One cannot miss the fact that Jesus is talking to Peter here because he is so direct. Four times he came out directly at the Apostle with those solemn words which we cannot miss. “BLESSED ARE YOU, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father in heaven”. (Matt.16:17). “AND I TELL YOU, YOU ARE PETER, and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”. (Matt. 16:18). “I WILL GIVE YOU the keys of the kingdom of heaven, AND WHATEVER YOU bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”. (Matt. 16:19). Four times in three verses Christ addresses him directly, it would be highly incomprehensible for one to suggest that somewhere in the middle, Christ was making reference to something else, but despite that, let us take a closer look at these verses.
YOU ARE PETER, remember dear friends that his name was first SIMON, and that Christ changed his name the moment he saw him, without giving him any reason why. And up until now, Christ has not addressed him directly with this name in this manner, in fact, he uses both his names here, one in a commendation, a blessing, and then another in a responsibility which is a fruit of that blessing, a privilege which he intends to grant him, but not just now, but which he had already intended to grant him from the beginning. In the Bible anytime God changed someone’s name there was a reason, usually a responsibility, one which was closely related to the covenant plan. This truth really is also something we should meditate on, I mean, the call and the changing of the name, a new name. we see this in the change from Abram to Abraham, Father of a multitude of nations, from whose seed with Sarah whose name was also changed from Sarai, the promised Messiah would come who would bring God’s people from all the nations into the one family of the kingdom of God, the Church.
Peter from the Greek Petros means Rock. It is of the masculine gender because the subject is masculine. If peter were female he would have been called Petra, the feminine word for Rock still, you see why the Petros/Petra argument holds no water? The word for the object ‘rock’ in the Greek is Petra, because it is assigned a feminine gender, something like how the word ‘table’ in French is feminine.
Some argue that Petros means ‘small stone’ and Petra means ‘Rock’. This is really wrong Koine Greek, which is the language the New Testament is written. The Greek word for small stones in Greek is Lithos, and not Petros. We see this in the temptation of Jesus, when the devil asked him to turn the Lithos to bread in Matthew 4, the same gospel writer, and also in the triumphant entry into Jerusalem where Jesus could command the stones, Lithos, to sing praises.
A closer look also at the Greek text would reveal that the way the sentence is structured, the second mention of rock had to refer grammatically even, to the first mention of it. You are Petros, kai taute Petra. ‘Kai taute’ when used together means something along the lines of, ‘and on this very’, an adjectival phrase descriptive of a previous noun. So we have something like, ‘You are Rock, and on this very Rock, I will build my church’. God builds on confessors and not on confessions, the Church is said to have the Apostles as its foundation in the book of Ephesians. There can not be confessions without confessors and God came not to save and call confessions into his Kingdom to be part of it, but confessors.
I WILL GIVE YOU THE KEYS, the one with the keys to the kingdom, to a house, is one of really great authority. We know this from the book of Isaiah 22:20-22, “In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the Son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your belt on him, and will commit your AUTHORITY to his hand; and he shall be a FATHER to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the KEY of the house of David, he shall open and no one shall shut, and he shall shut and no one shall open”. Compare this last sentence with, ‘whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven…’
It is remarkable to note here how it is the kingdom of David during the reign of Hezekiah, that this passage is talking about, the same Kingdom of David, which is the Kingdom of God, as in 2Sam 7, the seat of David is the one Christ would seat on in the New Covenant, and so we have something of a fulfillment in Christ using the symbol of the keys to give the Chief steward of that kingdom in the new covenant, one who would be Father in his Name. little wonder in John 21, Jesus tells him three times, feed my sheep, take care of my flock, feed my lambs.
We thank God for his covenant love for us, we thank Him for the gift of Peter, and of Paul, and of the Church. We ask that through the intercessions of these Great apostles who gave their lives for the Kingdom of God. For the Church of God, that we may remain steadfast in Faith, strong in Hope and in the Love of God that binds us all together as one communion in Christ. We also pray for our Holy Father, who is the successor of Peter, that as he ministers in that holy office of Peter and in his Charism , God would keep him, direct him and through him, bring souls back to the one family of God’s people, so that we all can enjoy the liberty of the Children of God. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.