Peter Proclaims Jesus is the Messiah | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
January 2018

Peter Proclaims Jesus is the Messiah

By Neal Bowes

How would your students answer is someone asked them, “Who is Jesus?” We explore that moment for Peter in this lesson as he is put on the spot to offer an answer to this important question.

Warm Up Questions

  • Have you ever confused a person for somebody else? What happened?
  • If your closest friend were to describe you in one word, what, do you think, would it be?
  • Do you have a nickname?


Jesus had garnered quite a reputation for himself with all the healings and other miracles. People knew he was something special. Many thought he was one of the prophets. Perhaps Elijah, who never actually died, had come back (2 Kings 2:11-12). Or maybe John the Baptist, who had been killed by Herod, had come back to life. But when Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Peter’s name wasn’t actually Peter. It was Simon. Since there is a second Simon among the twelve disciples, Matthew refers to him as Peter even earlier in the text, but it is here that he receives his new name. Jesus calls him Petros in Greek. We derive our word petrified from the same root word. It means rock. Jesus was actually giving him a really cool nickname!

The rock, or foundation, that the Church is built upon is the confession that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, God incarnate, the One who takes responsibility for our sins and delivers us to eternal life. Note that Peter, representing all Christians, is the building material while Jesus is the architect and builder.

One tradition that stems from this passage is that Saint Peter is the gatekeeper of Heaven, deciding who can and cannot be admitted. We know, however, that Jesus has been given full authority and will be seated on the throne on Judgment Day. Here again, the “key” to Heaven is recognizing Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Jesus also gives Peter the power to bind and loose, which means he has the authority to teach and apply the Scripture. With this authority, Peter was seen as the human leader of the church. When he was killed, it was felt that another person needed to be raised up to take his place. To this day, in the Roman Catholic tradition, the Pope is holding the office of “Peter.”

Read: Matthew 16:13-20

Discussion Questions

  • Who did people think that Jesus was? Why might they think that?
  • What was Peter’s answer to who Jesus was?
  • Why is Peter’s answer such a big deal?
  • Read John 14:6-7. Why is it important to recognize Jesus as our Savior?
  • What does it mean that Jesus is our Savior?
  • Why, do you think, did Jesus call Peter “rock?”
  • What did it mean that Peter had the keys to Heaven?
  • How can we get a key to Heaven?
  • Jesus says that the gates of Hades, or Hell, will not overcome his church. What does that statement mean for us?

Related Scripture: 1 Peter 2:4-5

Wrap Up Questions

  • Who is Jesus to you?
  • What affect does your relationship with Jesus have on your life?
  • What does it mean to you that Jesus is Lord? When do you find that to be difficult to accept?

Sending Forth

If somebody were to ask you who Jesus is, how would you answer? Do you know Jesus well enough to be able to answer? This week, make a commitment to spend time every day getting closer to Jesus through prayer and reading the Bible.

Closing Prayer

We believe, oh God! We believe that Jesus is the Messiah—your one and only Son. Help us to be rock-solid in that conviction. Help us to find the courage to share Jesus with those around us. Surround us, dear God, lift us up. Allow us to feel your presence, now and forever. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Neal has had the privilege of being in ministry with the youth at Jesse Lee for the last 15 years. He also works through the New York Annual Conference to train and support volunteer youth workers in local churches. He loves speaking at youth gatherings--group retreats or conference-wide events.