Note: Having been several times frustrated in His attempt to get alone with His apostles, Jesus decides to take them to the region of Caesarea-Philippi, a very remote place in the foothills of Mt Hermon, and a place to which Jews did not go.
A. Jesus Carefully Heals a Blind Man in Bethsaida (Men Like Trees)
Scripture: Mark 8:22-26
Notes: Bethsaida was a fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus and the 12 dock there and pass through the city as they make their way to Caesarea-Philippi. Once again, Jesus is asked to do a miracle of healing, and He cautiously consents.
- Compare the steps taken here by Jesus to those He took when healing the man in the Decapolis. What additional steps does Jesus take here?
- Why do you think Jesus healed this man in two stages?
- Notice that Jesus seems to have got out of Bethsaida without attracting great crowds - something He had been unable to do in other cities on this journey.
B. Jesus Tests the 12 in the Region of Caesarea-Philippi
Notes: This event is the "final exam" of the apostles. Jesus asks specifically what they believe concerning Him, and Peter - speaking for the 12 - confesses that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God."
- This is a very important moment, but the significance of the moment is sometimes lost in the discussion of the conversation that follows. Understand that the truth confessed by Peter here is precisely what Jesus has claimed concerning Himself throughout His ministry. By the same token, it is a truth not easily or hastily embraced. Jesus's delight with the confession is born of the fact that that two-fold truth was so difficult to believe, but the apostles have confessed (11 of them honestly) that they have bowed the knee to those claims.
- How do you understand Jesus's statement to Peter in Matthew 16:17 - "flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven"?
- With regard to the ensuing conversation, how do you understand Jesus's reference to "this rock" (i.e., "on this rock I will build my church")?
- How do you think the apostles understood Jesus's reference here to His "church"?
- How do you understand the concept of the "keys of the kingdom" spoken of here?
- Notice the command Jesus gives in Matthew 16:20; why do you think this was important?
C. Jesus's First Distinct Prophecy of His Rejection, Trial, Death, and Resurrection
Notes: This is a most important development in the ministry of Jesus - and specifically in His relationship with His apostles. Understand that the text is explicit that Jesus had not spoken of dying before this (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31). Notice as well that when Jesus did begin to speak of His death, His apostles were scandalized.
- When Peter rejects Jesus's statement concerning His death, Jesus responds by saying to Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" Why do you think Jesus refers to Peter in that way?
- How do you understand Jesus's further words of rebuke: "You are an offense to Me, because you are not mindful of the things of God, but of man"?
- Compare Luke 18:31-33, which records a later time when Jesus again speaks explicitly and directly of His coming death; and then note Luke's assessment of the response of the apostles at that time (Luke 18:34).
Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).
Next: The Transfiguration