When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 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. 19 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.”
20 Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. — Matthew 16:13-20.
Jesus has taken his disciples northward from predominantly Jewish territory, presumably to escape the crowds and spend time privately with them. They have journeyed some 25 miles (40 km) [and 1700 feet (518 m) uphill] from the Lake of Galilee to the source of the Jordan near the ancient city of Dan, the northern boundary of ancient Israel. The recently renamed Caesarea Philippi, a small town at the foot of Mount Hermon, was as pagan a territory as one could find.
Who do you say I am? — The “you” is plural; Peter answers on behalf of the Twelve.
Son of the living God — As applied to Jesus, the title reflects Jesus’ unique relation to the Father (11:27; 21:38). He is acknowledged by the Father as “my beloved Son” (3:17; 17:5). Peter’s understanding was given to him from above, going beyond what he could have discerned on his own. Recognition of who Jesus is must come from God.
Keys of the kingdom — This metaphor specifies how the apostles are foundational to the church; they have been given binding and loosing powers, or “keys,” which lock and unlock doors. The apostles open the kingdom to those who share Peter’s confession and exclude those who will not receive their testimony to Christ (10:14, 15). Through them Jesus reveals His own word of kingdom authority. The apostolic foundation of the church is laid in the written Word of God, the Scriptures, which are now the keys of Christ’s authority in the church (Eph. 2:20; 3:5) through the power of the Spirit (see 18:18).
Tell no one — Popular conceptions of the Messiah were far from recognizing His suffering ministry. To allow His disciples to proclaim His messiahship openly might have instigated a political movement that would have hampered His real mission (John 6:15).
Jesus Christ is the foundation of our faith. He is the Anointed Son of God. He is our Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and infinitely more. We are now commissioned to tell the world about Him!