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A Visit From Andrew
Matthew 16:13-20
Crystal in NY

Good Morning. I am Andrew. I was one of the first disciples that Jesus called to follow him but you probably know my brother Peter better than you know me. The other day Jesus and I were fishing in heaven (By the way, if you're a fisherman you are going to love it when you get to heaven!). . . Anyway, Jesus and I were fishing and he asked me if I would come here today to tell you about a time---just a few weeks before He died---when Jesus took all of us disciples with Him to Caesarea Philippi. Jesus had seemed sorrowful and preoccupied lately. We didn't know it at the time, but perhaps He realized His time was short. Because He spoke the Truth, because He set people free from their bondage, those in positions of power and authority had decided that He must be silenced.

But Jesus wasn't just worried about His life here on earth. No, He was concerned about something more. Was there anyone who understood who and what He was? Was there anyone who, when He was gone from the flesh, would carry on His work for the kingdom? If there were none who had grasped the truth, then all that He had done among us these past few years had been in vain; all that He had taught us would die with Him. But if there were a few who realized the truth, His work was safe.

Jesus needed some time to be alone with His closest friends and so went to Caesarea Philippi. It was about 25 miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee. It was outside the territory of Herod Antipas and most of the people there were not Jewish. Here Jesus could have relative peace & quiet to be alone with us, to teach us, to prepare Himself and us for what lie in the future.

It was a beautiful city; and one of the most "religious" cities I have ever seen. Jesus was quiet as we walked, as if He was trying to figure out something, or to come to terms with something. Or perhaps He was praying. I wondered what He was thinking about, but knew that He would let us know when the time was right. In the meantime, I took in the sights and the sounds of the area. A couple of the men got caught up in a discussion of fishing techniques. And Simon the Zealot, Matthew, and Judas of Kerioth started a discussion about politics.

As we walked, we saw many religious sites. Tradition was strong here. There were no fewer than 14 temples of the ancient Syrian worship of Baal. This was a place where the ancient gods had been passionately worshipped.

Not only had the Syrian gods been worshipped here, but the Greek ones as well. Here in Caesarea Philippi was a great hill, in which was a deep cavern. That cavern was said to be the birthplace of Pan, the god of nature. The area was so strongly identified with Pan that its original name was Panias, and to this day the place is known as Banias.

This same cave was the source of the river Jordan. And looking upon it we each remembered our history. We remembered Joshua leading the people of God across the Jordan and into the Holy Land. We remembered the depth and the richness of our heritage. It is said that the spring here is so deep that "when anyone lets down anything to measure the depth of the earth beneath the water, no length of cord is sufficient to reach it." Oh, yes, our heritage is indeed deep and life giving, and refreshing.

At the top of that hill was a great temple of white marble built to the godhead of Caesar. No one could look at Caesarea Philippi, even from a distance, without seeing the glistening white marble and thinking of the power and divinity of Rome.

After we had taken in all the sites, Jesus finally broke His silence and quietly asked, "Who do people say that I am?" We looked around us at the magnificence of the temples and religious site around us. And then to the poor, homeless carpenter before us. A man hunted by the authorities as a heretic and a political rabble-rouser. But a man who had said and done things beyond anything we ever could have imagined. It was as if Jesus had deliberately set Himself against the background of the world's religions and demanded to be compared with them and to have the verdict given in His favor.

Who was He? We thought of the things we had heard other people say about Him. "Some people say you are John the Baptist," replied Bartholomew.

"And others say that you are Elijah, the forerunner of the Messiah," answered Thaddeus. Someone else chipped in that some people thought he was Jeremiah.

Jeremiah had a curious place in the expectations of the Israelites. It was rumored that, before the people went into exile, Jeremiah had taken the ark and the altar of incense out of the Temple, and hidden them in a cave on Mount Nebo. And that before the coming of the Messiah, Jeremiah would return and produce them and the glory of God would return to the people again.

When the people compared Jesus to Elijah or Jeremiah they thought that they were paying Him the highest possible compliment. For 400 years the voice of prophecy had been silent; and they were saying that, in Jesus, people were once again hearing the direct and authentic voice of God.

"And you," asked Jesus, "Who do you say that I am?" I hesitated. "Who did I think He was? The greatest of all the prophets, surely. Even that was inadequate to describe Him, but what more could I say of any man?

My brother, never afraid to say exactly what he thinks, spoke first. "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God," he answered in a strong, clear voice. I was surprised. What courage, even for Peter, to say such a thing!

Jesus smiled. The sorrow we had seen in His eyes left. He knew now that someone had understood who He was and would carry on His work. "Simon, you're a 'rock'," He responded. Simon Peter had been Jesus' support in His moment of vulnerability---a trustworthy and faithful friend. As solid as the earth.

A rock. I remembered another rock in Israel's history. When Jacob was running from his brother Esau he used a rock as a pillow in Bethel. He dreamt of angels ascending and descending a ladder to heaven. And God promised Jacob that He would be with him wherever he went and bring him back to the place he belonged. It was a place of God's self-revelation.

And here was Simon Peter---a rock--- and another occasion where God revealed Himself and promised to bring us back to the place where we belong.

Peter had discovered a truth that those of us with more discretion, more tact, and perhaps less courage had been unable to admit---even to ourselves. And yet, when he said it, we all recognized it to be true. Human categories, even the highest, are inadequate to describe Jesus Christ.

Here we were in an area scattered with temples to Baal---a powerful, ancient religion. But the truth that Jesus represents is greater than the truth of ANY tradition---no matter how powerful of firmly-entrenched those traditions are.

It was said to be the birthplace of Pan, the god of nature. Granted, as a fisherman, I have a deep love of and respect for nature. But as a Jew, I know that our God created all that is, and with Peter's words, I also acknowledged that Jesus is greater than any person, greater than any Greek god of nature, greater than any created thing.

The sunlight flashed off the white marble temple to Caesar and blinded me momentarily. Caesar, the Emperor, was worshipped as a god. And most of my countrymen believed that when Messiah came, He would conquer the Roman government and set our people free from their authority. But that was not Jesus' way. Jesus' mission was not to promote any particular political stance---He desired to set free the poor and the down-trodden but He was neither a Saduccee nor a Zealot. Jesus could well have been saying, "Take care that you never pin your hopes of bringing in the reign of God through any particular political stance. No. It can not be imposed from the outside; it must come from the inside."

I remembered the life-giving springs of the Jordan River in the cavern below me. My Jewish faith. The richness and depth of my heritage. But the life-giving refreshment that Jesus brings is greater even than the richest blessings of my Jewish faith.

Joshua had led the people of God across the Jordan into the Promised Land. Standing here before us was another Joshua--- "Joshua" and "Jesus" are the same name, you know---who was about to lead the people of God into the land promised by God for all of eternity.

Jesus had started with an impersonal question, "Who do people say that I am?" He ended with a personal question, "Who do you say that I am?" And now I ask you, "Who do you say Jesus is? Not only by the things that you think or the words that you say, but also by the things that you do. Who do you say that Jesus is?"