Mark 8:27
And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying to them, Whom do men say that I am?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(27-29) See Notes on Matthew 16:13-16.

The towns of Cæsarea Philippi.—Better, villages.

He asked his disciples.—The tense of the Greek verb implies that it was not a single question only, but a continued and, as it were, searching inquiry. The time was come to test the faith of the disciples thoroughly.

Mark

CHRIST’S CROSS, AND OURS

Mark 8:27 - Mark 9:1
.

Our Lord led His disciples away from familiar ground into the comparative seclusion of the country round Caesarea Philippi, in order to tell them plainly of His death. He knew how terrible the announcement would be, and He desired to make it in some quiet spot, where there would be collectedness and leisure to let it sink into their minds. His consummate wisdom and perfect tenderness are equally and beautifully shown in His manner of disclosing the truth which would try their faithfulness and fortitude. From the beginning He had given hints, gradually increasing in clearness; and now the time had come for full disclosure. What a journey that was! He, with the heavy secret filling His thoughts; they, dimly aware of something absorbing Him, in which they had no part. And at last, ‘in the way,’ as if moved by some sudden impulse-like that which we all know, leading us to speak out abruptly what we have long waited to say-He gives them a share in the burden of His thought. But, even then, note how He leads up to it by degrees. This passage has the announcement of the Cross as its centre, prepared for, on the one hand, by a question, and followed, on the other, by a warning that His followers must travel the same road.

I. Note the preparation for the announcement of the Cross {Mark 8:27 - Mark 8:30}.

Why did Christ begin by asking about the popular judgment of His personality? Apparently in order to bring clearly home to the disciples that, as far as the masses were concerned, His work and theirs had failed, and had, for net result, total misconception. Who that had the faintest glimmer of what He was could suppose that the stern, fiery spirits of Elijah or John had come to life again in Him? The second question, ‘But whom say ye that I am?’ with its sharp transition, is meant to force home the conviction of the gulf between His disciples and the whole nation. He would have them feel their isolation, and face the fact that they stood alone in their faith; and He would test them whether, knowing that they did stand alone, they had courage and tenacity to re-assert it. The unpopularity of a belief drives away cowards, and draws the brave and true. If none else believed in Him, that was an additional reason for loving hearts to cleave to Him; and those only truly know and love Him who are ready to stand by Him, if they stand alone- Athanasius contra mundum. Mark, too, that this is the all-important question for every man. Our own individual ‘thought’ of Him determines our whole worth and fate.

Mark gives Peter’s confession in a lower key, as it were, than Matthew does, omitting the full-toned clause, ‘The Son of the living God.’ This is not because Mark has a lower conception than his brother Evangelist, for the first words of this Gospel announce that it is ‘the Gospel of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.’ And, as he has identified the two conceptions at the outset, he must, in all fairness, be supposed to consider that the one implies the other, and to include both here. But possibly there is truth in the observation that the omission is one of a number of instances in which this Gospel passes lightly over the exalted side of Christ’s nature, in accordance with its purpose of setting Him forth rather as the Servant than as the Lord. It is not meant that that exalted side was absent from Mark’s thoughts, but that his design led him rather to emphasise the other. Matthew’s is the Gospel of the King; Mark’s, of the Worker.

The omission of Christ’s eulogium on Peter has often been pointed out as an interesting corroboration of the tradition that he was Mark’s source; and perhaps the failure to record the praise, and the carefulness to tell the subsequent rebuke, reveal the humble-hearted ‘elder’ into whom the self-confident young Apostle had grown. Flesh delights to recall praise; faith and self-knowledge find more profit in remembering errors forgiven and rebukes deserved, and in their severity, most loving. How did these questions and their answers serve as introduction to the announcement of the Cross? In several ways. They brought clearly before the disciples the hard fact of Christ’s rejection by the popular voice, and defined their own position as sharply antagonistic. If His claims were thus unanimously tossed aside, a collision must come. A rejected Messiah could not fail to be, sooner or later, a slain Messiah. Then clear, firm faith in His Messiahship was needed to enable them to stand the ordeal to which the announcement, and, still more, its fulfilment, would subject them. A suffering Messiah might be a rude shock to all their dreams; but a suffering Jesus, who was not Messiah, would have been the end of their discipleship. Again, the significance and worth of the Cross could only be understood when seen in the light of that great confession. Even as now, we must believe that He who died was the Son of the living God before we can see what that Death was and did. An imperfect conception of who Jesus is takes the meaning and the power out of all His life, but, most of all, impoverishes the infinite preciousness of His Death.

