This special word is essential to the season of extravagant manifestation and extravagant praise that we are in. But, if you don’t know a little history and geography, you don’t get the entire import of what Jesus is saying to His disciples in Matthew 16 – to us. So, let’s go a little deeper today.
Caesarea Philippi is located in the northern part of Israel. Caesarea Philippi was the name of the city in biblical times. Today, the area is known as Banias. CP is located in the Golan Heights at the foot of Mount Hermon the tallest mountain in Israel. The biblical territory of Dan is located only about six miles away. In the early days of Israel, the area was a center of Baal worship known as Baal Hermon. Later after the Greeks conquered this area, they were impressed by the springs of the area which sprang from the foot of the mountain. These springs were the fountainhead of the Jordan River. The Greeks believed that the springs and the cave from which a large spring flowed were sacred. They named the area Paneas after the Greek god Pan, the half goat- half man god of shepherds and flocks, hunting, and music. The Greeks believed that Pan lived in the cave which they believed was a gateway to the underworld. Sacrifices were thrown into the cave as an offering to the Greek god.
A grotto was built there to worship Pan which included an area dedicated to Pan and his nymphs. During Roman times, Herod the Great, in gratefulness to Caesar Augustus for granting him the area built a temple for the worship of Augustus right in front of the grotto of Pan. Herod’s son, Philip received authority over this area of Israel and made it his capital naming the city Caesarea Philippi. This is what the area contained in Jesus’ day. Later on, a temple to Zeus was built next to the temple of Augustus and a courtyard for the Roman goddess, Nemesis, goddess of justice and vengeance was built next to Zeus’ temple. And next to that was constructed a temple and tomb to the cult of the dancing goats to whom Pan played music to increase their fertility. Degrading sexual acts were performed in the worship of Pan.
So, as you can see this was a center of pagan worship. This area was 25 miles north of Galilee, the center of most of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus took His disciples on the long walk to this pagan area. As a matter of fact, practicing Jews would be defiled by the activities of the area, yet Jesus had a powerful lesson to teach His disciples and those of us who are His disciples today and the future. It was at this place that Jesus asked His disciples “Who do men say that I am?” Jesus wanted His disciples to understand that there was a human perspective of God which could be built upon lies, tradition, demonic influence – just as the temples to the pagan gods were built upon human distortion, lies, and demonic influence.
God does not want us to worship that which is distorted and infected with demonic influence and human weakness. The pagan temples on the hillside were evidence of the fact that revelation can be distorted and corrupted. Even the worship of Jehovah can be corrupted by human desire. Aaron had created a golden calf and called it Jehovah – recreating Jehovah into something more palatable for the people’s wants. Just six miles from CP, the calf worship created by Jeroboam had continued for years as man sought to promote his own agenda over that of God.
There is a human perspective of God and there is a Spirit revelation of God. To adequately worship God and to receive the promises of this powerful God requires a revelation that comes from the Father. Man may say that God is a Baptist – a Charismatic – a Prophet – a Doomsday cultist. All of these things are possible revelations of God when man reads the Word of God under the influence of fleshly desire. These things produce the fruit of division and confusion. Jesus asked His disciples a very important question “But who do you say that I am?” The most important question you will ever answer. It will dictate the structure of your life and future. It will determine what is possible in your life and what is not. It will determine whether we reach the goals of the kingdom or end up in a powerless movement fraught with division, incorrect doctrine, which produces disciples that cannot meet the challenges of the day. Every move of God begins with a revelation of God from God!
Just a few days later, Jesus would take His disciples to the top of Mount Hermon and be transfigured before them. This transfiguration was a revelation of Jesus in His glory. Accompanying Him were Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus. Peter who six days before had answered Jesus’ question correctly regarding His deity and position once again misunderstood the movement intending to expand it to honor Moses and Elijah, those whom God used to reveal His glory. Isn’t that just like us?
Honoring Jesus is not enough – we must receive some honor for ourselves. Here’s a word for you: “Don’t misunderstand the vision. The glory that each of you will experience and be a part of is intended for your participation but is produced for His glory.” (see Matthew 17:5) Revelation is key to the move of God. It begins it, sustains it, and completes it.
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What crosses your mind when you think about tomorrow? What first comes to mind when thinking about the coming day are the following: *my to-do list *my appointments *my needs and desires *my family On the average day, we don’t think about God very much. Most days, we live caught up in ourselves. Do you […]