by miriam berg
Chapter XV.
Caesarea Philippi is on the slopes of Mount Hermon, near the ancient site of Dan, the northernmost city of ancient Israel. The mountain range is well-watered, receiving 60 or more inches of rain a year, and there are great fruit groves in the area. It is also part of the tetrarchy of Philip, and Yeshua may have come here next to continue to stay out of the hands of Herod Antipas. Nothing is said about that in the gospels; we are just trying to make sense out of all the travels he is undergoing since Herod threatened him.

It was here that, after meditating on all of his experiences so far in preaching the reign of God and warning about the failure to practice the ethical teachings of Yohanan and the other great Hebrew prophets, Yeshua turns to his disciples and asks them,
Who do men say that I am?
The disciples reply,
Yohanan, the baptizer; and others, Elijah;
but others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
This is no surprise to Yeshua; Herod himself had expressed the belief that he was Yohanan risen from the dead; and in Nain and other places we have seen the people calling him a prophet, and he has also referred to himself as a prophet. Then he asks,
But who do you think I am?
Now he wants to find out whether his disciples agree with these estimates. Simon, in a burst of nationalistic hope, exclaims:
You are the Messiah!
This shocks Yeshua; at no time has he said anything about being the long-awaited messiah, nor expressed any intention, vague or ill-formed or otherwise, of taking any power or rulership over Palestine or any other country. In fact in his parables of the temptations in the desert he has forcefully rejected any such pretensions or claims. So he tells them in no uncertain terms that they must not say that to anyone; Luke says that he commanded them to tell no one that. Yeshua then told them:
For I, who am a prophet, a son of man, must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed by them; but after two days you will be revived, and on the third day you will be raised up, and carry on my teaching.
The last sentence is a quotation from the book of Hosea, chapter 6. The disciples, and all his early followers, and all his later followers up to the present day, have believed that he said that he himself would rise again; and all the translators of the ancient texts in Aramaic and Greek and Syriac have translated it that way. But it is impossible that he made such a prediction; later on he tells a parable, the point of which is that if people do not understand and practice the teachings of the Torah and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone were to rise from the dead. And on two occasions now he has stated emphatically that there would be no sign given to this generation.

Simon, unwilling to believe that such a fate could happen to the expected messiah, and in fact no such fate is spoken of in the Hebrew scriptures, takes Yeshua to one side and tries to tell him that that can't be. Yeshua, after glancing at the other disciples, scolds Simon vehemently, and says:
Get behind me, you tempter; for you are not thinking of the reign of God, but of the sceptre of man.
Once again Yeshua refers to the idea of taking political power as a temptation, and denies his intention of doing anything like that, just as he did in the wilderness. Yeshua must have felt discouraged at that moment; he has been preaching to his disciples now for several months, and they still believe that he is there to lead an uprising against the Romans. So he called the multitudes to him, and began to speak to them about the costs of being his disciple:
If any man would be my disciple, he must put himself last, and bear all suffering and persecution; this is my teaching.
He does not add "cheerfully", but must he not have meant it as such, since he calls it "good news"? He goes on with the second of the two sayings which are found in all four gospels:
Whosoever seeks to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life in following my teachings shall save it.
A paradoxical utterance! Lao-tze, the Chinese sage who lived five hundred years before Yeshua, also said, Whoever will not bend will be broken; but whoever bends will not break. It is another form of the thought expressed about Phariseeism, that whoever seeks exaltation will be humbled and whoever seeks to be humble will find true exaltation.

He then repeats his assurance that whoever receives them as his disciple is receiving him, although in a more garbled form, containing references to the "angels of God" which were a later development in theological thought. Finally, he confidently predicts that some of them will attain to the reign of God in their own lifetimes:
There be some of you standing here who shall not taste of death before the reign of God comes into your hearts with power.
As time goes on, we shall see that there were two entwined strands of Yeshua's thought: the future of his country, for which he expected disaster, and the future of his individual hearers, for whom he hopes the understanding of his ideals, just as he himself was enlightened while being baptized in the Jordan. Here he is referring to his individual hearers.

