Summary: A Fantastic Discovery - Peters Confession. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reading: Matthew chapter 16 verses 15-23.
• Jesus and his disciples are in the region of Caesurae Philippi.
• Caesarea Philippi lies about twenty-five miles Northeast of the Sea of Galilee.
• This region was outside the domain of Herod Antipas (who was ruler of Galilee),
• And he was outside the domain of the Jewish religious rulers (120 miles from Jerusalem)
This area was very much a safe place for Jesus:
• The population was mainly non-Jewish,
• Therefore he would not be pestered, pressured by people looking for the Messiah.
• In many ways;
• This was the perfect place for Jesus to get alone with his disciples,
• Jesus could not have chosen a more distracting place for his disciples;
• Than Caesarea Philippi.
• This region was strongly identified with a whole host of different religions:
• Ill: It was ‘a Glastonbury’ type situation.
(a). It had been a centre for the old Syrian Baal cult,
• Thompson in his book; “The Land and the book”
• Enumerates no fewer than fourteen such temples in this area.
• The Greek god Pan (the Greek god of nature) had shrines there;
• In fact, this was said to have been his birth place.
• The ancient town actually bore his name “Panias”.
• And to this day it is called “Banias”.
• Herod the Great had built a massive temple made of white marble;
• He built it to honour Augustus Caesar,
• Herod’s son, Philip changed the name of the town.
• He renamed the place Caesarea in honour of the Emperor,
• And he added his own name Philip,
• To distinguish it from the other Caesarea on the coasts of the Mediterranean.
In this great white marble temple:
• A man, the emperor of Rome was worshipped;
• And declared to be god, master of the world.
• It was in the midst of this ‘heartland’ of pagan superstition:
• A who’s who of ancient religion, that Jesus asked an incredible question.
Just picture the setting again:
• Here is a homeless, penniless carpenter from Nazareth,
• With 12 very ordinary common men.
• In the south of his country;
• The Jewish leaders are planning and plotting to destroy him.
• He stands in an area littered with temples to Syrian gods.
• In a place where ancient Greek gods looked down,
• A place where Caesar worship dominated the landscape and compelled the eye.
• And it is here, of all places,
• This amazing carpenter stands and asks his men a question;
• “Who do they believe him to be?”
• And he asks the question, expecting an answer!
• He is forcing from his disciples a response! Demanding they make a decision!
Jesus has deliberately set himself against the background of world religion:
• This area is their stronghold, their history, their influences, their splendour.
• And Jesus demands to be compared with them, and to get the verdict over them!
(2). A Question (Verse 13b):
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
Jesus is in every sense a man on a mission:
• Soon he will be heading south and heading towards the cross,
• The disciples will also play a major part in God’s plan for the world.
• They have no part in the issues of sin and salvation,
• That alone can only be achieved by Jesus Christ.
• But they will play a huge part in proclaiming the message;
• Of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus needs to know whether the disciples have yet grasped who he really is.
• Wisely, to get the disciples willing to talk; he asks them about other people.
• No pressure involved on the disciples, non-threatening question.
(1). Public Opinion
• The disciples have no problem answering that question;
• We are told that there were three popular opinions concerning Jesus:
(A). John raised from the dead.
• John the Baptist was such a powerful and charismatic figure;
• That many people, like Herod, thought Jesus was John raised from the dead.
In comparing Jesus to Elijah, they were saying two things:
• First: Jesus was as great as the greatest prophets.
• Elijah always seemed to be viewed as their most powerful and important prophet.
• They were also saying that Jesus was the forerunner to the Messiah.
• Malachi had prophesied that Elijah would come again (Malachi chapter 4 verse 5),
• And some thought that this prediction was being fulfilled in Christ.
• We know of course that it was fulfilled in John the Baptist;