upon and would give reason for binding and loosing.
Binding and loosing was a rabbinical term. The rabbis had the authority to bind and to loose or to accept or reject certain teachings. God said to honor the Sabbath day and the rabbis defined it by what could and could not be done on the Sabbath in order to keep it holy. The things that could not be done was binding. The things that could be done was loosing.
The Church is to be built upon understanding the Word of God, binding what is not acceptable and loosing what we are free to do. The problem is that the flesh gets involved in the process and we end up back to what Jesus had to deal with, the traditions of man. We end up making up our own stuff.
Jesus contradicted many of the traditions that had been bound and loosed. That is why the people said in Matthew 7:28-29 … that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
For this reason James says in James 3:1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. The Church has to be built upon the Word and to be careful how we throw around our authority in our teachings. Binding and loosing is serious business. Too many burdens have been placed upon people because of teachings that have may have grown out of truth but now only slightly resemble what is scriptural.
The rock, I submit to you, is Jesus and His Word upon which we build up. It is our foundation. It is the rock that followed the Israelites in the wilderness. It is a marker and testimony of man’s experience with an Almighty God. It is Jesus, the Word.