When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Matthew 16:13-18 NIV
Today we strolled through the wilderness at Dan (another Tel – this one dating back 3000 years); stopped at the ruins of Caesarea Phillipi (where Jesus asked the disciples, “who do you say I am?” And Peter answered “you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”); explored the castle of Nimrod; ate at a Druze restaurant on the side of a volcano; stood on the Golan Heights hearing the sounds of gunfire in nearby Syria which is tearing itself apart in civil war; and toured an ecologically sound olive oil press.
As we wandered around Ceasarea Phillipi (which really is just a cliff and a few short walking trails), my Mother said to me, “it does make you wonder why Jesus brought the disciples here…I mean, other than a teachable moment, there’s nothing here.”
Sometimes, when someone asks me a spiritually significant question, I find myself answering with words that come to me seemingly from nowhere. It’s like I’m answering without quite knowing what I am going to say. Time and faith have taught me that the words aren’t coming from nowhere, that they are in fact coming from the Holy Spirit.
That’s what I believe happened when I gave her this answer: “But, Mom, it was one hell of a teachable moment. I mean, here is Jesus standing in front of what everybody in that day believed were the gates of Hell, and he’s saying to the disciples ‘upon you, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.’ So – when I die, and it seems like the end, the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Or when you are imprisoned and beaten for your faith, the gates of hell will not prevail against it…” I had to stop talking then, because we had both choked up. And as we took shaky breaths, laughing a little at how quickly the tears had come upon us, I marveled again at our saviour, Jesus.
I marveled at his ability to use his surroundings to underscore his words. I marveled at this promise – that no matter what the world or the forces of evil could throw at those who believe in Jesus, they would not be overcome. Not while Jesus was with them (and we know he promised to be there to the end of time). I marveled at his reckless, beautiful, overwhelming conviction that the Gospel message was safe in the hands of a bunch of unschooled fishermen whose job it was to take this message to the world. I marveled that even now, two thousand years later, through all the scandals and failures over the years, the promise rings true.
If you believe in Jesus and live your life according to his teachings, you ARE the church. And the gates of hell will never prevail against you.
Be encouraged, I know I am.
Geoff and our guide Aharon, with the ruins of Dan in the background.
Standing in one of the empty alcoves where there used to be a stone “god.” Jesus stood in front of these statues as Peter declared him the Son of the Living God.
Exploring the castle of Nimrod. Wow, I absolutely love castles. And got a great workout running up and down stairs. 🙂
On the Golan Heights – dad and our guide, Aharon, looking out at Syria. Aharon served in the Yom Kippur war when he was 19 years old. His passion for his country showed as he told his story.
Our tour guide at Olea Essence, Courtney, who happens to be from Ottawa. She did a great job of showing us around this ecologically sound producer of fine olive oils and skin products (it’s how they use the “waste” after pressing the oil out!).