WHEN Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi He asked His disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is? They replied, Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter said in reply, You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus said to him in reply, Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then He strictly ordered His disciples to tell no one that He was the Messiah.
The WORD Today
The ancient Caesarea Philippi is known today as Banias in the north of Israel. As a pilgrimage site and tourist spot, it abounds with hot springs, healing spas, and recent archeological excavations. Scattered in the area are temples of ancient gods of the Syrians, Greeks, and Romans. Some mosaic floors of Jewish synagogues have been discovered recently.
Banias was originally called Panias, after Pan, the ancient god of nature. Philip, son of Herod the Great, beautified the place and changed the name of Panias to Caesarea (Caesar's city) and added his own name, Philip, to distinguish it from the Caesarea Maritima built on the Mediterranean seacoast. Since the place was practically under the shadow of the ancient gods, we have a dramatic backdrop for Jesus' question to His intimate group of disciples. Jesus sets Himself against the landscape of the world's beliefs and power, and demands an answer that changes lives, and history as well.
Through His disciples, Jesus sees, as in a mirror, the public perception of Him as a prophet. The prophet in the tradition of Israel is not a fortuneteller or one who predicts the future; He is essentially a channel of divine revelation, a spokesperson of God. He makes known to ordinary people the things of God that they could not discover on their own.
Regarding Jesus as a prophet, comparing Him with the zealous Elijah, the much-suffering Jeremiah or even with John the Baptist, is the highest compliment that people can think of. Jesus indeed presents Himself as a prophetic figure: He makes known the "signs of the times," criticizes the religious leaders for their hypocrisy, challenges the Jews who boast of being "sons of Abraham," and proclaims perfect worship of God. …