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Summary: A Fantastic Discovery - Peters Confession. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email: gcurley@gcurley.info)

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Reading: Matthew chapter 16 verses 15-23.

(1). Background:

(a). Geographically.

• 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,

(b). Spiritually:

• 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,

ill:

• Thompson in his book; “The Land and the book”

• Enumerates no fewer than fourteen such temples in this area.

(b).

• 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”.

(c).

• 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.

Notice:

• 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.


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