Provoking the Enemy
The time had come for the trajectory of history to be reversed in favor of the kingdom of righteousness, and it was not an undertaking for the faint of heart. A great strength was needed to break the foothold of sin and launch the church into the New Covenant. Perhaps, the greatest mischaracterization of Jesus is that His humility is an indication of weakness. He is often depicted as a man with a sad countenance and beggarly disposition who never raises His voice above a whimper, but nothing could be further from the truth. If His demeanor was cowardly, the Pharisees would have never perceived Him to be a threat to their establishment. Jesus was indeed a fearless individual and one who often used provocation to uncover the hidden intentions of darkness. He came to save the humble by grace but cause the proud to stumble.
Isaiah 8:13-14 (ESV)
13But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Therefore, throughout the course of history, strong individuals are often chosen to catapult critical moments of change, and propel kingdom advancement in the Earth. Matthew chapters 16 and 17 mark a critical turning point in the ministry of Jesus. For most of His earthly ministry, Jesus spent time teaching listeners about the kingdom and performing many miracles which validated His authority to fulfill and amend the law. With every work performed through the hands and voice of the Messiah, He built an undeniable case supporting His deity and power. But, now His attention would begin to focus on His primary task, bearing the weight of the sins of the world and giving Himself for a sacrifice for all men. Every event, word, act and location carried immense significance, because the fate of the world depended upon it.
Matthew 16:13-21 KJV
13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 20Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. 21From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
As the final verse of this passage says, Jesus, who knew His time was drawing near, began to reveal, to His disciples, His primary purpose for coming in the form of flesh. It was here that the greatest feat of spiritual fortitude that would ever occur began to be revealed. The setting was Caesarea Philippi, a region known and still remembered for the permeation of idolatrous worship there. In fact, in all of the lands surrounding Israel, there is none more associated with idolatry than the northeastern region, also known as Bashan. In the last battle fought before Joshua was determined a successor, Moses led the Israelites into Bashan and defeated King Og of the Rephaim, the last of the living giants.
Joshua 13:11-12 KJV
11And Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maachathites, and all mount Hermon, and all Bashan unto Salcah; 12All the kingdom of Og in Bashan, which reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei, who remained of the remnant of the giants: for these did Moses smite, and cast them out.
During the Hellenistic period, foreseen through the prophet Daniel, the Greeks established a temple in the region of Caesarea Philippi dedicated to the pagan god, Pan. Without going into extensive detail about the characteristics of this false deity, Pan, also known as Banias, can be summed up as a disgusting depiction of uncontrollable, deviant behavior and extreme sexual perversion and lust. His appearance is partially that of a man, but he has the hindquarters and horns of a goat which closely resembles modern depictions of Satan himself. He is almost always depicted with visible male genitals, usually in an erect position.
The Romans, who invaded Greece and conquered the Hellenistic Empire, controlled Israel during the days of Jesus and adapted many of the customs of their cultures including Pan, who is still worshiped in many occult groups to this day. Today in Caesarea Philippi, the site of Banias still exists at the base of Mount Hermon as a reminder of the idolatrous proceedings that occurred there.
It was here in the prime region of Satanic activity that the Holy Spirit influenced Peter to reveal the true, spiritual identity of Jesus as the son of the Living God. Simon, The one who inherited Satan’s uncontrollable nature had now become Peter, the rock upon which Jesus would establish His church. Thus, right in the heart of Satan’s most active territory, in a region dedicated to the god of uncontrollable flesh, Jesus boldly proclaimed in Matthew 16:18, that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the advancement of His kingdom church. On Satan’s front porch, a region practically dedicated to worshiping his image, Jesus brandished His capture of Simon Peter in the face Satan’s kingdom like a stolen weapon and inspired Peter to proclaim His deity.
