In the gospel, Jesus asks his disciples who the people believe the Son of Man to be. The people’s opinion is that Jesus is a prophet; but Jesus’ first question simply prepares the disciples for his second.
Jesus has been carefully preparing these disciples to carry on his work. They have heard his teachings and witnessed his miracles. What they think of him is critical if they are to succeed. Peter is the usual spokesman for the disciples. You are the Messiah the Son of the living God. The word Messiah and the word Christ are the same word; the first is the Hebrew and the other is the Greek for The Anointed One. Kings were ordained to office by anointing, as they still are.
Jesus proclaims Peter as “Blessed!” This identification is not the fruit of the merit of a human effort, but rather it is a gift, which The Father grants to whom he wants. Then Jesus does great honor to Peter, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church”. Then the Builder is Jesus.
What or who is the rock? Is it the reality that Jesus is the Son of God? Or Peter’s faith? Or Peter himself? Protestants and Catholics are divided about the interpretation of these words. The Greek translation of rock appears first in masculine petrus and then in feminine petra. The Protestants consider that there are two different rocks. The first rock (petrus) would be Peter, the second rock (petra) would be his confession; Instead for us Catholics there is just one rock. Peter is the rock upon which Jesus will build his church.
There are two reasons for this as a Catholic belief:
- It wouldn’t make sense to change Simon’s name, if Jesus were speaking about another rock.
- There is not a distinction between two kinds of rock in Aramaic. Jesus used the Aramaic word, Cephas. In Greek rock is a feminine noun, impossible to use as a masculine nickname.