And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, (Luke 9:51)
Jesus spent most of His time in ministry around the Sea of Galilee. His “mission base” was in Capernaum, probably staying at the house of Peter. As the time for His crucifixion approached, Jesus traveled up to Caesarea Philippi with His disciples – the furthest north He ever traveled (Matthew 16:13).
Caesarea Philippi was built by the Ptolemaic kings around the 3rd century BC as a cult center and named Paneas for the Greek god Pan. When the Romans took control, the control of the area was given to the Kingdom of Herod the Great. In 19 BC, Herod built a white marble pagan temple at the entrance to the cave of Pan in honor of Caesar Augustus. Inside the cave was a seemingly bottomless pit that the pagans perceived by the pagans as the entrance to the netherworld – Hades. “Caesarea Philippi was the location the Cave of Pan, the place of the pagan Gate of Hades. It was in this area that the first king of Israel (Jeroboam) led the northern kingdom of Israel into idolatry.” Philip II (the Tetrarch) founded the city of Paneas and renamed it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus in 14 AD.
Caesarea Philippi was located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon bears the ignominy of being the frequent site of pagan worship. “In the Book of Enoch, Mount Hermon is the place where the Watcher class of fallen angels descended to Earth. They swear upon the mountain that they would take wives among the daughters of men and take mutual imprecation for their sin (Enoch 6).” Surrounding the base and upon the higher elevations, the mountain was littered with shrines to pagan deities.
It was to this place that Jesus brought His disciples just a few short weeks before His crucifixion.
Matthew 16:13 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?
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 unto them, Whom do men say that I am?
Luke 9:18 And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
Jesus’ last stop prior to this was “in the coasts of Magdala” (Matthew 15:39) and “into the parts of Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10). Both cities were probably near each other, and Matthew and Mark record the location from their own perspective. Note that both refer to the “region” not specifically to the towns. Matthew notes that they came to the “coasts” of Caesarea Philippi. Other translations render “coasts” as district, parts, or region, or it could also be rendered “borders.” Mark reports that they came “into the towns” of Caesarea Philippi. Luke does not specify the location. Apparently, Jesus did not enter that pagan city Himself. Doing so would have rendered Him “unclean.”
Matthew and Mark place the account after the feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-9). Luke places this account following the feeding of the 5000 (Luke 9:10-17). Although Luke does not record the feeding of the 4000, the order of events was correct. Jesus fed 5000 first and then 4000 before this event took place. This may be attributed to the way Luke had to go about gathering and compiling the data. Since came “after the fact,” he conducted interviews with eyewitnesses to write his Gospel. As a side note, John, who was an eyewitness, only recorded the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:5-13) as well.
Mark says that they were “on the road,” but that does not indicate that they were traveling when Jesus asked the question. Matthew only remarks that they were in the region. It makes sense that they were stopped in one place where they could all participate in the discussion. If they were “on the road” walking, it would be difficult to have that kind of discussion.
Bible critics often point to the variances in the Gospel accounts to raise doubts in the veracity of Scripture; however, these variances are easily explained. Matthew, as one of the twelve, records the account as an eyewitness. Mark (it is thought) received his information from Peter who was an eyewitness. John, the “beloved disciple,” who was present and an eyewitness, was not divinely inspired to record this event. Luke gathered his information second-hand from eyewitness “to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:1-2, emphasis mine). Therefore Luke often includes details omitted by the other Gospel writers. For example, in this verse, he notes that Jesus “was alone praying, [and] his disciples were with him” (Luke 9:18).
It is in this context that Jesus asks His disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?” Matthew adds the modifier, “the Son of Man.” Both Matthew and Mark use the Greek ἄνθρωποι “men,” while Luke uses the Greek ὄχλοι “people” meaning a throng, i.e., the masses, men and women. The question was a set up for the more important question to follow.
Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20: He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
They had followed Him for three years now. He was nearing the end of His earthly ministry. Did they really know Him? Peter was never shy about speaking up.
Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Mark 8:29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.
Luke 9:20 He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.
The three synoptic Gospels identify Jesus as “the Christ.” “Christ” – Χριστός – means “anointed;” the same as Messiah. Luke specifies “The Christ of God,” i.e., God’s anointed One. Only Matthew adds “the Son of the living God.” Remember: Matthew’s report is a first-hand account, and only Matthew records Jesus’ response to Peter.
