24th March 2019

The Gates of Hell

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’”
Matthew 16:13-20 (ESV) 

When I was a college student I had the privilege to tour Israel. I had envisioned Israel as a dry, arid desert, and much of it is. But to my delight I was fascinated to explore an area known as Banias, where there is an impressive waterfall and the headwaters of the Jordan River. This area is identified in the Bible as Caesarea Philippi.

One of the over-looked details of the conversation recorded in Matthew 16 (see above) is the setting. Cæsarea Philippi was the location of a temple to the Greek god Pan, and all kinds of pagan temple worship. A spring, still to be seen today, runs from the mouth of a deep cave. The Greeks believed that this was where the gods returned to the underworld every winter and then back again in spring. Thus it was often called the ‘gates of the underworld’ or the ‘gates of hades’. Here they not only worshipped Pan and other gods of fertility, but it was a place for partying, drunkenness and sexual immorality.

So why would Jesus choose this place, reeking of moral decay and guilt, to talk about the foundation of his church? Well, here, cluttered with idols and people making bad decisions, was where the human heart ached for God. It was indeed the ‘gates of hell’ and so it was the place that needed grace the most. And where are those places today? Perhaps the streets of Las Vegas? Perhaps Wall Street? Perhaps the red-light district of so many cities, where pleasure is offered as an escape from the greyness of daily life? I suggest the place most in need of grace is often found in ourselves. And there, within us, in our ‘gate of hell,’ is where the Lordship of Christ needs most to be declared!

Prayer
Gracious Lord, thank you that in the worst of situations you are there, offering grace and comfort. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen 

Presented by Greg Williams

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About the Presenter:
The Day by Day each Sunday is taken from ‘Speaking of Life, (https://www.gci.org/videos/media-speaking-of-life/), a public resource video on the USA website of Grace Communion International. Greg Williams is President of Grace Communion International and lives in North Carolina, USA.

Local Congregation:
You are welcome to attend one of our local Church congregations located throughout the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.gracecom.church under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.

Contact:
Email: admin@daybyday.org.uk

 

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