About a week later (Mark says six days, Luke says it was eight days) Yeshua and Simon, with Yakub and Yohan, made an ascent of the side of Mount Hermon. It was a bright day, and they had reached the snow line, when Simon, gasping in the thin air, his eyes dazzled, thought he saw Yeshua all clothed in white, and two figures on either side of him. "See that!" he exclaimed to Yakub and Yohan, "Yeshua, with Moshe and Elijah!" Yakub and Yohan looked, and thrilled by the tone of Simon's voice, thought they saw the same three figures. At that moment there came a roll of thunder, and the three disciples fell upon the ground in fear. Afterward they told the others that what they had heard was the same as what Yeshua had told them he heard at the time of the baptism: "This is my son; listen well to him." When they arose, they saw only Yeshua on the trail before them. Simon, his mind still full of nationalistic hope, told the vision to Yeshua, and said, "Master, let us build three tabernacles here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Yeshua shook his head.

On the way down, Yeshua told them sternly to repeat the vision to no one. One of them asked, "Until when, Master?" Yeshua said not until the resurrection, when all of them would be risen from the dead, meaning to put it into the future as far as possible. They looked blank. Another of them said, "But the scribes say that Elijah will come just before the great and terrible day of the Lord." Upon which Yeshua told them:
It is indeed written, that Elijah will come, and restore all things; but I say unto you, that Elijah has come already, and they have done to him whatever they wanted.
The disciples were still puzzled at first, but then a light dawned: Yeshua was speaking of Yohanan, who had come bringing the word of God, and Herod had imprisoned and executed him.

Then they arrived back at the village, they found the rest of the disciples surrounded by a great crowd, and a great argument going on. Yeshua pushed through the crowd, and asked his disciples, "What's the matter?" Then a man from the crowd answered, "Master, I brought my son, who is afflicted with a dumb spirit, which tumbles him down, and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth, and is wasting away. I asked your disciples to cure him, but they couldn't do it."

Then indeed Yeshua's impatience with the crowds that ran after him everywhere seeking cures and exorcisms boiled over, and he exclaimed, in his most vexed tone of voice:
O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long must I bear with you? are you always to be seeking a show, and never seeking the power within you?
Nevertheless, he told the man to bring his son before him, and just then the boy was seized with another epileptic fit, falling on the ground in front of Yeshua. Yeshua asked the father how long the boy had had this affliction, and the man said that it had been since he was a child. "Many times it has cast him into the fire, and into the waters, threatening his life; but if you can do anything, have compassion on us, and help us." "If I can do anything!" exclaimed Yeshua, passionately. "Of course I can do something." Then the man said, "I believe in you, master; please help us, and drive away my doubt."

The crowd was continuing to grow, and Yeshua turned and watched the boy, stroking his back, and speaking soothingly in his ear. Finally the boy quieted, and seemed paralyzed. But Yeshua took him by the hand, and raised him up, and the boy stood by himself, and seemed to be cured. We are not told whether or not the boy ever had another fit.

Later, when Yeshua and the disciples were back at the house where they were all staying, the disciples asked him why they could not cast it out. Yeshua, who knew that epilepsy or the falling-sickness was chronic and almost impossible to cure, answered:
This kind can come out by nothing, but by prayer and faith.
In other words, he recognized that it was not a mental disturbance, but a physical condition, and so exorcism was not a proper treatment.

After this, Yeshua left the villages of Caesarea Philippi to return to Galilee. Mark tells us that he was still avoiding attention, that he would have no man know that he was there, so that he must not have been ready to stand another confrontation with the Herodians. He told his disciples again, to stress the matter:
Let these words sink into your ears: the son of man, myself, shall be delivered up into the hands of men; and they shall kill him.
It seems plain enough, that he expects to be arrested, and to be killed, just as Yohanan was. But the disciples were unable to grasp this, and were afraid to ask him. The idea of the messiah, which they took Yeshua to be, dying, rather than conquering the Romans and ruling as a king, was too much for them to understand; but it certainly makes sense, if you recognize that Yeshua did not think of himself as the messiah, but as a reformer who has opposed the scribes and Pharisees on their interpretations of the Torah and God's will, and also opposed the Zealots on their militant nationalism and belief in armed resistance to the Romans. After all, nothing he has said so far indicates that he intends to lead an army against the Romans, nor to assume any kind of rulership over Galilee or any other part of Palestine. But there is something chilling about this: he knows he will be killed, but he is resolute now in his determination to go to Jerusalem and confront the priests and Pharisees on their own ground.

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