49 – Peter’s Confession
Where: Caesarea Philippi, Gaulanitis
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Jesus left Bethsaida village and went north into the district of Caesarea Philippi. Herod Philip [son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra of Jerusalem] had rebuilt a religious site/resort and named it after Caesar. The city was built near a cave at the base of Mount Hermon, out of which flows some of the water that creates the Jordan River.
The place had been called Panias, and had been a resort area dedicated to the Greek nymphs and the Greek god Pan. There were places for statues in the face of the cliff above and around the cave. Herod the Great had even built a temple to Augustus – the emperor of his day. At times, the mist coming out of the fifty-foot tall cave entrance, looked like hot breath on a cold day, and it was said to be the “breath of Satan” and that the cave was the doorway to the underworld (Hades). To the Jews it was an evil place.
Only three miles west was the ancient site of the city of Dan [the northern most city of ancient Israel in the days of David and Solomon]. It was at Dan that Jeroboam had set up, on the high place [today], the “golden calf” idol worship, after the split up of Solomon’s kingdom in 922 BC, for which the northern ten tribes of Israel became infamous. To the Jews of Judah it was an evil place.
Going up into the hills beyond these cities, Jesus made camp with his disciples. He went off, alone, to pray about his mission. Later he returned to speak only to his disciples. ‘Tell me what the crowds think about me’, he said.
‘Most consider you to be a teacher’, they began. ‘Some believe you are a prophet. Some think that you might be the forerunner of the Messiah while some even admit that you might be the Messiah’, was their response.
‘Blind’, thought Jesus.
Then he asked the disciples what they thought. After a few moments of silence, Simon finally blurted out that Jesus was the Messiah that would rule Israel and the world forever.
‘He doesn’t see clearly’, thought Jesus.
Jesus implied that he was sent by God, but did not explain what he meant, and directed everyone not to speak of this “Messiah thing” to regular folks yet (they would think that the disciples meant the (political) Messiah). The people would not understand, and the religious leaders would get too nervous.
‘Yet God has blessed Simon with insight,’ Jesus said. ‘Rightly is he called “The Rock”. His confession will be the ROCK upon which the kingdom will be founded, and not even the gates of Sheol [death], or pagan religions such as at Panias, will have power over it’.
‘To those whose make this their confession of faith, will be given the authority to lead others. You will hold the “keys to the kingdom” in your willingness to share the good news. You will be God’s light to the world, bringing justice to all, if the religious leaders in Jerusalem refuse to follow.’
Then Jesus “opened up” and told them his vision of the rest of his mission. He would go to Jerusalem and confront the authorities. The leaders must choose. Either they will repent their ways and actually bring justice to the world (by listening to Jesus, the “Word of God”), or they will refuse to change (in which case they would probably kill Jesus). Then he turned and walked away from the disciples to give them time to consider what he had said.
Almost immediately, Peter came to Jesus and, to express his belief that Jesus was the Messiah, said, ‘God will not let you die, because the Messiah cannot die. You will be triumphant and lead Israel to glory.’ [Oops, missed again!]
Jesus looked over Peter’s shoulder and saw the rest of the disciples watching and listening. ‘They have the same distorted view of my mission that Peter does’, thought Jesus. Jesus sighed, and then tried to draw Peter to clearer insight.
‘Do not try to comfort me or lead me down that path. The chances are slim that the leaders will listen. I will follow the Father with the eyes of faith, not the eyes of sight. That is the same temptation Satan used after my baptism. Please try to open your eyes of faith, and you also will see as clearly as that “blind” man from Bethsaida does.’
‘You must see with the eyes of faith’, said Jesus. ‘You must put the gospel as your number one priority and constantly proclaim it despite any and all resistance. Even though it may seem that you are failing, the truth is that the kingdom will be yours, and some of you will experience the first taste of the kingdom soon.’
No questions have been asked yet.