I learned a lot of interesting things, but I've been sharing this part specifically with people.
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Mat 16:13-16)
Apparently that area was a mostly pagan area, leading to an interesting detail I did not notice about the above before.
There at the base of Mount Hermon - which marked the northern border of Israel - water flowed underground and sufraced in a cave at the base of a high limestone cliff. At the time of Christ it was a place of devoted pagan worship (especially to Baal), with niches cut into the cliff holding statues of numerous deities. Pagans believed it marked the spot where the netherworld met the material world. At the top of this cliff stood a temple in honor of Caesar.One of the main points of the first chapter and lesson is that Jesus compels a choice like no other ever has. He isn't pointing at the way, He IS the way. He isn't telling you about some truth, He IS the truth. He can't be a happy, easy to follow, wise religious teacher and nothing else because He claims to be God. Either He is actually God, or he's crazy and/or evil. There is no in between.
It was, in other words, a veritable and visually arresting display of 'Who's Who" among the pagan gods. "Who," asked Jesus of his disciples, "do men say that the Son of Man is?" After hearing the responses - John the Baptist, Elijah, Jerimiah, or one of the prophets - Jesus asked the question he asks of every man: "But who do you say that I am?" He stands before the false gods of this world and asks for our decision; he compels a choice. He is either God or a bad man - a liar or a lunatic.