Matthew 16:17-19 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (18) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (19) And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Peter’s confession did not come from “Whom do men say that I am?” Peter received this as a direct revelation from God. “Upon this rock,” i.e., Peter’s confession, Jesus would establish His Church. “The gates of hell” – the temple of Pan and the other pagan gods were nearby. The disciples were probably familiar with the nomenclature. The illustration was clear: the death of hell cannot complete with the living Church. Gates are defensive measures, which cannot withstand the power of the Church. The “keys of the kingdom of heaven” were not for Peter alone. Jesus would later say the same to all of His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). To “bind” or “loose” means to “prohibit” or “permit.” “When Jesus gave this power to the apostles, he meant that whatsoever they forbade in the church should have divine authority; whatever they permitted, or commanded, should also have divine authority – that is, should be bound or loosed in heaven, or meet the approbation of God. They were to be guided infallibly in the organization of the church: (1) By the teaching of Christ, and, (2) By the teaching of the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus then foretells of His impending death on the cross: Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31. (Luke missed that detail.) He ends the conversation with a curious statement.
Matthew 16:28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
Mark 9:1 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.
Luke 9:27 But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
Six (or eight) days later “some” had a glimpse of “the kingdom.”
Matthew 17:1-6 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, (2) And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. (3) And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. (4) Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. (5) While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. (6) And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
Mark 9:2-7 And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. (3) And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. (4) And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. (5) And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. (6) For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid. (7) And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
Luke 9:28-36 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. (29) And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. (30) And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: (31) Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. (32) But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. (33) And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. (34) While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. (35) And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. (36) And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
Matthew and Mark say “after six days.” Luke says “about eight days.” Matthew and Mark beginning with that day after Peter’s confession, count six days, and “after six days” this event took place. Luke counts the day of Peter’s confession, plus six days, followed by the day of the Transfiguration – eight days.
Jesus selected Peter, James, and John as the “some” who would “see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28, emphasis mine). Peter and John would later recall this event.
2 Peter 1:16-18 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (17) For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (18) And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
The “high mountain” very likely was Mount Hermon. He was “transfigured” – Greek μετεμορφωθη (metamorphoothee) “transformed, changed, metamorphose” Luke notes that His face – Greek πρόσωπον (prosōpon – the front, the face) was altered. Matthew says that “his face did shine as the sun.” All three remark on the brilliance of His clothing. There appeared Moses and Elias (Elijah) representing the Law and the Prophets – the Old Testament Scripture that testified of the coming Messiah. Luke reveals the content of the conversation. He “spake of his decease [death] which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31, emphasis mine).
In their astonishment, the disciples were speechless, except for Peter. “let us make three tabernacles … For he wist not what to say” (Mark 9:5-6, emphasis mine). Having seen the different shrines to pagan gods around Caesarea Philippi and Mount Hermon, Peter must have thought it would be appropriate. The voice that came out of the cloud soon put the kâbash (kibosh) on that idea: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him”
As they descended from the mountain, Jesus instructed them to keep what they witnessed to themselves until after He had risen from the dead (Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:10; Luke 9:36). The time had come. “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, emphasis mine). “Time” – Greek ἡμέρα (hēmera), literally means “day.” The day had arrived that He should fulfill His earthly mission. “Stedfastly” – Greek στηρίζω (stērizō) means to set fast, that is, (literally) to turn resolutely in a certain direction. Nothing would deter Him from His mission. Jerusalem and the cross were His assignment.
Passing through Jericho, Jesus heals three, perhaps four blind men.
Luke 18:35 And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:
Matthew 20:29-30 And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. (30) And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.
Mark 10:46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.
Matthew does not name the two, but perhaps one of them was Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus may have been known to Mark (or Peter) and the second blind man unknown. I could also be that the two mentioned by Matthew are separate from Bartimaeus.
Luke also gives the account of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) that the other Gospels omit. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree, He told him to “make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). “Abide” literally meant to “dwell” or stay over in his house. While in Jericho, Jesus received word that His friend Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was deathly ill. “ Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again” (John 11:5-7, emphasis mine).
The small village of Bethany was about a day’s walk from Jericho. Lazarus probably died soon after the messengers departed to Jericho. The travel took a day. Jesus delayed two days before leaving for Bethany, and He took another day to arrive – four days total.
At Bethany, Jesus performed arguably the greatest miracle of all short of His resurrection. Jesus had raised others from the dead: Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-25; Mark 5:23-43; Luke 8:41-56) and the widow’s only son (Luke 7:11-16). However, both of these had recently died, and it could be argued that they were “resuscitated” rather than resurrected. With Lazarus, there was no question. In fact, when Jesus asked for the stone to be removed, Martha protested, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39). The Jews believed that when a person, their spirit lingered around for three days before departing for good. Lazarus was very dead! “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26, emphasis mine). Then to make His point, “he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43).
The raising of Lazarus caused quite a stir among the religious leaders, who, rather than recognize Jesus’ authority as Messiah and turn to Him, developed a plot to kill Him. “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. (John 11:49-53, emphasis mine). So irrational were they in their animus toward Jesus, that they sought to destroy the evidence of His resurrecting power – Lazarus (John 12:9-11).
