Jesus is still asking, “Who do you say that I am?”
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
Anyone blessed to take an extended tour of Israel will probably visit the site where one of Peter’s greatest moments occurred. Banias, at the foot of Mount Hermon, is where he answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” Others had said He was John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah. God had revealed to Peter that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God (See Matthew 16: 13-20). Peter knew that He was more than just a prophet. He was the Christ, the Anointed One, and the Messiah. He recognized both the power of God and the deity of Jesus. He saw the God of Israel as the only living God and Jesus as Israel’s Messiah, God’s eternal Son.
If you are a student of the Bible, you’re probably thinking that this event occurred at Caesarea Philippi, and you’d be correct. Historically, the place went through several name changes over the years. When Alexander the Great conquered the area, he brought the Greek language and culture. He must have seen this spot with its lush vegetation and water flowing from the cave as a perfect spot to worship the Greek god Pan, the god of shepherds, flocks, and nature. The place took on the name of Panias, meaning the place of Pan.
Later, when the Muslims took control, they brought the Arabic language, which has no sound for the letter P. Since the closest sound is the letter B, the name became Banias, which is still used today. During New Testament times, one of Herod the Great’s sons, Herod Philip, built up the area, dedicating it to Caesar. Since his father had already built the coastal city of Caesarea, he named his new city Caesarea Philippi meaning “Philip’s city for Caesar.” However, the history of the area remained in the hearts of the people, who continued calling it Panias.
In Jesus’ day a temple dedicated to Augustus stood directly in front of the cave of Pan, giving the appearance that the life-giving water from the cave flowed from their man-made monument. Beside it stood a temple to Zeus, the king of the gods, and the court of Pan and the nymphs.
AS I SEE IT
I remember well how eerie it felt standing there, imagining all the sensual dancing, pagan ritual and the evil practices that took place right where we stood. I found it strange that Jesus would take His disciples to such a place to ask them such an important question. As I thought about it, it made more sense. What a perfect place to contrast what the world thought with what He wanted them to think. It was time for them to decide.
The truth Peter grasped at that spot is the truth that still separates followers of Jesus from our Muslim and Jewish friends. Who exactly is this man called Jesus? Is he a good man or even a prophet? His life revealed that He was much more than this. Time came to be divided at the point of His life and death – B.C. and A.D. Something about him had captured the attention of the entire world. By fulfilling hundreds of prophecies, He proved Himself to be the Messiah of Israel. His words and deeds showed Him to be God’s eternal Son, making Him Lord of all. His death on the cross qualified Him to be the Savior of mankind-for those who would accept the gift of eternal life He brought.
Jesus is still asking the same question. “Who do YOU say that I am?” Are you at the point in your life where you need to come up with an answer? Is Jesus asking you to decide? If you would like to settle this matter once and for all, click here to learn how you can do just that. Embracing the Peter-Pan connection will be the most important decision you ever made.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE