The city of Caesarea Philippi, nestled at the foot of Mount Hermon and located around 25 miles from Galilee, was ground zero for Pagan activity, thought and culture. Not only were there festivals, shrines and temples to Pagan gods, detestable things were done in the name of worship of these false gods.
Also located at this site was a cave which was thought to be the gate to the underworld. The pagan gods were thought to retreat into the underworld during the winter only to reemerge in spring having been coaxed forth by the worship of their followers. It was literally considered to be the gates of hell.
Enter into the picture Jesus and his disciples, as recorded in Matthew 16 and Mark 8. This is the only recorded trip by Jesus to the city and its remote location suggests his visit was intentional.
It was in this setting where he asks the disciples a life-changing question.
“'But what about you?'” he asked. 'Who do you say I am?'” - Mark 8:29
“Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.'" - Matthew 16:16
Jesus responds that not even the gates of Hades would stand against this – and don’t miss the possibility that he was standing in front of what many considered the gates of hell when he said this!
So today, in your world of anxiety, stress or whatever lies Satan whispers in your ear in those dark moments, Jesus enters and asks you, “Who do you say I am?”
Spoiler alert: he is the same today as he was that day. He is the source of hope and the author of salvation. He was triumphant that day, today and tomorrow and nothing can stand against him.
Written by David Ummel, executive director at Buckner Westminster Place.