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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 11: Matthew 16, by Kevin M. Williams

King Herod the Great refurbished the city and dedicated it to Caesar (Caesarea), and joined his own name (Herod Philip), to the emperor/god’s name. Hence, he named it Caesarea Philippi. Though attempting to enshrine his own name, today the region is known merely as Banyas.

In those days, it was very common—expected even—for rabbis to take their talmadim (disciples) on journeys for the purposes of teaching. During these expeditions, rabbis would use the landscape as word pictures on which to build lessons. This may well be what Yeshua was doing.

At Ceaesarea Philippi is a huge rock formation from which the head springs of the Jordan River flow. Inside the caves, human sacrifices were once made to the fertility gods and over time, the entrance to the headwaters became known as “the gates of Hades,” the god of the underworld. It was here that many gods had been professed, but now, something even greater—the greatest—would be publicly revealed. Yeshua asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” and Simon Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

So far, at no point has Yeshua publicly proclaimed himself the Messiah (Christ, or Anointed One). He has hinted. He has told people that the evidence was right in front of them. He fulfilled many messianic expectations. Yet at no point had He removed His character of humility to proclaim Himself the Messiah.

Even today, anyone who claims to be the Messiah in the Jewish community is immediately discredited. In Jewish thought, the Messiah is revealed by his teachings and his works. In essence, the Messiah will be known by his fruits, not by self-proclamations.

On the one hand this kept Yeshua from too an early arrest, trial, and execution. To make such a self-proclamation meant certain guilt punishable by death.

On the other hand, Yeshua did what He continues to do today—He waits for us to reach our own conclusion about His identity. He waits for all people to realize that He is the Anointed One. He does not force Himself into lives, He does not parade about showing off, but with humility and grace, He woos and waits for His beloved to acknowledge him as The Bridegroom.

Even when the proclamation is made by Peter, Yeshua does not say, “You are right, I am the Messiah.” He still wears a cloak of humility and blesses, “And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona [son of Jonah], because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 16:17, brackets mine).

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ (Matthew 16:18-20).

Yes “Peter” can be translated as “rock,” but it is not necessarily upon Peter that the Messiah promised to build His Ecclesia (called out ones). That would establish false doctrine since no one is saved by the name “Peter.”

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2003, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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