Caesarea Philippi, a town near the Syrian border, is where the Jordan River begins. The springs and surrounding area are beautiful. The sound of the water is mesmerizing and immediately reminds you of the phrase “living waters”.
But in Jesus’s day, it was pagan to the hilt. The people worshipped and sacrificed to the god Pan. All over the rock-faced hillside above the springs are niches carved out to honor many pagan gods.
In fact, human sacrifices were made by throwing people off of the hilltop to the rocks below in an effort to appease the god Pan.
The setting and the pagan influence are significant. Jesus intentionally took his disciples to this place to ask the most compelling question ever posed.
He began his conversation with the disciples with a general question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Curiosity abounded over this man named Jesus. Many were saying he was the prophet Elijah, or John the Baptist. The people knew there was something about him that was different. The disciples had heard all of this chatter and let Jesus know.
Then Jesus made the question personal. “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29)
Peter was right. Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of the living God. It is only through him that we find our way of escape from the powers of darkness, and the ways of this world. It is only through him that we experience life.
At Caesarea Philippi, the Jordan River bubbles up from underneath this hillside once dominated by darkness and then flows away as a “river of life” for the land of Israel. Jesus is that river of life that takes us away from our old lives, lives that were controlled by the ways of this world and the forces of sin and death.
So what about you? Who do you say that Jesus is?