Church of Christ
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2) Matthew 16:13 and following
Matthew 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi.

The name came from the grotto of Pan, which represented the elemental worship of the pagan gods.  This is close
to the area in which Herod the Great had built a temple in honor of the Emperor (Josephus, Antiquities, XV, 10, 3;
Wars, 1, 21, 3).  This represented the most modern of heathen cults.  Thus where Judaism touched both the
worship of nature and the worship of man, Jesus called upon His disciples to answer for mankind and for them.

The timing of this event is more significant than the place.  The Twelve had now completed nearly two and a half
years of daily, close personal association with Jesus, learning from Him.  By this time they must have formed a
mature opinion of His true identity.  This test came approximately six months before the cross.

Jesus must deal with the pressure brought upon His disciples by the opposition.  The antagonism is growing among
leaders who everywhere attempted to undermine His teaching and authority.  Jesus needs to deal with the unbelief.  
This could undercut the Apostles' belief (Matthew 16:12).

For maximum contrast between their own personal commitment to Him and the popular evaluations, He first focuses
their thinking on what others were saying.

The question about the opinion of others is, however, a basic question of tremendous importance to one's own faith.
The disciples did not live in a vacuum.  They lived in a society where people held many conflicting opinions about
Jesus.  They needed to be aware of the options.  They needed to recognize that they had to live out their own faith
among people who did not agree with them.

Matthew 16:14 and they said, some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the
prophets.  And these are just the good opinions.  There had been other choice expressions:  "Beelzebub" (Matthew
10:25); "Blasphemer" (Matthew 9:3) "Glutton and drunkard, a friend of sinners" (Matthew 11:19) Jesus' townspeople
at Nazareth had marked Him down as nothing more than "the carpenter's son," (Matthew 13:54 and following).

Matthew 16:15 and He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am?  These men had enjoyed opportunities to know
about Jesus, having been His close associates for more than two years now.  They had eaten and slept and worked
with Him.  Because of their personal attachment to Him as itinerate Teacher; they had sacrificed family, comforts of
home and business to be His understudies.

Why is this so important?  We will see that only those who really do believe and get to know Jesus are going to be
useful.  We are converted to the Lord, not to the church.  It is this commitment that seems to be the issues of our
day; just who or what are you converted to?  Our greatest struggle is to remain faithful to Him.
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