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Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus had been teaching in Galilee, where he got a reasonably friendly reception. Now he was moving northwards. Caeserea Philippi was situated about forty kilometres from the sea of Galilee, at the foot of Mount Hermon. It was the location for one of the largest springs feeding the River Jordan; consequently the land was very fertile and attractive for religious worship, especially of the god Pan. The Emperor Augustus gave the city to Herod the Great, who then built a temple dedicated to the Emperor. His son Philip the Tetrarch rebuilt the city and added his own name. A mixed population of Romans, Jews and Greeks lived there.

This is where Jesus asked the question of His disciples: “Who do the people say I am?” At first they named important figures in the Old Testament. Peter, however, recognised Jesus as someone new and different. He was the Christ. In the account of the event in Matthew, he declares: “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God” (Matt 16:16). The god of the temple, Augustus, was dead, but this God was alive. Peter of course did not realise what being the Messiah meant. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and the time had come to begin to inform his friends about his destiny.

Mark’s account of the temptation in the wilderness is very brief and it is possible that he uses Peter’s remonstration to illustrate the kind of worldly solutions that Satan offers. Peter had a long journey to make before he really knew who Jesus was. Even after the crucifixion he had to make great changes in his thinking in accepting gentiles as equal disciples of his Master. There is  a story in the aprocryphal Acts of Peter, that the apostle had a vision of Christ carrying his cross, when he was going to flee Nero’s persecution in Rome. “Quo Vadis Domine?” (“Where are you going Lord?”) he asked. “I am going to Rome to be crucified again,” Jesus repled. Peter headed back to Rome to face his own crucifixion.

“Quo Vadis Domine?”