Sermon for Sunday, July 2, 2023


Matthew 16:13-20

Matthew 16:13–20 (NIV): 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Jesus and his disciples are in Caesarea Philippi when this conversation happens.  This town was also known by the name Banias and it is here, at the foot of Mount Herman is the beginning of the Jordan River.  In Jesus’ day, this place was VERY religious, but not in the way you would like or approve.  In the rock face were seven different pagan temples, including the Temple of Augustus, the Grotto of the god Pan, the Court of Pan and the Nymphs, the Temple of Zeus, the Court of Nemesis, the Tomb Temple of the Sacred Goats, and the Temple of Pan and the Dancing Goats.[1]  It may have looked like this in Jesus’ day:

Also, according to Jesus and archeology, within this city is a place called the Gates of Hades!  It looks like this today.

In Jesus’ day, this whole area was irrigated to pull water from the head waters of the Jordan, and it filled this cavern.  In the middle, which we can still see today, it a rock which once stood the statue of the Greek god Pan, who was worshipped in the Grotto that was at the entrance of the Gates of Hades.

According to Bethany Iversen of Freed-Hardeman University, “Pan was the god of shepherds, pastoral livestock, mountain hunting, and played a role in fertility. He was raised by nymphs in the forest according to Greek legend. Some say that Pan, as his name suggests, was the god over all other gods, god of the universe (the Greek word root “pan” = all or everything). In that case, the image of Pan would encompass the whole life of pagan worship, including every other pagan god that people chose to acknowledge.”[2]

So, to be clear, Jesus takes his disciples to a sacred worship site that was called “the Gates of Hades” and within the area, “a rock” that a statue of a god stood that was the foundation of their religious practices in Caesarea Philippi. 

Jesus asks a question that Simon Bar-Jona answers.  Jesus then gives a new name.  In Ararmaic, Jesus called Simon “Kefa” since the region and the disciples spoke this language during the Roman Empire.  However, when our writer writes in Greek, they manufacture a word that did not exist.  Petra, which means “rock” is a feminine word, so the author created a new word, Petros, Peter.  What this means is awesome, Simon Bar-Jona is the first man ever to be named Peter!  Now back to Scripture, let’s reread the passage again and what do we now understand?  You now have some “keys”!


[2] IBID.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *