“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi,
he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the districts of Caesarea Philippi. It lay approximately twenty-five miles north-east of the Sea of Galiliee. Here He was going to confront His disciples with two vital questions – and the setting was clearly chosen carefully.
The region contained some fourteen temples dedicated to the Syrian worship of Baal. Nearby there was a deep cavern in the side of a great hill where Pan, the god of nature, was said to have been born. The original name of Caesarea Philippi had been Panias. And so the area was permeated with the worship and legends of the gods of man.
In addition the Jordan River was said to have its source within the depths of the cave. For the Jews this would have great significance in view of the role played by the Jordan in their history. Finally, a great white marble temple had been constructed for the worship of Caesar. Originally built by Herod the Great his son Philip later ‘beautified and enriched’ it. He changed the name of Panias to Caesarea Philippi which means ‘Caesar’s town of Philip’ to distinguish it from the coastal town of Caesarea. Seen from a distance the marble temple, glistening in the sun, proclaimed the power and so-called divinity that came from Rome.
It was to this area, where the memory and history of the ancient gods would have surrounded them, that Jesus brought His disciples. And in this context He asked them two important questions.
• “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
• “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
These are questions that are vitally relevant to each one of us today. Who do the people in our world context say that Jesus is – and who do we, personally, say that He is?
Take a few moments to look at your responses to the questions.
Lord God, please open my heart, mind and spirit to the truth about Jesus Christ, and the world in which I live. Amen.