The charge of silence contrasts singularly with the former employment of the Apostles as heralds of Jesus. The silence was partly punitive and partly prudential. It was punitive, inasmuch as the people had already had abundantly the proclamation of His gospel, and had cast it away. It was in accordance with the solemn law of God’s retributive justice that offers rejected should be withdrawn; and from them that had not, even that which they had should be taken away. Christ never bids His servants be silent until men have refused to hear their speech. The silence enjoined was also prudential, in order to avoid hastening on the inevitable collision; not because Christ desired escape, but because He would first fulfil His day.

II. We have here the announcement of the Cross {Mark 8:31 - Mark 8:33}.

There had been many hints before this; for Christ saw the end from the beginning, however far back in the depths of time or eternity we place that beginning. We do not sufficiently realise that His Death was before Him, all through His days, as the great purpose for which He had come. If the anticipation of sorrow is the multiplication of sorrow, even when there is hope of escaping it, how much must His have been multiplied, and bitterness been diffused through all His life, by that foresight, so clear and constant, of the certain end! How much more gracious and wonderful His quick sympathy, His patient self forgetfulness, His unwearied toil, show against that dark background! Mark here the solemn necessity. Why ‘must’ He suffer? Not because of the enmity of the three sets of rejecters. He recognises no necessity which is imposed by hostile human power. The cords which bind this sacrifice to the horns of the altar were not spun by men’s hands. The great ‘must’ which ruled His life was a cable of two strands- obedience to the Father, and love to men. These haled Him to the Cross, and fastened Him there. He would save; therefore He ‘must’ die. The same ‘must’ stretches beyond death. Resurrection is a part of His whole work; and, without it, His Death has no power, but falls into the undistinguished mass of human mortality. Bewildered as the disciples were, that assurance of resurrection had little present force, but even then would faintly hint at some comfort and blessed mystery. What was to them a nebulous hope is to us a sun of certitude and cheer, ‘Christ that died’ is no gospel until you go on to say, ‘Yea, rather, that is risen again.’

Peter’s rash ‘rebuke,’ like most of his appearances in the Gospel, is strangely compounded of warm-hearted, impulsive love and presumptuous self-confidence. No doubt, the praise which he had just received had turned his head, not very steady in these early days at its best, and the dignity which had been promised him would seem to him to be sadly overclouded by the prospect opened in Christ’s forecast. But he was not thinking of himself; and when he said, ‘This shall not be unto Thee,’ probably he meant to suggest that they would all draw the sword to defend their Master. Mark’s use of the word ‘rebuke,’ which is also Matthew’s, seems to imply that he found fault with Christ. For what? Probably for not trusting to His followers’ arms, or for letting Himself become a victim to the ‘must,’ which Peter thought of as depending only on the power of the ecclesiastics in Jerusalem. He blames Christ for not hoisting the flag of a revolt.

