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

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,


• 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.

(B). Elijah.

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.

• Second:

• 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;

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