In Matthew’s version of the gospel, one of Jesus’ students named Simon answered correctly a difficult yet profound question asked by the teacher.
When the group was asked, “who do you think I am?” It is Simon who is moved to about out “You are the Messiah!” He doesn’t even raise his hand or allows Jesus Time to clarify or further explain the question (after all, the Twelve have not been the most impressive students upnto this point.).
Read the whole story in Matthew 16:13-20.
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
What does this mean? In short, Catholics believe Jesus purposefully called Peter “The Rock” (not because but like the self-given nickname of Dwayne Johnson) to literally say he is the big massive boulder or foundation which God will begin construction upon. This is used to justify the doctrine of Apostolic Succession, which if quickly summized would suggest that each Pope continues from the linage of Peter...who a direct line to Jesus’ teaching. They are therefore the keepers of the pure teachings of Jesus.
Protestants more often than not read the Greek word Petros (1) as a small pebble, meaning God is using all of us small pebbles in life to build and grow the church. And that the Bible and nature reveals Jesus and God’s great mysteries to us.
Believe me, I know this is grossly simplified and offers zero justice to either side of the argument. Its just context that helps me make my point. (Bible.org does a a much better summery below).
I see both both sides and do not attempt to argue them because both work to whatever God intended. Both agree that Jesus is the cornerstone and the head of the church. And neither discount our place and purpose in the blueprint.
Just as it takes many grains of sand heated up and tightly compressed by eons if time to make a rick formation, so too does it take a lot of tools and materials to build a house or any structure. Even a work of art, be it a cathedral or a person. The great Catholic theologian Henri Nouwen has a beautiful way to show the importance of our inclusion in this wonderful design called Life.
“A mosaic consists of thousands of little stones. Some are blue, some are green, some are yellow, some are gold. When we bring our faces close to the mosaic, we can admire the beauty of each stone. But as we step back from it, we can see that all these little stones reveal to us a beautiful picture, telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.
“That is what our life in community is about. Each of us is like a little stone, but together we reveal the face of God to the world. Nobody can say: "I make God visible." But others who see us together can say: "They make God visible." Community is where humility and glory touch.”
We are made from different names, languages, beliefs, theories, concepts, shapes, sizes, and colors just to name a few. Yet we are all one, amazing work of art - created by an impressive and imaginative artist for the sole (soul) purpose of building a community of love and peace. When put together we have the power and potential to be stunning and priceless. But to see it from afar, in the big picture of eternity donwe really begin to comprehend the true wothbof such beauty.
(1) Bible.org had this to add: “But his declaration about Messiah’s person led to a declaration of Messiah’s program. Peter (Petros, masc.) was strong like a rock, but Jesus added that on this rock (petra, fem.) He would build His church. Because of this change in Greek words, many conservative scholars believe that Jesus is now building His church on Himself. Others hold that the church is built on Peter and the other apostles as the building’s foundation stones (Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14). Still other scholars say that the church is built on Peter’s testimony. It seems best to understand that Jesus was praising Peter for his accurate statement about Him, and was introducing His work of building the church on Himself (1 Cor. 3:11).
(2) Strong’s Greek; Pétros (a masculine noun) – properly, a stone (pebble), such as a small rock found along a pathway.
(3) Nouwen, Henri. Bread for the Journey, 1996.