Hey- did you know?….
– When Peter first confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, it was at a place called ‘Caesarea Phillipi,’ which actually featured a temple dedicated to the pagan god, ‘Pan.’
Here’s an artist’s rendering of it:
And here’s a photo of the ruins from above the altar that still exist:
– The worship of Pan and the worship of Baal (both considered fertility and vitality gods capable of bestowing wealth) by the ancient Hebrews were really similar.
– celebrated their gods by participating in live sex acts of all sorts (even with children) in the style of an orgi.
– sacrificed their newborn infants….
– Huh. A culture that celebrates all sorts of sexual deviancy and predation against children as righteous…
and celebrates sacrificing its babies because they believe it enables them to live a more prosperous personal life…
sound familiar? …(But hey, that’s a story for another day.)
Anyway, here’s the passage from Luke:
“And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels...””
But see, here’s the thing…
– These things asscoiated with pan worship described above were going on right at that time on that altar…maybe right at that PRECISE moment…
Can you even imagine that?
The disciples are with Jesus and He’s praying right next to a temple where some of these things are happening…
Wouldn’t that be awkward? Can’t you see the disciples kinda like- “Hey Jesus, can we kinda go somewhere, you know…more ummm…christian to pray?”
But if that was the case, Jesus then pointedly shares an enduring truth…He told them-
“Guess what- If you’re ashamed of me here, I’ll be ashamed of you when you get to heaven!”
BUT THAT’S NOT HALF OF IT!!!
– In Matthew and Mark, after Peter identfies Jesus as the Savior, Jesus calls him ‘Cephas’ (or stone) and says, “It is upon this rock I will build my church.” Most everyone today teaches that Jesus is referring to Peter’s faith. And it’s this faith-(especially saving faith)- that forms the foundation of the body of Christ on earth…every time someone comes to Christ, the church is built a little further. And, of course that’s definitely true- But..
THERE’S A LOT MORE TO IT!
– Most westerners today miss an important detail about Caesaria Phillipi and the temple there that Jewish people of the time would have immediately identified when hearing the story…
– Remember that temple?
Guess what it was referrred to as in that time by the people of Caperneum (the area in which Caesrea Phillipi was located)?
– It was called, “The Rock”…so when Jesus talked about ‘the rock upon which (His) church would be built,” He was talking about more than just Peter’s faith- He was ALSO referring to how the exact epicenter of sin they were standing next to is the place the church MUST be founded. At the precise moment He’s telling them it’s not quite time to let the world know what the Holy Spirit had revealed to Peter, He’s, nevertheless, telling them His church will be established- not quietly away from those trapped in extreme sin- but right where those people are and right with those same people!
– This is even further confirmed when Jesus goes on to say (in Matthew’s account) that ‘The gates of Hell’ will not prevail against (the church).”
This is what was carved in the rock right above the altar in the temple of Pan. Guess what it’s name was?
You guessed it…They were known as ‘The Gates of Hades,” or the entry to the underworld. Jesus predicted that the church would prevail against the practices of paganism, idolatry, and sin…in the case of this particular temple, the results can be seen quite literally as it is a physical ruin now. (Which is kinda cool because at the time Jesus said these things, the church didn’t even exist yet…waoh…)
SO HERE’S THE POINT…
….we need to believe that the same is true for the church against what it faces today…faith can overcome the most dire situations of sin and destruction. The gates of hell itself cannot overcome it!
Some questions to ponder:
- Do we sometimes see sinful practices in our culture and say, “Oh well. It’ll never change?” Does this show the kind of faith we need to establish his church?
- Do we look at some of the sin in our own lives or those we love and say the same?
- Is there a co-worker or friend in school for which we can take a risk and show them we’re not ashamed of the gospel or his church?
- What have we really got to lose- and what are we promised to gain- in living full out and bold for Jesus?
Nothing, not even hell, can stop the church from being built as we share Jesus’ love with faith. So, today- have that conversation with the loved one that is caught in sin, volunteer in a ministry that helps people heal from the pain that sin brings, or even start a ministry of your own to do the same! No matter who this devotional brings to your mind or how long you’ve been praying, hoping, and contending for their salvation or release, there is hope for them. Have faith and don’t give up!
Thanks for reading! I’ll take any prayer requests in the comments…