For about the past month, we have been following Jesus as He has journeyed through primarily gentile lands including the regions of Syria and Decapolis. We continue that trend today, but we are approaching a critical turning point in Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus continued His Galilean ministry, teaching, preaching the Kingdom, and performing miracles especially in the towns we have already visited around the Sea of Galilee. In Mark 8:22-25, we see Him back in Bethsaida, healing a blind man. And then, He and His disciples turn north.
Jesus went out, with his disciples, into the villages of Caesarea Philippi. (Mark 8:27a)
Caesarea Philippi was in the Tetrarchy of Philip. Philip was one of the sons of Herod the Great. Herod had made a great temple here (some say the temple was to Caesar and some say to the Greek god Pan). Philip made the city his capital and renamed it Caesarea in honor of the Roman emperor. The longer name (Caesarea Philippi) distinguishes this Caesarea from the one on the Mediterranean coast (Caesarea Maritima).
Previously, the town was called Panias (after Pan), and today it is known by the Arabic variant Banias. The town was built on the bank of a six-mile stream coming from a cave at the foot of Mount Herman that is one of the four sources of the Jordan River.
Caesarea Philippi was 30 miles, or about a 10 hour walk north of Bethsaida, so Jesus and His disciples had plenty of time to discuss important theological topics.
Above, I only gave you half of a verse from Mark’s gospel. The second half is the beginning of one of those topics.
On the way he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” 28 They told him, “John the Baptizer, and others say Elijah, but others, one of the prophets.” (Mark 8:27b-28)
What came next is the most important question any of us can answer.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
What is your answer to that question? Who is Jesus? Was he a great teacher? A moral leader? A prophet? A myth?
Peter got the answer right.
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Anointed One, the promised Savior of the world. Do you believe that? Have you put your faith in Him and His finished work on the cross?
This great confession of Peter’s was just the beginning of his journey of faith.
Immediately after Peter’s confession, Jesus began His final journey towards His destiny in Jerusalem.
In Mark we are told:
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31)
And in Matthew:
From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up. (Matthew 16:21)
His disciples didn’t want to accept this. The gospels tell us that Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him saying that these things must never happen. Jesus, who had just praised Peter’s faith, now cursed his resistance to God’s plan. Not much later, Peter would even deny Jesus three times. And yet, Jesus restored Peter, and the disciple’s understanding grew.
Much later, Peter wrote:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear, (1 Peter 3:15)
Do you have an answer? Are you ready?
The map at the top of this post is a snapshot of a portion of the gameboard for Journeys with Jesus.
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Note: all scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the World English Bible which is in the public domain.