The next question we have to answer is, “Who is this Rabbi we are called to follow?”

It is important that we answer this question accurately because we do not want to give our absolute allegiance to someone who is a fake.

Jesus asked His disciples this question in a very strange place. He took them to Caesarea Philippi, a city and a region in the north of Israel, near the foot of Mount Hermon. Caesarea Philippi was a city named after the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, and Herod Philip. Caesarea had a temple dedicated to the worship of Caesar. In the vicinity was a huge rock face at the base of which there were niches carved into the rock where the statues of Greek gods were placed, and a temple to the goat-god, Pan.

There was also a cave, called “the Gate of Hell” at the bottom of the rock face from which water flowed and joined the snowmelt from Mount Hermon to form the source of the Jordan River. The region was called Banias in honour of the god, Pan. His worshippers believed that the gods retreated into the underworld in winter and returned, in the spring, through the grotto from which the water flowed. They worshipped Pan by holding sexual orgies with goats, to lure the gods from the underworld in the spring.

Imagine Jesus taking His disciples to a place like that! It was there that He asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” What did Peter understand by his response? He believed that Jesus was God’s Messiah, the one who was promised from the moment Adam and Eve fell into sin, whom God would send to deal with the enemies of God’s people and restore to them everything that their enemies had stolen. For Peter and the other disciples this meant that Jesus was the one who would drive out the Romans and re-establish the glory of David’s kingdom under His rule because He was the Son of David. They saw Him as a political deliverer

Jesus immediately corrected their expectation by telling them about His coming death at the hands of the religious leaders, but they refused to listen and understand. For them, it was about getting rid of Rome, not about getting rid of sin and restoring them to fellowship with God as their Father. They missed the prophetic picture of Messiah as the Suffering Servant.

It took the cross and resurrection of Jesus to make them realise that Jesus came to deliver them from a greater enemy than the Romans. He rescued them from their rebellion against God and gave them back their right to be God’s children and members of His family.

They had to learn that Jesus was not there to satisfy their demands and expectations. He was there to put them back into a right relationship with God so that they could once again come under God’s rule and live God’s way.

The good news of Jesus is not about going to heaven when we die. It’s about being obedient to Jesus because He is the Son of God and Lord. We are to obey Him so that we will do God’s will on earth.

It was important for them to understand that the message of God’s love and mercy revealed through His coming and through His death and resurrection was more powerful than the gods whom pagan people worshipped. In places like the environment of Caesarea Philippi where so much wickedness was being practised in the name of religion, Jesus would build His church and not even the demonic world would be able to stand against it.

When we follow Jesus as His disciples, we are following the Son of the living God to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given, who was exalted by the Father to the highest place above all principalities and powers, and who has the name that is above every other name, the name “Lord”. We are to bow to Him and obey Him because of who He is, not because of what He can do for us.  

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