“Who do you say that I am?”
The question cut through the nighttime air with certainty. I remember thinking in that moment, it all comes down to this, doesn’t it?
The Master had taken the twelve of us to Caesarea Philippi. It was a field trip like none other we had ever ventured. Three years we had walked where He walked. Three years we had followed. And now, He brought us here?
This place was unlike any we had ever been before. I had heard of this worship center to the Greek fertility gods, but always with the admonition “you don’t ever want to go there… the sin is as vile as Sodom and Gomorrah.” And in the first few minutes of our arrival we understood why. We tried, in vain, to hide our eyes from the immorality that was on public display for all to see. The beat of the music was rhythmic. The chanting and cheering, deafening. The bonfires illuminated moving shadows on the rocky walls of the cliffs. There were people and animals everywhere. And nothing was considered taboo.
Most of us were young men, just beginning to get a handle on life… and what it might mean to live worthy of being called His disciple. And this sure didn’t look like anything Almighty God would be pleased about. We saw the cave from where the Jordan River began. And we knew that this was the place where the Greeks said was the opening to death, to Hades, itself.
He called us together and against this backdrop He asked: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” John said, “Elijah.” Andrew replied: “John the Baptist.” I looked at Matthew as he said: “Some say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Jesus then looked my direction. A fire behind me flickered in His eyes. “What about you, Simon? Who do you say that I am?”
Three years I had watched Him heal the brokenhearted. Three years I had witnessed chains falling off of people. Three years of seeing miracle after miracle. I honestly don’t know if I had truly made up my mind until that very second, but I knew it to be true. “You are Yeshua Hamashiach. Jesus, the Messiah.” I looked at the people all around us worshipping these false Greek gods and added. “You are the Son of the Living God.”
He smiled for the first time since we had arrived and said: “Blessed are you Simon. You didn’t come to this conclusion by seeing what is all around you… but your Father, my Father in Heaven, spoke this to you… Spirit to Spirit.”
And then He said: “From now on, I will call you Peter, the Rock.” And with one hand on my shoulder and another pointing at the stone cliff behind us, He said, “And on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Truly, my life changed in that instant. I felt this great mantle being placed on me… this spiritual anointing. I knew it was up to me, and to all of the disciples… we were being commissioned for a monumental assignment… to go into all the world.
My life has been a major up and down ever since… I challenged Him the next day or so and He replied by calling me Satan. A week later, we had a sweet and tender Passover together… He was arrested… I denied I knew Him… He was crucified… and rose again… Days later, we saw Him on the seashore… had breakfast with Him. And three times He asked me if I loved Him… oh, how I love Him…
It’s been years since that Spring night in Caesarea Philippi. I try, but I still fail at life so much, I’m not much of a rock…
He’s the Rock, really. He’s my Rock.
Some of the words, actions and thoughts, perhaps, of Peter and Jesus and the disciples, found in Matthew 16.
Many will say the confession at Caesarea Philippi, is truly the turning point in Peter’s faith journey. He comes face to face with a query every single one of us have faced, or will face. Maybe today is your time to answer this key question: Who is Jesus? Who do you say that He is?
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (NIV)