This blind love was the nearest approach to sympathy which Christ received; and it was repugnant to Him, so as to draw the sharpest words from Him that He ever spoke to a loving heart. In his eagerness, Peter had taken Jesus on one side to whisper his suggestion; but Christ will have all hear His rejection of the counsel. Therefore He ‘turned about,’ facing the rest of the group, and by the act putting Peter behind Him, and spoke aloud the stern words. Not thus was He wont to repel ignorant love, nor to tell out faults in public; but the act witnessed to the recoil of His fixed spirit from the temptation which addressed His natural human shrinking from death, as well as to His desire that once for all, every dream of resistance by force should be shattered. He hears in Peter’s voice the tone of that other voice, which, in the wilderness, had suggested the same temptation to escape the Cross and win the crown by worshipping the Devil; and he puts the meaning of His instinctive gesture into the same words in which he had rejected that earlier seducing suggestion. Jesus was a man, and ‘the things that be of men’ found a response in His sinless nature. It shrank from pain and the Cross with innocent and inevitable shrinking. Does not the very severity of the rebuke testify to its having set some chords vibrating in His soul? Note that it may be the work of ‘Satan’ to appeal to ‘the things that be of men,’ however innocent, if by so doing obedience to God’s will is hindered. Note, too, that a Simon may be ‘Peter’ at one moment, and ‘Satan’ at the next.

III. We have here the announcement of the Cross as the law for the disciples too {Mark 8:34 - Mark 8:38}.

Christ’s followers must follow, but men can choose whether they will be His followers or not. So the ‘must’ is changed into ‘let him,’ and the ‘if any man will’ is put in the forefront. The conditions are fixed, but the choice as to accepting the position is free. A wider circle hears the terms of discipleship than heard the announcement of Christ’s own sufferings. The terms are for all and for us. The law is stated in Mark 8:34, and then a series of reasons for it, and motives for accepting it, follow.

The law for every disciple is self-denial and taking up his cross. How present His own Cross must have been to Christ’s vision, since the thought is introduced here, though He had not spoken of it, in foretelling His own death! It is not Christ’s Cross that we have to take up. His sufferings stand alone, incapable of repetition and needing none; but each follower has his own. To slay the life of self is always pain, and there is no discipleship without crucifying ‘the old man.’ Taking up my cross does not merely mean meekly accepting God-sent or men-inflicted sorrows, but persistently carrying on the special form of self-denial which my special type of character requires. It will include these other meanings, but it goes deeper than they. Such self-immolation is the same thing as following Christ; for, with all the infinite difference between His Cross and ours, they are both crosses, and on the one hand there is no real discipleship without self-denial, and on the other there is no full self-denial without discipleship.

The first of the reasons for the law, in Mark 8:35, is a paradox, and a truth with two sides. To wish to save life is to lose it; to lose it for Christ’s sake is to save it. Both are true, even without taking the future into account. The life of self is death; the death of the lower self is the life of the true self. The man who lives absorbed in the miserable care for his own well-being is dead to all which makes life noble, sweet, and real. Flagrant vice is not needed to kill the real life. Clean, respectable selfishness does the work effectually. The deadly gas is invisible, and has no smell. But while all selfishness is fatal, it is self-surrender and sacrifice, ‘for My sake and the gospel’s,’ which is life-giving. Heroism, generous self-devotion without love to Christ, is noble, but falls short of discipleship, and may even aggravate the sin of the man who exhibits it, because it shows what treasures he could lay at Christ’s feet, if he would. It is only self-denial made sweet by reference to Him that leads to life. Who is this who thus demands that He should be the motive for which men shall ‘hate’ their own lives, and calmly assumes power to reward such sacrifice with a better life? The paradox is true, if we include a reference to the future, which is usually taken to be its only meaning; but on that familiar thought we need not enlarge.

The ‘for’ of Mark 8:36 seems to refer back to the law in Mark 8:34, and the verse enforces the command by an appeal to self-interest, which, in the highest sense of the word, dictates self-sacrifice. The men who live for self are dead, as Christ has been saying. Suppose their self-living had been ‘successful’ to the highest point, what would be the good of all the world to a dead man? ‘Shrouds have no pockets.’ He makes a poor bargain who sells his soul for the world. A man gets rich, and in the process drops generous impulses, affections, interest in noble things, perhaps principle and religion. He has shrivelled and hardened into a mere fragment of himself; and so, when success comes, he cannot much enjoy it, and was happier, poor and sympathetic and enthusiastic and generous, than he is now, rich and dwindled. He who loses himself in gaining the world does not win it, but is mastered by it. This motive, too, like the preceding, has a double application-to the facts of life here, when they are seen in their deepest reality, and to the solemn future.

