Bible Lands Tour #2–The Rock

Among yesterday’s highlights of our second full day of touring the Bible lands was visiting sites on the North side of the Sea of Galilee.

We began at Hazor which Joshua conquered during the conquest of Canaan and burned the city (Josh 11:13). It is mentioned several other times in the Old Testament.

Dan was a fascinating stop where Jeroboam, the first King of the Northern Tribes of Israel, set up an altar and built a calf for the people to worship (1 Kings 12:29-30).

But my favorite of the day was seeing Caesarea of Philippi, where Peter answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Peter boldly affirmed.

In response, Jesus blessed the apostles and said, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).

We correctly observe that the Rock was not Peter, but his confession. And we like to point out the wordplay on Peter’s name which means “a little stone” while the word “rock” means a large boulder.

But I saw something first hand that makes Jesus’ statement even more striking.

Caesarea of Philippi was the site of the temple of the Greek god Pan, who is said to be the god of the wild, of shepherds and flocks. The temple was built into the side of Mt. Herman. The rock is enormous.

Peter confession underscored three important facts about Jesus.

(1) Jesus was the Messiah.

The Jewish people lived in expectation of the coming Messiah. Imagine if you were a first century Jew looking for the Messiah, who would you be looking for? What ancestry? Where would he be born? How would he live and die?

According to the Old Testament the Messiah (Christ) would come from the seed of David (Amos 9:11-12). He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Would escape to Egypt (Hosea 11:1). Preceded by a forerunner announcing his ministry (Malachi 3:1). Hailed as King upon entering Jerusalem upon a donkey (Zech. 9). Betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zech 11:1). And be deserted by His scattered disciples (Zech 13:7).

Jesus was that man!

(2) Furthermore, Peter affirmed Jesus was the Son of God.

46 times the New Testament writers speak of Jesus as the Son of God. The angel who appeared to Mary, said she would give birth to the “Holy One who …will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

John, the prophesied forerunner, testified, pointing to Jesus, saying, “this is the Son of God” (Jn 1:49). So also said Nathaniel, Peter and the other apostles. They saw the miracles. The healing of the lame. The blind. The deaf. And His suspension of gravity as he walked on the Sea of Galilee that I’m now overlooking as I write this post.

(3) Jesus is the Son of the living God.

Our God is alive. And Jesus was the living, breathing embodiment of Deity. Unlike the mythical god Pan. Those who worshiped this mixture of a man and a goat came to a temple whose god was not alive. Those inanimate blocks of stone neither possessed life nor could give life.

The Temple of Pan is impressive, but it is overshadowed by the real Rock–Jesus Christ (1 Cor 10:4). Jesus’ assertion that Peter had confessed His Divinity was in daring defiance to the impotent gods of the Greeks and the Romans.

Our faith is founded upon that Rock. Our fellowship is formed and forged because of that Rock. Our hope is anchored to that Rock. And the assurance of our eternal destiny is guaranteed because Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God.

Never again will I look at Matthew 16:18 in the same way. In the words of the Hymnist Priscilla J. Owens

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

4 Comments

Filed under Bible Lands, Jesus

4 responses to “Bible Lands Tour #2–The Rock

  1. Larry Hafley

    You did it again, Ken.  This, too, is your best article ever!

  2. Chuck Richardson

    Thanks for the picture!

  3. Simon’s confession is enormous! By Jo! Embodying the living God and confessing one’s faith and one’s love for one’s JO, one’s Gal…and believing she is your gift of God is quite a confession! Simon was to be the Church’s ROCK, CEPHAS. What an assignment? At times his JO was like his little and precious petra or a little fishing boat, floating calmly and innocently along the sea. And then suddenly for no reason that he could see, his little Petra was like a stormy sea. One time she even called him Satan and told him he was causing her and the chief builders they had hired to stumble!

    Thank you Ken and Norma Jean for taking me and your readers to Israel with you!

    • Larry Boswell

      Similar to brother Hafley, I could really feel how touched you are to be there physically experiencing the location of so much Biblical history. I have been 3 times and of course there’s always more to learn but your Bible Study is so much better when your mind does not have to conjure up a scene (and now the Bible reading is several words along) but rather instantly calls up the actual place. Oh yes, it really does make us better students of the Word.

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