On a bit of a side note, the famous story popularized by Disney entitled, “Peter Pan” is a strangely twisted acknowledgment of this encounter between Jesus and Peter. Aside from the obvious name references, Pan from the modern story shares numerous similarities to the devilish pagan god. The half human, half animal appearance, the flute as a an instrument of choice, the promotion of released inhibitions and even the best friend “Faun/Faunas” are all shared. In spite of these undeniably similar characteristics, the extremely dark undertones of this supposed children’s story have been downplayed so that an underlying evil is presented favorably. If the name, Simon Peter reflects a transformation from sinner to saint, then Peter Pan is a blasphemous attempt from Satan to deny the work of Jesus and disregard His reversal of our fate. This a glaring reminder to be careful of the content we subject ourselves and our children to.
This was a triumphal power move. This was Jesus Christ, the son of the living God walking into the camp of His enemy and declaring victory. Since no one had the secret to the redemption of mankind, and no one recognized that Jesus death would open the door to the kingdom, this was, more than likely, a move of provocation destined in this moment to usher in the season of Salvation.
1 Corinthians 2:6-8
6Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: 7But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The wisdom of God is so untouchable, that He has to give Himself up to be overcome. So, if He gives Himself up, the end result can only work to the advantage of His kingdom. As Corinthians states, no one suspected that the murder of a King could produce His victory and the death of the Son of God would translate to salvation for us, not even Satan himself. However, Jesus was aware that the only way redeem the world was through His death, and with Peter and a few others in Caesarea Philippi, He decided to gloat in His victory.
Immediately after the declaration of Simon Peter, Jesus began speaking about the time to come where He would have to suffer things of the Levitical priests and ultimately be killed. This was a key turning point in His ministry. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, He followed it up in Matthew 17 with the Mount of Transfiguration. As usual Peter along with James and John were there to witness the event as the voice of God Almighty thunderously affirmed Jesus as the only begotten son. From that moment, Jesus began his journey south where crucifixion awaited Him; He was counting on it.
*Luke 9:18-22, 37-45, 51-56
18And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? 19They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. 20He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.
Jesus Predicts His Death
21And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; 22Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. … 37And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met him. 38And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child. 39And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him. 40And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not. 41And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither. 42And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father.
Jesus Again Predicts His Death
43And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples, 44Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. 45But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying. … 51And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, 52And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 53And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. 54And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.*
For the sake of a point we will make later, consider, again these events in their geographical context; Everything is significant. Caesarea Phillipi was a region located in northernmost part of Israel, and this is where Jesus made His declarations about the church.
Now let’s establish some revelatory relationships that we will revisit as we continue. Directions are significant in scripture. The Lord often says things like, “a people (army) cometh from the north country” (Jeremiah 6:22), or the Bible will say something like, “Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east” (Genesis 13:11). These details should not be discounted. Every mention of direction in scripture doesn’t have to contain meaning, but in this case, it does.
North’s general direction is up but can also mean “lifted up in pride” or idolatry. South’s general direction is down but can sometimes indicate humility or humiliation. It is no coincidence that the most idolatrous cities and regions of Israel are farthest north while Judah is the southernmost region. It is also not happenstance that Jesus traveled in a southward direction to commit Himself to the cross. This revelatory principle will be a factor with at least two other sons of Jacob.
Luke 9:57-62 The Cost of Following Jesus
57And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. 58And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. 59And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 60Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. 61And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. 62And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
Power At Pentecost
There is so much victory displayed in Peter’s story. The way in which his heart was captivated and transformed by Jesus is nothing short of amazing. After the ascension of Jesus into heaven, the disciples gathered together at Pentecost, and the seed of change planted in Peter sprang forth with power and conviction.
Acts 2:1-4; 14-21
1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 14But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall 18And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: 21And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Every effort of Satan to infiltrate, entrap and entangle Simon in sin was now being forcefully thrown back in his face. Any hope for victory by the kingdom of darkness was eliminated at the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and Simon Peter, of all people was now the strongest opponent of Satan in the earth realm. The deep rooted curse of Simeon, dating back to the murders at Shechem, had now been turned directly on its head, and Jesus had effectively demonstrated that in Him is power over all the power of the enemy.