To that future our Lord passes, as His last reason for the command and motive for obeying it, in Mark 8:38. One great hindrance to out-and-out discipleship is fear of what the world will say. Hence come compromises and weak compliance on the part of disciples too timid to stand alone, or too sensitive to face a sarcasm and a smile. A wholesome contempt for the world’s cackle is needed for following Christ. The geese on the common hiss at the passer-by who goes steadily through the flock. How grave and awful is that irony, if we may call it so, which casts the retribution in the mould of the sin! The judge shall be ‘ashamed’ of such unworthy disciples-shall blush to own such as His. May we venture to put stress on the fact that He does not say that He will reject them? They who were ashamed of Him were secret and imperfect disciples. Perhaps, though He be ashamed of them, though they have brought Him no credit, He will not wholly turn from them.

How marvellous the transition from the prediction of the Cross to this of the Throne! The Son of Man must suffer many things, and the same Son of Man shall come, attended by hosts of spirits who own Him for their King, and surrounded by the uncreated blaze of the glory of God in which He sits throned as His native abode. We do not know Jesus unless we know Him as the crucified Sacrifice for the world’s sins, and as the exalted Judge of the world’s deeds.

He adds a weighty word of enigmatical meaning, lest any should think that He was speaking only of some far-off judgment. The destruction of Jerusalem seems to be the event intended, which was, in fact, the beginning of retribution for Israel, and the starting-point of a more conspicuous manifestation of the kingdom of God. It was, therefore, a kind of rehearsal, or picture in little, of that coming and ultimate great day of the Lord, and was meant to be a ‘sign’ that it should surely come.Mark 8:27-30. And Jesus went into the towns of Cesarea Philippi — These verses are explained at large in the notes on Matthew 16:13-20. He charged them that they should tell no man of him — He enjoined on them silence for the present, 1st, That he might not encourage the people to set him up for a temporal king; 2d, That he might not provoke the scribes and Pharisees to destroy him before the time, and, 3d, That he might not forestall the brighter evidence which was to be given of his divine character after his resurrection.8:27-33 These things are written, that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. These miracles of our Lord assure us that he was not conquered, but a Conqueror. Now the disciples are convinced that Jesus is the Christ; they may bear to hear of his sufferings, of which Christ here begins to give them notice. He sees that amiss in what we say and do, of which we ourselves are not aware, and knows what manner of spirit we are of, when we ourselves do not. The wisdom of man is folly, when it pretends to limit the Divine counsels. Peter did not rightly understand the nature of Christ's kingdom.See this passage illustrated in the notes at Matthew 16:13-28.Mr 8:27-38. Peter's Noble Confession of Christ—Our Lord's First Explicit Announcement of His Approaching Sufferings, Death, and Resurrection—His Rebuke of Peter, and Warning to All the Twelve. ( = Mt 16:13-27; Lu 9:18-26).

For the exposition, see on [1461]Mt 16:13-28.

Ver. 27,28. Herod, and those that followed him, judged Christ to be John the Baptist raised from the dead, or to have the soul of John the Baptist clothed with other flesh. Others conceived him to be Elias, of whom they were in expectation that he should come before the Messias. Others thought he was Jeremias, as Matthew saith, or one of the old prophets; they could not tell what to determine of one who appeared to them in the shape of a man, but did such things as none could do, but the Divine power either immediately, or mediately, putting forth itself in a human body. And Jesus went out, and his disciples,.... From Bethsaida and even from Galilee

into the towns Caesarea Philippi; in the jurisdiction of Philip, tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis; for this Caesarea was rebuilt by him and called so in honour of Tiberius Caesar; and the towns and villages adjacent to it are here intended: See Gill on Matthew 16:13;

and by the way he asked his disciples; as they were going from Galilee to those parts:

saying unto them; whom do men say that I am? not that he needed any information of this; for he knew not only what was said by men but What was in them; but he put this question, in order to bring out their sense of, and faith in him, and to impart something to them which was necessary they should be acquainted with; See Gill on Matthew 16:13, where it is read, "whom do men say that I, the son of man am?"

