September 30
Dr. Michael A. Milton
Matthew 16:13-20

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his
disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John
the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to
them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son
of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I
tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall
not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever
you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be
loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the
Christ.

Are we entering a new epoch as the church must confess Jesus Christ in what
Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has called “the secular age?”

One of the most extraordinary passages in the synoptic Gospels is the confession of
Jesus’ identity by the Apostle Peter. The famous event in church history occurs in
Matthew 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30, and in Luke 9:18-22. There are a myriad of
remarkable spiritual dynamics at work in the passage, each of them with far-reaching
theological and practical implications for the Church and, consequently, for your life and
mine. We should consider, for instance, Jesus’ unequivocal self-identification as the
living fulfillment of the prophet Daniel’s messianic “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13). We must
come face-to-face with not only Jesus’ probing question about what others say about
his identity, but also the piercing follow-up: “But who do you say that I am” (Matthew
16:15 ESV)? The relationship of that eternally-vital question and the role of the Church
as the instrument of God’s fulfillment of his kingdom plans in the world remains a crucial
understanding of our purpose as believers and as the local church. Yet, there is another
dynamic at work that also has extraordinary implications for the church today.

When Jesus asked the question about his identity he did so at the District of Caesarea
Philippi. The city at the foot of Mount Herman where, at the time, the waters of the
Jordan River found their source, was so named by Philip the second, sometimes called
Philip to track, the son of Herod the Great who had ordered the murder of “the
innocents” in Bethlehem in his search for the infant whom the Magi called “the King.”
Naming the town for both Caesar Augustus and for himself, Caesarea Philippi is
distinguished from the Caesarea which lies on the Mediterranean coastline. What is the
most poignant about the passage in the district of Caesarea Philippi’s is that he used to
be called Panias, named after the god Pan (today, it is called Banias, a variation of the
City of Pan). Josephus and other extra-Biblical authorities described the area with its
monuments to the pagan gods and a great cave where mountain spirits were said to do
world. It is here in this rustic pantheon the Jesus brings his disciples before the dock,
the bar of truth to make their affirmation of faith. What is so striking about this is that you
and I, today, must make our own affirmation of faith in the presence of similar radical
unbelief. It is important for us to see that Jesus did not avoid this area but I actually
used it as a spiritual retreat for his disciples. He and Peter, James, and John the would
climb that same mountain and Mount Herman would become the “Mount of
Transfiguration.” Jesus’ divinity was affirmed not only by Peter in front of that ancient
site of pagan worship, but he was confirmed in heavenly splendor by Moses and Elijah
on that rock. “On this Rock …” Peter, yes, but also that rock that hosted infamous
unbelief.

Is there not yet a Biblical message here for churches in the 21st Century? Churches like
yours and mine existing in the secular age? Rather than running from this post modern,
post-Christian world of unbelief you and I are called to confess the Lord Jesus Christ in
the presence of unbelief and, yes, even to establish new churches, and revitalize older
ones, in the district website appears to hold territory. Christ has died. Christ is risen.
Christ will come again. And the territory of this world is slowly getting way to the trench
figured Christ.

Shall we shrink from the challenge of our own day? Or shall we each take up our cross
and bear witness to the resurrected and reigning Christ in our communities? The
witness of the Church in the world to Jesus Christ as the Lord of Lords and King of
Kings remains the most powerful instrument for good, transforming dark and rocky
terrain into the very sanctuary of the living God. And isn’t this, also, what happened to
you and me when Jesus came into our lives?

“Who do you say that I am?” It is a question to be answered in days of revival as well as
in days like ours. And we, his Church, bear the awesome privilege of asking that
question today.

September 30, 2017

30 Days of Devotions- Day 30, 2017

[…]
September 29, 2017

30 Days of Devotions- Day 29, 2017

[…]
September 28, 2017

30 Days of Devotions- Day 28, 2017

[…]