I was recently in Israel with our amazing Shekinah regional group. While we were there, we went to one of my favorite places. The location is called Caesarea Philippi; which is located in the northern part of Israel. This area is mentioned in the book of Matthew and Mark. Let me begin to paint a picture for you. Currently, when you come and visit this location it is uninhabited and an archaeological site in the Golan Heights as pictured here.
Here you will see a large cave opening in the mountain and around it are many ruins and artifacts. They hint to former surrounding structures that used to be there. What I need you to understand is back in the time of Jesus, Caesarea Philippi was a busy and populated district. The cave was known as the “Gate to Hell” and surrounding it were three shrines of worship, all to Pagan “gods”. To these shrines, the people would bring animal or even in some cases human sacrifice. Specifically to the cave people would sacrifice humans and throw that sacrifice in to be consumed by the swirling waters below the cave. In this picture below is a drawing of what the temple looked like in ancient times. You can see the temple in front of the cave where people would enter to offer their sacrifice and to the side was a platform with a carved image to the “god of pan” which is one of the gods that was worshipped at this location. The other structure is dedicated to the “god” Zeus.
At this moment I bet you are wondering, “Why in the world is this one of Tarrah’s favorite locations in Israel?” Stay with me, I am getting to the point now.
Looking at the passage in Matt. 16:13-19 we read:
“When Jesus came to the region 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.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 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. 18 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. 19 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.”
I want you to sit back and picture this with me. Jesus brings his disciples to this region filled with Pagan worship, surrounded by people worshipping different “gods”. I just see Him walking up with his disciples, right in the middle of the crowds of people and turning to them. I see his face curious as to who his disciples have heard people say that he is. Then in the middle of this place, listening to the many different interpretations of who people say that he is, he asks the most important question, “Who do you say I am?”. Without hesitation Simon Peter answers him declaring “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”.
When I first heard this scripture being declared in the place, I was overcome with zeal and passion. Our God is not afraid of the darkest places in this world, in fact, it is just the opposite. God boldly enters those places and looks to us to declare who he really is in the midst of the darkness. But He doesn’t just stop there. After Simon correctly declared who Jesus is as the Messiah, right there in the midst of the false worship, he responds by changing Simon’s name. He called him, “Cepha” which is translated for us as, “Peter” which means “rock”. He declared that upon Peter’s declaration of the one and only true God, He will build his church and the powers of hell (the “Gates of Hell” in this place which represented the demonic powers) would not conquer it.
This gets me so excited that I could jump out of my skin! We are in a world that constantly is bowing down and worshipping false idols. It is a world that is sacrificing itself to shape the world for future generations to come to worship these systems they are putting into place. God is right there in the midst of them all saying to us, his disciples, “who do they say that I am?” The world may believe he is one thing but we who are called to be his disciples need to know without any hesitation who He is. Our confession of Who He is will lead to Him revealing our true identity and calling. Our confession is so key in this time.
We keep talking about Judah going first. What confession will come forth from your mouth? What will lead you forth into your future?
I want to encourage you that wherever you are right now, God is asking you the question that holds the power to unlocking your destiny. He is saying, “What will your confession be? “Who do you say that I am?”. Begin right now to Declare Who He is, in every situation and every dark place. Release Judah in your confession and watch God settle you in a bright and glorious future.