I'm having a hard time loading pictures on this internet connection, so this post is totally verbal. We're at a hostel on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, somewhere near where the guy was running around crazy, and Jesus cast the demons into a herd of pigs. I still haven't seen any pigs here, although one of the guys who has traveled to Israel said that there is one herd of pigs. But, the building has to be kept up on stilts because you can't have pigs touching the holy land of Israel (apparently this is really true and we will see it in a day or two). That's what happens when your religion becomes rule based. I was trying to take a picture on Saturday afternoon and I was rebuked by some Jewish guys playing basketball that I shouldn't be taking pictures on the Sabbath. When I asked why they said "Because the rabbis said so." They were familiar with college and pro basketball so I asked them a couple of questions about Adam Haluska (former Iowa Hawkeye BB player from Carrol, Iowa) and they knew some about him as he plays for an Israeli professional team.
I took a dip in the Sea of Galilee late this afternoon which was nice after hiking all day. We were up in Galilee at Caesarea Philippi today. Caesarea Philippi was named by Herod Philip (one of the sons of Herod the Great) to honor Caesar (and himself). This is an area with powerful springs that bring wtaer out of the cliffs and ultimately into the Jordan River. This city is northeast of the place called Caesarea, so don't confuse the two. One of the remnants at Caesarea Philippi is an ancient cave/shrine structure to honor the Greek god Pan, a god of the woods who chased nymphs around trees. Woo hoo! He was a raw nature god: wild, sexy, earthy. There was a cave at the back of the shrine that some people believe was associated with the Greek idea of hell. So, with all of this in mind think of what happened when Jesus brought his disciples to Caesarea Phlippi.
It was here that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who to people say that the Son of Man is?”. Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Then Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:13-16). There are several interpretations of what Jesus meant by “the rock”, but I heard a new one today. It could be that Jesus was standing near this shrine to Pan, far away from Jerusalem, in the heart of paganism, and he was saying, “You see this rock mountain symbolizing the power of hell. Well, there is a more powerful rock, the rock of the gospel, and this rock is so powerful that hell can not stand against it. In fact, your mission is to storm the gates of hell, to see people transformed to live their lives for King Jesus and his kingdom.” So, all we know for sure about the context is that this important conversation took place in Caesarea Philippi, that there are big rocks there, and that rocks are certainly used in Scripture to refer to the strength, power, and stability of life in Jesus' kingdom. Remember Jesus parable about the wise man building his house on the stable rock rather than on the shifting sand? “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Mt. 7:24). And that's what it's all about.