“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
This Biblical quotation is from the book of Matthew, one of the twelve Apostles who accompanied Jesus throughout His three years of public ministry. Matthew was a Jew and he wrote to convince other Jewish people that Jesus really was the promised Messiah.
In the above quotation, Matthew relates a conversation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus had just asked the Apostles who people in the nearby towns and villages were saying that He was. He received a variety of answers. He was thought to be John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets who had returned to earth. Then Jesus asked the Apostles who they thought that He was.
Suddenly, Peter spoke up,” You are the Messiah, The Son of the living God.” Mt 16: 16
Why was Peter the only one to realize the Lord’s true identity? Jesus replied: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father in Heaven.” Mt 16:17
Then, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, which means “rock” in Aramaic, and gave him a new commission. He was to be head of the Church.
Peter and the other Apostles had no inkling of the enormity of the task which lay ahead; but Jesus knew that His time on earth was limited. After He returned to His Father, the Church, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, would be entrusted with spreading the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. And Peter was be the head of that Church.
Jesus did not promise that Satan would not try to destroy the Church. He has done this, usually by temptng its weaker members. Indeed, history has proven that the Church has endured many trials. He only promised that it would overcome these and survive. And it has, for over 2,000 years.
At first glance, Peter seems like an unlikely choice for leader. He was impulsive, illiterate, and outspoken. Surely Luke, the physician, or Matthew himself would have been better choices. At least they could read and write. However, as always, Jesus knew what He was doing.
Peter had natural leadership ability. He was a charismatic speaker. On Pentecost Sunday, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he preached a powerful sermon which converted 3,000 people. Pentecost is often referred to as the birthday of the Church.
After Pentecost. when the other Apostles departed to preach the Gospel to the wider world, Peter evangelized in the surrounding territories. He guided the first council, the Council of Jerusalem about 50 A.D.
Eventually, he traveled to Rome, to evangelize the large population of Jewish people who lived there. During Nero’s persecution, Peter was crucified upside down about 65 A.D. He asked for this form of martyrdom because he felt unworthy to die in the same way as Jesus. His feast is June 29.
After Peter’s death, Linus became Pope, the second Bishop of Rome.
As for Matthew, tradition says he died a martyr in Ethiopia, south of the Caspian Sea (not Ethiopia in Africa) or in Persia. His feast day is