by Daniel McCabe
Luke 9:20, “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said, ‘The Christ of God.’”
Standing guard over the orange bluffs, lush grassy fields, and thick groves of shade trees at her feet, Mt. Hermon looks out over a fertile triangular plain to her west in the Upper Jordan Valley. For a time one becomes transfixed by the picturesque beauty of the region, almost forgetting the spent shell casings and razor wire just over the nearby hills in this disputed Golan Heights region of Israel. Into the limestone rock at Hermon’s southwest base the ancients have carved numerous niches that once displayed stone statues of Greek Nymphs and Pan—the god of shepherds and their flocks—before which worshippers fell prostrate in empty worship. In biblical times spring water gushed from an adjoining cave, but now a tired flow seeps quietly but steadily out from below its rocky floor, eventually gathering ample force to create a beautiful waterfall not far from the mouth of the cave that scurries downstream to join with three other tributaries to form the meandering Jordan River.
Although called Banias by the locals today, Herod Philip the tetrarch, mentioned in Luke 3:1, originally named it Caesarea Philippi in honor of his emperor and of himself. In Jesus’ day it thrived as a bustling pagan city, steeped in homage to the shepherd-god Pan while another shepherd walked resolutely from town to town throughout the region with his message that under the Good Shepherd ‘there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16).
On an otherwise routine day, not far from the worship and waterfall of Banias, the shepherd turned to his flock of disciples and asked two questions (Luke 9:18, 20). The first, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” The second, “But who do you say that I am?” Those questions still ring through the corridors of time, awaiting answers from each new generation. Peter rightly answered, “the Christ”—the Messiah. Peter had recently witnessed the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand and he knew now. No doubts. No hesitation. At least for now. He would have his moments, of course, culminating in that forgettable incident at the high priest’s house during Jesus’ trial when he would respond to a servant girl’s question about his possible connection to Jesus with these words, “Woman, I do not know Him” (Luke 22:57). But Peter did know him and the tears of remorse which followed his momentary lapse of commitment would soon know the triumph of forgiveness and an empty tomb.
Still today many do not know Jesus, and some who do know him have moments of crisis when they live as if they did not know him. They bow down to gods of stone, disguised in modern trappings that give a false hope of an acceptance, protection and joy that can only come from knowing the Good Shepherd who is “the Christ of God.” And still today his question hangs in the air, “But who do you say that I am?”
Further Reading: Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21
Dr. Daniel McCabe is the pastor of Faith Bible Church in Spring, Texas. He is a contributing editor for The Jerusalem Connection Report. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.