{6} And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

(6) Many praise Christ, who yet nonetheless rob him of his praise.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Mark 8:27-38. See on Matthew 16:13-27. Comp. Luke 9:18-26.

ἐξῆλθεν] from Bethsaida (Julias), Mark 8:22.

εἰς τ. κώμας Καισαρ.] into the villages belonging to the region of Caesarea.

Mark 8:28. With the reading ὅτι εἷς τῶν προφητῶν (see the critical remarks), εἶ is to be supplied. Matthew was the more careful to insert the name of Jeremiah from the collection of Logia, because he wrote for Jews.

Mark 8:29. Mark and Luke omit what Matthew relates in Mark 8:17-19. Generally, Matthew is here fuller and more original in drawing from the collection of Logia. According to Victor Antiochenus and Theophylact (comp. Wetstein, Michaelis, and others), Mark has omitted it on purpose: ἵνα μὴ δόξῃ χαριζόμενος τῷ Πέτρῳ κ.τ.λ. According to B. Bauer, the narrative of Matthew has only originated from the consciousness of the hierarchy. Both these views are arbitrary, and the latter rests on quite a groundless presupposition. As the remarkable saying of Jesus to Peter, even if it had been omitted in the collection of Logia (Holtzmann), cannot have been unknown to Mark and cannot have its place supplied by Mark 3:16, it must be assumed that he purposely abstained from including it in this narrative, and that probably from some sort of consideration, which appeared to him necessary, for Gentile-Christian readers.[115] Thus he appears to have foregone its insertion from higher motives. To Luke, with his Paulinism, this passing over of the matter was welcome. The omission furnishes no argument against the Petrine derivation of our Gospel (in opposition to Baur, Markusevang. p. 133 f.), but it is doubtless irreconcilable with its subserving a special Petrine interest, such as is strongly urged by Hilgenfeld and Köstlin. Comp. Baur in the theol. Jahrb. 1853, p. 58 f. And to invoke the conception of a mediating Petrinism (see especially, Köstlin, p. 366 f.), is to enter on a field too vague and belonging to later times. Observe, moreover, that we have here as yet the simplest form of Peter’s confession. The confession itself has not now for the first time come to maturity, but it is a confirmation of the faith that has remained unchangeable from the beginning. Comp. on Matthew 15:17.

Mark 8:31.[116] τῶν πρεσβ. κ. τῶν ἀρχ. κ. τῶν ΓΡΑΜΜ.] Although these three form one corporation (the Sanhedrim), still each class is specially brought before us by repetition of the article, which is done with rhetorical solemnity.

μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρ.] after the lapse of three days. Comp. Matthew 27:63. More definitely, but ex eventu, Matt. and Luke have: τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, with which ΜΕΤᾺ ΤΡ. ἩΜ., according to the popular way of expression, is not at variance. See Krebs, Obs. p. 97 f.

Mark 8:32. καὶ παῤῥησίᾳ κ.τ.λ.] a significant feature introduced by Mark, with the view of suggesting a still more definite motive for Peter’s subsequent conduct: and openly (without reserve, frankly and freely) He spoke the word (Mark 8:31). παῤῥησίᾳ stands opposed to speaking in mere hints, obscurely, figuratively (John 11:14; John 16:25; John 16:29).

ἘΠΙΤΙΜ.] to make reproaches, namely, ὡς εἰς θάνατον ῥίπτοντ ἑαυτὸν ἐξὸν μηδὲν παθεῖν, Theophylact. But “Petrus dum increpat, increpationem meretur,” Bengel. Comp. ἐπετίμησε, Mark 8:33.

Mark 8:33. ΚΑῚ ἸΔῺΝ ΤΟῪς ΜΑΘΗΤᾺς ΑὐΤΟῦ] when He had turned Himself towards him and beheld His disciples. The latter clause gives more definitely the reason for the stern outburst of the censure of Jesus; He could not but set an example to the disciples, whom He beheld as witnesses of the scene. Moreover, in ἐπιστραφείς there is a different conception from that of ΣΤΡΑΦΕΊς, Matthew 16:23.

