The Great Confession
( Originally Published 1915 )
FROM BETHSAMA by the Sea of Galilee Jesus led his twelve disciples northward, to the very end of the land of Israel, at the foot of Mount Hermon. Here, at one of the great springs from which the river Jordan flows, was the city of Caesarea-Philippi, or "Philip's Caesarea," so called because it was in the land ruled by Herod Philip, the brother of Herod Antipas, who was ruling in Galilee. Jesus did not go into the city of Caesarea-Philippi, but into one of the villages near the city, for he wished not to have a crowd around him, but to be alone with his disciples.
The time had now come for the disciples to know more about Jesus, who he was, the work that he was to do and what he was soon to suffer. His plan of teaching them was not to tell them, but to lead them on by questions so that they might learn the truth by finding it out themselves. One day, after he had been alone praying to his Father, he asked his disciples:
"Tell me, who do the people say that I am?"
"Some say that you are John the Baptist, raised up from the dead," answered the disciples; "others say that you are Elijah the prophet come to earth again; and still others say that you are the prophet Jeremiah or some other one of the old prophets."
"But you, who do you say that I am?" asked Jesus. At once Simon Peter answered, for he was the one among the Twelve always ready to speak:
"You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God!"
You know that the Jews everywhere were looking for a king to rule over them, set them free from the Roman power and make of them a great conquering nation. This king, in their own language, they called "the Messiah," which means, "the Anointed One," for in Israel a new king was chosen by having oil poured upon his head. The word "Messiah," in the Greek language, which was spoken everywhere, was "Christ," also meaning "The Anointed One." Peter, in speaking those words, "Thou art the Messiah, the Christ," meant to say that Jesus was the King of Israel, for whom all the people were looking.
"You are a blessed man, Simon, son of Jonah," answered Jesus, "for no human being has made this known to you, but my Father who is in heaven. Yes, and I say to you, `Your name is Peter—a Rock—and on this rock I will build my. church; and all the powers of the underworld shall not succeed against it.' Also, Simon Peter, I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth shall be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you allow on earth shall be allowed in heaven."
Because Simon Peter was the first to make this confession of Jesus as the Messiah-Christ, the King, he was given special honor among the followers of the Lord. You remember that more than a year before, when Jesus met Simon for the first time, beside the river Jordan, he gave him the new name Peter, which means "a rock."
Then Jesus told the disciples that they were not to speak to any of the people of what Peter had said, that Jesus was the Christ, the King, for the time had not yet come to make it public. But now, since they knew that he was to be a king and rule over Israel, he began for the first time to speak of certain other things, which they found very hard to understand.
"Very soon," said Jesus, "we are going up to Jerusalem; and there I must endure great suffering from the rulers of the people, the chief priests and teachers of the law. I must be slain and buried; and on the third day I shall rise again."
The disciples could not understand how if he was to reign as King of Israel, it could be possible for him to suffer these things and to die. Peter took Jesus aside, where he could speak with him alone.
"Master," said Peter, "you must not speak of such things. God will not allow these things to come to you. You are not going to be put to death in Jerusalem; you are going to Jerusalem to sit on the throne of David, and reign over the land!"
But Jesus turned his back upon Peter, and looking upon his disciples, said:
`Get away from me, Satan! You would turn me away from doing God's will! For you look at things, not as God looks at them, but as man does!"
Jesus saw that in Peter's mind was the view of the kingdom that Satan had shown him in his great temptation on the mountain, not as a kingdom of God, but as a kingdom such as men were expecting, a kingdom like those of the world.
Then Jesus called to his disciples, and to the people that were around them, and said :
"If any man has the will to come after me and be my disciple, let him give up his own will, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever for my sake loses his life shall find it. What good will it do to a man to gain the whole world if in gaining he loses his own life? What will a man give that is worth as much as his life? For the Son of Man is coming in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he will give to every man what his acts deserve. And I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man coming to reign in his kingdom."