Following this, we have two, arguably three, different accounts of Jesus’ anointing. Luke’s account places the anointing long before the transfiguration while He was still in Capernaum (Luke 7:36-50).
Luke 7:36-39 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. (37) And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, (38) And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. (39) Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
Matthew 26:6-9 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, (7) There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. (8) But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? (9) For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
Mark 14:1-5After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread … (3) And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. (4) And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? (5) For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
John 12:1-6 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. (2) There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. (3)Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. (4) Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, (5) Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? (6) This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
Matthew places the anointing after the Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21:1-11) Mark places the anointing after the Triumphal Entry (Mark 11:1-11) and two days before the Passover. John places the anointing the day before the Triumphal Entry (John 12:12). Matthew and Mark place the anointing in the “house of Simon the Leper.” John seems to place the anointing in the house of Lazarus following the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Neither Matthew nor Mark names the woman who anointed Jesus. Had she been Mary, they certainly would have known who she was. John names Lazarus, Martha, and Mary who anointed Jesus. Matthew records that the “disciples” were indignant about the waste. Mark only records that “there were some that had indignation within themselves.” The difference and precision in detail between Matthew and Mark’s account and the account of John are too distinct to be an error in recording. Therefore these are two separate anointings. Luke’s account came too early to be confused with these just before the crucifixion. In all, we have three separate accounts of Jesus being anointed by women. Even though there are some similarities, the differences are too great to conflate them as one or two.
Following this, all four Gospels record Jesus entry into Jerusalem presenting Himself as the promised Messiah. The prophet Daniel predicted this event to the very day!
Daniel 9:25-26 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. (26) And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
“Week” – Hebrew שָׁבוּע (shâbûa‛), literally means sevened, or “seven times.” This refers to a set of seven years. Verse 24 specifies “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city” – 70 x 7 = 490 years.
“seven weeks. The 490-year period is divided into three components, 49 years, 434 years, and 7 years, respectively, in duration … Perhaps most significantly, the 49-year period did terminate with Malachi’s prophecy, which marked the close of Old Testament revelation.”
“threescore and two weeks. After the 49-year period was to be another period of 434 years before Messiah would come as Prince of Israel … In all, there would be 69 weeks, or 483 years, ‘unto the Messiah the prince.’”
Most conservative evangelical scholars agree that this prophecy was fulfilled to the very day when Jesus was “cut off.” On the tenth day of the first month (Abib/Nissan), Jewish families selected the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:3). It had to be “a male of the first year,” i.e., the firstborn, without blemish, they were to keep it until the 14th day (Exodus 12:5-6). To ensure that it was spotless. Furthermore, the lamb was taken into the family and loved by the family. Then, on the evening of the 14th day, the lamb was slain, and its blood used to cover the doorposts of the house. When the death angel passed, the atoning (covering) blood of the lamb protected those inside the house.
Jesus, the Lamb of God, presented Himself on Nissan 10. It was the first day of the week, Sunday. John states that Jesus arrived in Bethany, where He was anointed by Mary, “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1). If the Passover took place on Thursday (as I believe), six days before would put Him arriving in Bethany on Friday. The following day would be the Sabbath (Saturday) when He was anointed. Then on the next day, Sunday, Jesus made His Triumphal Entry.
He was now in “the house” of Israel, and the Lamb of God would be thoroughly examined for the next four days to see if there was any defect in Him. The Pharisees questioned Him extensively and could find no fault in Him. In the end, Pilate examined Him and proclaimed, “I find no fault in him” (John 19:4, 6).
He celebrated His last Passover Seder with His disciples (Matthew 26:20-35; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:14-23; John 13:1-38). Jesus made the promise of His return and His presence with and in believers through the Holy Spirit (John 14-17).
After the meal, they went to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46). Jesus took His top three – Peter, James, and John – to a separate garden to pray. “Gethsemane” means (olive) “oil press.” As the olives are pressed three times, Jesus was pressed three times as He prayed, “let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44). With that, He went out to meet his accusers.
Matthew 26:46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.
Mark 14:42 Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.
Luke 22:46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
John 18:4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
The cross awaited Jesus. He went there of His own accord – not the victim, but the mighty Savior!
 “Ancient Caesarea Philippi” – http://www.bible-history.com/biblestudy/caesarea-philippi.html
 “Temples of Mount Hermon” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temples_of_Mount_Hermon
 Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
 Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Henry Morris Study Bible, (Green Forest, AR, Master Books, 2012), 1275.
 “Pressed Three Times” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/10/22/pressed-three-times/