Mark 8:34. Jesus now makes a pause; for what He has to say now is to be said to all who follow Him. Hence He calls to Him the multitude that accompanies Him, etc. Mark alone has clearly this trait, by which the ὄχλος is expressly brought upon the scene also (Luke at Mark 9:23 relates after him, but with less clearness). Comp. Mark 7:14. This is to be explained by the originality of the Gospel, not by the ΠΡῸς ΠΆΝΤΑς of Luke 9:23 (which de Wette thinks Mark misunderstood). Comp. Hilgenfeld, Markusevang. p. 61.

ὅστις] quicunque, not at variance with the sense (Fritzsche), but as appropriate as εἴ τις.

ἀκολουθ.] both times in the same sense of discipleship. See, moreover, on Matthew 10:38.

Mark 8:35. See on Matthew 10:39. τ. ἑαυτοῦ ψ.] expression of self-sacrifice; His own soul He spares not.

Mark 8:37. τί γάρ (see the critical remarks) gives the reason for the negative sense of the previous question.

Mark 8:38. ΓΆΡ] proves from the law of the retribution, which Jesus will fully carry out, that no ransom can be given, etc. Whosoever shall have been ashamed to receive me and my doctrines—of Him the Messiah shall also be ashamed (shall not receive him for His kingdom, as being unworthy) at the Parousia! As to ἐπαισχυνθ., comp. on Romans 1:16.

Τῇ ΜΟΙΧΑΛΊΔΙ] see on Matthew 12:39. This bringing into prominence of the contrast with the Lord and His words, by means of ἘΝ Τῇ ΓΕΝΕᾷἉΜΑΡΤΩΛῷ, is only given here in the vivid delineation of Mark; and there is conveyed in it a deterrent power, namely, from making common cause with this γενεά by the denial of Christ. The comparison of Matthew 12:39; Matthew 16:4, is not, on account of the very dissimilarity of the expressions, to be used either for or against the originality of Mark, against which, according to Weiss, also ΣΏΣΕΙ, Mark 8:35 (Matt.: ΕὙΡΉΣΕΙ, which Luke also has), is supposed to tell. Nevertheless, Κ. ΤΟῦ ΕὐΑΓΓΕΛΊΟΥ, Mark 8:35, is an addition of later tradition.

Ὁ ΥἹῸς Τ. ἈΝΘΡΏΠ.] Bengel aptly says: “Nunc non ego, sed filius hominis, quae appellatio singularem cum adventu glorioso visibili nexum habet.” Comp. Mark 14:62.

And as to this mighty decision, how soon shall it emerge! Mark 9:1. What warning and encouragement in this promise!

[115] Beza, however, justly asks: “Quis crediderit, vel ipsum Petrum vel Marcum praeteriturum fuisse illud Tu es Petrus, si ecclesiae Christianae fundamentum in his verbis situm esse existimassent?”

[116] The view that Jesus Himself now for the first time clearly foresaw His death (Weizsäcker, p. 475; Keim, geschichtl. Chr. p. 45), conflicts, even apart from the narrative of John, with Mark 2:20. Comp. on Matthew 16:21. Moreover, we cannot get rid of the mention of the Parousia, Matthew 10:23, and the interpretation of the sign of Jonah, Matthew 12:39 f. (comp. on Luke 11:30).Mark 8:27. καὶ ἐξῆλθεν: the καὶ connects very loosely with what goes before, but presumably ἐξῆλθεν refers to Bethsaida. They leave it and go northwards towards Caesarea Philippi, up the Jordan valley, a distance of some twenty-five or thirty miles.—ὁ Ἰησοῦς: that Jesus is here expressly named is a hint that something very important is to be narrated, and the mention of the disciples along with Him indicates that it closely concerns them.—εἰς τὰς κώμας Κ. τ. φ., to the villages of Caesarea Philippi, not to Caesarea Philippi itself. Mt. has τὰ μέρη. Apparently they did not enter the city itself. Jesus seems to have avoided the towns in which the Herodian passion for ambitious architecture was displayed. Besides at this time He desired solitude.—ἐν τῆ ὁδῷ, on the way, probably when the city of Caesarea Philippi came into view. Vide on Matthew 16:13. But conversation leading up to the critical subject might begin as soon as they had got clear of Bethsaida. No time to be lost now that the Master had got the Twelve by themselves. Or was the Master, very silent on that journey, preparing His own mind for what was coming?—ἐπηρώτα, imperfect, because subordinate to the reply of the disciples, the main thing.—τίνα με, etc.: on the form of the question vide on Matthew 16:13.

