After Jesus’ divine appointment in Tyre, He travelled into the region of the Ten Cities, the Decapolis. Like Tyre, the region southeast of Galilee was a region populated primarily by Gentiles. Here, Jesus performed a miracle by feeding four thousand (Mark 8:1-11, Matthew 15:29-38).
Earlier, Jesus had fed five thousand Jewish men and their families with five biscuits and two sardines (Mark 6:30-44). In the Decapolis, Jesus fed four thousand Gentile men and their families with seven biscuits and “a few small fish” (Mark 8:7). Amazing!
On foot, Jesus travelled northwest to Tyre, then southeast to the Decapolis, and then He turned north toward Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27). Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record the visit to the northern boundaries of Israel. Here’s what Mark wrote: “Jesus went out with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the road he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ They answered him, ‘John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked them, ‘who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ ” (Mark 8:27-30).
Caesarea Philippi sits at the base of the towering Mount Herman. The lush and fertile region is watered by springs that gurgle and gush from caves and form the headwaters of the Jordan River.
The region was renowned for its pagan worship. During Old Testament times, travelers from far and wide came to the region to worship the god Baal, the Canaanite god that was worshipped with the vilest sexual activities. In the centuries just prior to Jesus, the place was named Paneas, the place where the Greek god Pan was worshipped. After the death of Herod the Great, his son Philip named it Caesarea Philippi and dedicated it to emperor worship.
So, it’s interesting that it was in the devil’s playground that Jesus asked His disciples,
“Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18). “They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets’ ” (Matthew 16:14). On Main Street, Jesus, the Miracle-Worker and Rabbi, was thought to be the reincarnation of one of the great Old Testament prophets.
Jesus then asked, “How about you?” “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Peter, the spokesman of the group, replied with the famous confession. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16, NKJV).
“Right!” Jesus replied. “Based upon this powerful truth, the mighty church will be established, and” … “the gates of Hades will not overpower it!” (Matthew 16:18).
Most likely, Jesus spoke these words standing before a yawning cave at the base of Mount Herman… a cave thought to be the entrance to the underworld and Hell… a place that had been called “the Gates of Hades.”
The victorious church, formed and founded on Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of the ever-living God, could not, would not, be defeated by the enemy or any of his false deities!
“The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord; she is his new creation by water and the Word. From heav'n he came and sought her to be his holy bride; with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died!”