This is lesson material studied April 1-14.
In Jesus’s teachings, the land of Israel itself becomes his visual aid. That is nowhere more evident than in the teachings he gives in Caesarea Philippi about the rock
on which His Church will be built. Learn about that this week as well as the profound answer the Pharisees got who were seeking a sign.
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Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast! We are Scot and Maurine Proctor and are so happy to be with you again this week and to study with you these most important truths from the New Testament. We are so blessed to have the scriptures and we are even more blessed to be able to study them every day.
We are grateful to Paul Cardall who provides that music that opens and closes this Podcast.
This week’s lesson is taken from parts of Matthew, Chapters 16 and 17; Mark Chapters 8 and 9 and Luke Chapter 9. The lesson is entitled “Thou Art the Christ.”
Let’s begin our discussion this week with a paragraph from the lesson and then a comment. Here’s the paragraph:
Isn’t it strange that the Pharisees and Sadducees would demand that Jesus show them “a sign from heaven”? Weren’t His many well-known miracles enough? What about His powerful teachings or the multiple ways He had fulfilled ancient prophecies? Their demand was prompted not by a lack of signs but by an unwillingness to “discern the signs” and accept them. (See Matthew 16:1–4.)
It struck us as we were reading that paragraph that Jesus Himself was the sign! Remember what the Prophet Isaiah had said in Chapter 7:
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
Remember what Immanuel means in the Hebrew? God with us. Jesus Himself was the sign from the Father, as John recorded: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Jesus was the epitome of signs, the great sign from the heavens, that God does not forget His children. He sent His only begotten Son to let His children know that He loves them—and that Chosen Son would be the sign of His love.
Spirit of Prophecy
Let us lay down one more truth as we begin this lesson—and that is from the teachings of John the Beloved and Paul the Apostle: “…for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” and “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
In other words:
To know that Jesus Christ is the Holy One of Israel, the Only Begotten of the Father, the Messiah—we can only know that—absolutely know that truth by the revelation given us by the Holy Ghost.
If you already have that witness, which most of you do have, bear it to your family—this will immediately invite the Spirit into you home. If you have a spouse or a family member who is not of our faith or is struggling, bear your testimony of the Savior to them with love—this can do nothing but invite the sweetness of the Spirit into your home and into their hearts. They will feel the love of the Savior and your love and you can’t help but benefit.
This testimony that you have will truly bless all members of your household.
This testimony plays into our lesson this week.
We have this amazing wonderful what I would call “a snippet of a scene” at Caesarea Philippi. Jesus is there with his apostles. They have been out preaching the gospel. They are gathered here at this specific location and He wants to get a report from them. We will talk about what He asked them in a minute, but you can’t fully understand the impact of these verses unless you understand the geographic setting. Let’s talk about the setting.
Israel is a very dry country—especially in the south and the east. But, here in the North, at Caesarea Philippi, it is verdant and green. This ancient city sits right at the base of Mount Hermon, the highest mountain in the area at 9,232 feet. This mountain usually has snow year-round and that snow melts into the mountain and into deep, subterranean caverns. The water then comes out in three major springs here in the north—Dan (named after the tribe of Dan), Chatsbani or Snir, and Banias. These three springs flow in the Chula Valley and become one river—the Yardein (or Jordan) River. This name means “coming down from Dan.”
Here at Caesarea Philippi is the beautiful Banias Springs—a great waterfall that flows out and forms a crystal-clear river. Water in a dessert is life. We always take our tours to see this Banias Springs because they are so impressive and remind one of living waters.
The original name of this river would have been Panias—but the Arabs don’t use the “P” sound, so it is Banias. This was named after the Greek god Pan.
At the site, near where Jesus would have been getting the report from the apostles was the city of Caesarea Philippi and in that city, right up against a 100-foot solid rock cliff face and a larger cave or cavern was a pagan temple built to this idol god Pan. Earlier in its history this city would have been a center of worship for the god Baal. In the time of Jesus there were detestable rituals and sexual orgies and rites going on at this temple—things that would have been so abhorrent to Jesus
and His disciples.
The locals considered the great cavern where water flowed out voluminously as one of the gates of Hades or the gates of hell. They believed that their idol gods
would retreat into the cavern and into the underworld here during the winter and then they would come out in the spring—about the time the snows of Mt. Hermon were melting and the increase of water flow would be so evident. They made sacrifices to their idol gods at this cavern and many believed their livelihood, their flocks and herds, the blessings of their families were all given based on these gates of hell.
And one more interesting detail is this 100-foot-high bedrock face below which the water would flow out (by the way—an earthquake in the nineteenth century changed the flow of the river to the nearby waterfalls instead of coming directly out from the cavern).
This rock face, called “petra” in the Greek plays into the story.
Now, back to that snippet we have of Christ and His apostles here:
You can follow along in your scriptures. We’re in Matthew 16, verses 13-19.
13 ¶ When Jesus came into the
coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say
that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist (remember
John the Baptist has been beheaded and some thought he had come back to life):
some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ,
the Son of the living God.
Now remember what you’re seeing here: The pagan temple to Pan, a large cavern where all the locals considered this the very gates of hell, this very worldly city with people worshipping false gods, a large bedrock 100-foot cliff face, and a very large volume of water flowing out from underneath this cliff.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou,
Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father
which is in heaven.
In other words, Peter did not learn from other men or women that this Man was the Messiah—it was reveled to Peter, by revelation from Heavenly Father.
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon
this rock I will build my church; and the gates
of hell shall not prevail against it.
The Lord first calls him Simon, son of Jona. Jona (yona) in the Hebrew means “dove” and the Lord may not have just reminded Simon of his earthly father’s name—but it could also be a word play. Jona, meaning dove, also reminds us of the Holy Spirit that came in the form of a dove that descended upon Jesus at His baptism.
Then He specifically calls him Peter—or Petros—which means a small stone or pebble.
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