Mark 8:27 to Mark 9:1. At Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13-28, Luke 9:18-27).27–9:1. Cæsarea Philippi. The Confession of St Peter

27. And Jesus went out] The Redeemer and His Apostles now set out in a northerly direction, and travelled some 25 or 30 miles along the eastern banks of the Jordan and beyond the waters of Merom, seeking the deepest solitude among the mountains, for an important crisis in His Life was at hand. The solitude of the beautiful district, whither the Saviour now journeyed, is illustrated by the fact that it is the only district of Palestine where a recent traveller found the pelican of the wilderness (Psalm 102:6). See Thomson’s Land and the Book, pp. 260, 261; Caspari’s Introduction, p. 163, n.

into the towns] The little company at length reached the “villages,” as it is literally, or the “parts” or “regions” (Matthew 16:13) of the remote city of Cæsarea Philippi, near which it is possible He may have passed in His circuit from Sidon a very few weeks before. See above, Mark 7:24, n., Bishop Ellicott’s Lectures, p. 225.

Cæsarea Philippi] “Sezarie of Philip” (Wyclif) lay on the north-east of the reedy and marshy plain of El Huleh, close to Dan, the extreme north of the boundaries of ancient Israel, (i) Its earliest name according to some was Baal-Gad (Joshua 11:17; Joshua 12:7; Joshua 13:5) or Baal-Hermon (Jdg 3:3; 1 Chronicles 5:23), when it was a Phœnician or Canaanite sanctuary of Baal under the aspect of “Gad,” or the god of good fortune, (ii) In later times it was known as Panium or Paneas, a name which it derived from a cavern near the town, “abrupt, prodigiously deep, and full of still water,” adopted by the Greeks of the Macedonian kingdom of Antioch, as the nearest likeness that Syria afforded of the beautiful limestone grottoes, which in their own country were inseparably associated with the worship of the sylvan Pan, and dedicated to that deity. Hence its modern appellation Baneas. (iii) The town retained this name under Herod the Great, who built here a splendid temple, of the whitest marble, which he dedicated to Augustus Cæsar, (iv) It afterwards became part of the territory of Herod Philip, tetrarch of Trachonitis, who enlarged and embellished it, and called it Cæsarea Philippi, partly after his own name, and partly after that of the Emperor Tiberius. Jos. Ant. xv. 10. 3; Bel. Jud. i 21. 3. It was called Cæsarea Philippi to distinguish it from Cæsarea Palestinæ, or Cæsarea “on the sea.” Dean Stanley calls it a Syrian Tivoli, and “certainly there is much in the rocks, caverns, cascades, and the natural beauty of the scenery to recall the Roman Tibur. Behind the village, in front of a great natural cavern, a river bursts forth from the earth, the ‘upper source’ of the Jordan. Inscriptions and niches in the face of the cliffs tell of the old idol worship of Baal and of Pan.” Tristram, Land of Israel, p. 581.

