Caesarea Philippi has a long and exalted history. It was the center of pagan religions and offered a pantheon of gods to appease the interests of any possible worshipper. It was so infiltrated with various pagan gods that the huge 17 gates of hellcave, or hole in the ground, near the pantheon became known as the “gates of hell.” From this gaping hole in the earth came the various demon-gods of various pagan religions. It’s no wonder that it was at this spot Jesus asked his disciples the most important question. Matthew 16:13-18 tells us about this conversation: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they said, some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, but who do you say that I am? Simon Peter replied, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered him, blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Many argue that Jesus was calling Peter, whose name means stone or rock, the foundation stone upon which He would build His church. Others argue that the “rock” Jesus was referring to is Peter’s profession of faith, and it was with each profession that followed that another stone was laid as a living stone in Christ’s church. But if Jesus is identifying “This” stone as the foundational cornerstone, I’d argue that a finger pointing back to himself along with the demonstrative adjective “this” was referring to Himself as the promised Messiah.

Peter’s profession was that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. The Messiah was frequently identified as a building or corner stone. Isaiah 28:16 says, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.” Even Peter, himself, in 1 Peter 2:4-5, gives us further New Testament evidence. He says, “As you come to him (Jesus) , a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house.” Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:11, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The only solid foundation sufficient to withstand the onslaught from the idols arising from the gates of Hell is Jesus.