Commentary on the Gospel of
“ON THIS ROCK I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH.”
Without knowing Aramaic, it is hard for us to know whether Jesus was typically given to puns and wordplay. Here is one example. The name Peter (a Greek rendering of the Aramaic Cephas), which means rock, is the new name that Jesus gave to his disciple Simon. This sets the basis for a memorable pun, when Jesus proclaims that “on this Rock” he will build his church.
As later events in the Gospel make abundantly clear (particularly Peter’s later betrayal of the Lord), this is a rather shaky rock on which to build anything. (Hadn’t Peter himself tried to warn the Lord at the beginning: “Leave my Lord, for I am a sinful man”?) If the church is built on a rock, it is not the personal steadiness of Peter or any one man, but on the confession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” That confession and the implications that follow are the true foundation of the church. The powers of death--neither the death of Jesus, nor the death of Peter--will not overcome that rock.