he asked his disciples] It was in this desert region that the Apostles on one occasion found Him engaged in solitary prayer (Luke 9:18), a significant action which had preceded several important events in His life, as (a) the Baptism, (b) the election of the Twelve, and (c) the discourse in the synagogue of Capernaum. It was now the precursor of a solemn and momentous question. Hitherto He is not recorded to have asked the Twelve any question respecting Himself, and He would seem to have forborne to press His Apostles for an explicit avowal of faith in His full Divinity. But on this occasion He wished to ascertain from them, the special witnesses as they had been of His life and daily words, the results of those labours, which were now drawing in one sense to a close, before He went on to communicate to them other and more painful truths.Mark 8:27. Ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ, on the way) He held pious discourse whilst on the way.Verses 27, 28. - And Jesus went forth, and his disciples, into the villages of Caesarea Philippi. This verse seems to corroborate the view that the Bethsaida just referred to was Bethsaida Julias. Caesarea Philippi lies at the roots of Libanus. Cornelius a Lapide says that it was originally celled Dan, the place where two little streams united, namely, Jeor and Daniel These two streamlets so united make the Jordan, whence the name Jeer-Dan, or Jordan. But since Pan, the God of shepherds, was better known to the Gentiles than Dan, a Hebrew tribe, it was hence called by them "Paneas.' It is celled Bahias at the present day. It lay at the extreme north, as Beersheba lay at the extreme south. Hence the phrase, "from Dan even to Beersheba." On this account many neighboring Gentiles, especially the Phoenicians, flocked to this city, as is frequently the case with border towns. And so Christ visited this neighborhood, not only because it presented favorable opportunities to him for teaching Jews and Gentiles alike, but also that he might speak more freely than he could have done in Judaea concerning a Messiah, whom the Jews expected as their king. in Judaea itself, and especially in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, it would have been perilous to speak on such a subject; for the scribes would at once have accused him to the Roman power that he was seeking the kingdom. The student who wishes for further information respecting the site of Caesarea Philippi may consult with advantage Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine' (ch. 11, "The Lake of Merom and the sources of the Jordan" ). A more familiar derivation of the Jordan than that given by A Lapide is that of the "descender," from Jarad, "to descend." Our Lord went from Bethsaida Julias directly northwards towards Paneas, named by Philip the Tetrach Caesarea Philippi, to distinguish it from the other Caesarea in Samaria on the Mediterranean coast. It will be observed that he went into the villages of Caesarea Philippi, avoiding the city itself. In the way thither he asked his disciples,... Who do men say that I am? This incident is mentioned also by St. Matthew and St. Luke. St. Luke (Luke 9:18) says that he was alone praying, his disciples being doubtless not far off. According to this evangelist, our Lord says, "Who do the multitudes say that I am? "thus distinguishing them more particularly from his own disciples. The common people among the Jews knew that not long after the Babylonish Captivity the gift of prophecy had ceased amongst their nation. So they thought that Christ was not a new Prophet, but one of the old. They could not but see in him the renewal of the powers of the old prophets, their miracles and their teaching; but there were very few of them who believed that he was the Messiah. The great body of them were offended at his poverty and humility; for they thought that Messiah would appear amongst them with royal state as a temporal king. So that when some said, moved it might be by the sight of his miracles, "This is that Prophet that should come into the world," they did but give utterance to a momentary and fugitive feeling, and not a firm or abiding conviction. The mass of mankind are fickle, easily led to change their opinions. Perhaps some of the Jewish multitude thought that the soul of one of the ancient prophets had entered into Christ, according to the Pythagorean notion of the transmigration of souls; or perhaps they thought that one of the old prophets had risen again in the person of Jesus. For though the Sadducees denied a resurrection, the great body of the Jews believed in it. Some thought that Christ was John the Baptist, because he resembled the Baptist in age (there was only six months difference in ago between them), as he also resembled him in holiness and in fervor of preaching. It was but a short time before, that John the Baptist had been put to death by Herod. His character and actions were fresh in their memories; and Herod himself had given currency to the idea that the Baptist had risen again in the person of our Lord. Then there was Elijah. Some thought that our Lord was Elijah, because it was known that Elijah had not died, and because there was an expectation, founded on Malachi's prophecy (Malachi 4:5), that he would return. They thought, therefore, that Elijah had returned, and that our Lord was Elijah.
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