All the gospels, and the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) in particular, witness to the growth in faith of the disciples of Jesus. In the synoptic gospels a point of climax is reached when Jesus asks his disciples the question: ‘Who do you say I am?’ It is a question which all Christians must answer.
Peter speaks up and declares his belief, perhaps also shared by the others, that Jesus is the promised Messiah. What is special in Matthew’s story of Peter’s profession of faith is the commissioning of Peter which follows. Faith leads to a mission.
The words of Jesus to Peter ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church’ have been understood as the basis for the special role of the bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter, in relation to the whole church. In their varying ways each of the gospels testifies to the leadership role of Peter. The words of Jesus to Peter in Matthew’s gospel are words of assurance, for it is Christ who will build the Church and Christ who endows Peter with authority.
The reading ends with Jesus instructing the disciples to tell nobody he was the Christ. The title of ‘Christ’ or ‘Messiah’ was understood in various ways, and Jesus had reservations that he might be misunderstood as a worldly leader. The true role of the Messiah will be taken up again in next Sunday’s gospel reading.