"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 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. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven'" (Matthew 16:13-19).
At this point in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus and his closest disciples are taking a brief break, staying in the city of Caesarea Phillippi after the early success of his teachings and demonstrations. In answer to his question, the disciples report to Jesus that the people are saying he is either the reincarnation of John the Baptist or of one of the great Hebrew prophets. "But who do you say that I am?" Jesus asks, and Simon replies "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." It is at this point that Jesus sees in this particular disciple the metaphysical quality that will define him from that point forward—the quality of faith. It is only through faith that he could know Jesus as the Christ. "Flesh and blood"—that is, the input from intelligence and senses that constitutes most of what we think we know—could not reach that awareness. And so Jesus renames Simon, evoking a play on words as he does so. In Aramaic the word "kepha" can mean both 'stone' and the name 'Peter.' So Jesus is saying that faith is the stone upon which his community will be built—not intellect, not tradition—and as Simon has expressed that quality, he is renamed 'Stone' to emblemize the faith he truly represents. The result of that faith—that awareness of the Christ, not just in Jesus but as a universal spiritual truth—is that our choices become expressive of the creative Power of God.
It is true for us today as well, of course: We cannot come to a full understanding and acceptance of our own Christ Nature—or of the Christ Presence in others—simply through logic and sensation. We intuitively 'know' it from within; and we must then have faith in that intuitive knowing. We then become part of an assemblage of people who are, indeed 'called out' to claim, share and express our innate Christ energy and thereby create a new consciousness, which Jesus describes as 'the kingdom of heaven.'
The word in Greek translated here as 'church' describes a group of people sharing an awakened spiritual consciousness. It doesn't at all suggest the kind of regimented, structural religion as we might think of it today. There is no indication anywhere that Jesus intended to start a new religion; he intended instead to replace top-down obedience with heart-centered self-empowerment.