Here’s a story, also mentioned in Mark 8:27–30 and Luke 9:18–20 but Matthew has more details.
after His busyness of ministry (feeding and debating with Pharisees), Jesus was chilling out with his disciples and as they are walking in Caesarea Philippi which is as pagan territory, Jesus asked a question that caught everyone by surprise.
The response is quite interesting.
It's important to know the truth. Verse 14 shows their answer was based off what they hear or perhaps they have a sense of fear. Unconvinced, Jesus asked again and this time, Simon answered boldly, in Matthew 16:16 -- "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Now the confession of Jesus as Christ the Son of living God speaks that Jesus is King to Peter and in other gospels, it shows that Peter acknowledge Him as the Messiah. It also revealed the divinity of Jesus – “son of God”
He was convinced that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the coming king who would miraculously heal the people and drive out the oppressors in the land.
The confession of Peter is very crucial for the foundation of the church, which based on the truth of Jesus.
The declaration of Simon about Jesus affirms that church shall be built on that declaration as the foundation of truth. That is why Simon is then given the name PETER means “the rock”. And this rock, Jesus says He will build his church. Jesus is not exalting Peter but rather, declaring into the spiritual realm that the ministry of Jesus and the extension of His kingdom anchor on these words.
This is important, to say that Christ was going to build his church on that foundation so that every doctrine, teaching, writing, organizing is Christ-centred.
It’s important for us to understand that because these days people can say all sort of things on how to run a church. But at the end of the day, it needs to be Jesus way where He is center of it all, He is the foundation of the truth. Jesus foretold it in Matthew 7 that following God’s word is like building a firm foundation.
From foundation of church, Jesus goes on to say that keys to the kingdom of heaven will be given.
We can relate keys to “unlocking” or “opening”, meaning that you have the power of access (eg house, things, car). Hence, in the Bible, a key is used as a symbol of power and authority. The kingdom of heaven here means, doubtless, the church on earth. When the Saviour says, therefore, he will give to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he means that he will make him the instrument of opening the door of faith to the world the first to preach the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. In short, the declaration of Peter has the honor of first opening the doors of the gospel to the world.
Then what Jesus means about “bind” and “loose”? The phrase "to bind" and "to loose" was often used by the Jews as “to prohibit” and “to permit”. Simply say that whatever we hold back, will be reflected in the spiritual atmosphere. Same thing as well when comes to releasing the gospel and blessings.
Finally, Jesus safeguards the method of the kingdom by forbidding publicity (v. 20). Jesus was not trying to keep the message quiet, or his identity a secret. He was refusing to bow to the demands of the people to declare himself with a sign. He wanted people to come to faith in Him as Peter and the disciples had done, through the response of faith to the revelation. He wanted to make sure that they would come to Him by faith, and not because of messianic zeal without true repentance. And He wanted to ensure that the steady progress to the cross would not be hindered by full disclosure. After the resurrection there would be complete proclamation to the world.
But at the end of the day, we need to go back to the basic question : when Jesus ask the question “who do you say I am”, it’s question that test the truth.
Know the TRUTH for it is the foundation of unlocking the kingdom of heaven on Earth