Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Let Christ Build

"And I  (Jesus) tell you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." -Matthew 16:18 (NIV)

When I went to the Holy Land in 2009, each member of my group took turns reading scripture associated with the different sites that we visited. I read today's suggested scripture reading when we went to Caesarea Philipi.

Not everyone reading this devotion wants a history lesson but this place was not always called Caesarea Philipi. It once served as a shrine to the Greek god Pan and was called Paneas or Banias. It was believed that Pan, along with many other gods, would go to Sheol (some might say the underworld, Hell, or Hades) during the winter months which resulted in the dry, barren season common to this part of the world. How did Pan travel to and from the underworld each year? Through the cave in front of which I read scripture, of course.

The people believed that the dry, barren season would end only when Pan returned from the underworld. In an effort to entice him to return and bring rain and fruitfulness back to the land, people would gather at the entrance of the cave and offer up rituals that involved sexual encounters with prostitutes and even animals. Because of the kind of activities that took place there and because the cave was viewed as the gate to the underworld, the entrance to the cave became known to many as the Gates of Hell (or Hades).

You can imagine, then, what the disciples must have been thinking when Jesus takes them to this place where these sorts of rituals were taking place, the very Gates of Hell. There, in the midst of the worshiping of other gods, Jesus asked, "Who do people say that I am?" He was inviting people to contrast how he was seen as opposed to how the other gods being worshiped were seen.

Peter piped up and said, "I say that you are the Messiah, the son of the living God." Jesus responded by saying, "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." It's as if he was saying, "We're standing in a place that worships and serves everyone and everything but me but you have been given the truth. I'm going to use you, my disciples, to build a church. And that cave over there, the very Gate of Hades, will not overcome that which I'm building."

That's why I follow Christ...because I live in a broken world that worships all of the wrong things. But the God that I serve is able to overcome all of that brokenness. The God I serve doesn't run away from all of the evil that exists, but stands in the middle of it, inviting us to consider who this God is and what this God longs to do for the world.

In the midst of your brokenness, may God grant you the grace to consider who God is and what God wants to do in your life today. Let Christ begin to build something in you and on you that cannot be overcome by the Gates of Hell.

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Tomorrow's suggested readings: Matthew 17

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