“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,
‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’” (Matthew 16:13, NIV).
Back in Jesus’ time, Caesarea Philippi and its surrounding area were known as a centre of pagan worship. Both Philip, the brother of Herod Antipas (ruled Caesarea Philippi on behalf of the Romans), and his father Herod the Great, sponsored the construction of pagan temples and public works. The population of the area was mostly Gentile, so the trip took Jesus and twelve disciples out of their usual circumstances. Shrines and other reminders of pagan practices would have been all around them [There was an altar dedicated to Greek god Pan who claimed to be god (100% god) living among men; and a statue of Roman Emperor (100% man) who claimed himself to be god. But Jesus claimed to be both born of a virgin (100% man) and the Son of God (100% God). Which one is true?]. This was the setting for Jesus’ crucial question for the disciples.
The trip to a new region took place at the height of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus at this time had become the focal point of a religious/political power struggle in Israel. The structure of power presented by the Sadducees and Pharisees had rejected Jesus as Messiah. They all want to remove Jesus from the scene. But throughout these days, Jesus seemed to remain deliberate but never desperate. He was not campaigning for popularity but desires to practice compassion. Previously he fed four thousand (see Matthew 15:32-38), not to increase his following or ‘likes’, but because, Jesus “had compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way” (v. 32). He never asked for approval but to reveal his authority!
Jesus asked his question when he was alone with his disciples. The answer to this question were instances in which Jesus communicated with his intimate followers certain truth they wouldn’t understand until later. Jesus was preparing them for his eventual departure long before they were ready to consider the fact that Jesus had to die and rise again in order to accomplish God’s plan. He was about to give them the treasure – Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God – that included all the facets of his life and ministry. He would ask them to hold this treasure in confidence until the time was right to share it with the world.
Think about this: Not every principle we read or story we study in Scripture has an immediate personal application. Some lessons are preparatory like the reality of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God to his disciples in this text. We may understand, for example, a concept like God’s ownership of the church but not recognize the personal important of God’s sovereign work through his church until we have been Christ followers for years. I urge you now to thank God for his constant presence with you that make it possible for you to have times apart from distractions to be alone with him. Praise God for the teaching of his Word, which can bear fruit in your life immediately and also in years to come. Amen.
Today’s lessons maybe a preparation for tomorrow’s journey
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.