Summary: We are blessed as a church when Jesus is Lord. And when Jesus is Lord, the gates of hell will not prevail against us.
The Gates of Hell
November 12, 2006
Scripture: Matthew 16:13-27
This story takes place in Cesarea, Philippi. Jesus knew his time on earth was getting close to the end so he wanted to have a heart-to-heart talk with his disciples. He wanted to talk to them straight. So he went about 25 miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee so he could get out of the Jewish region, where they were plotting to kill him. And he went up to Cesarea, Philippi where there were very few Jewish people. There would be less pressure there and he could have a little time with his disciples. Jesus wanted to make sure they really understood him. He wanted to make sure that when he left, they would know HIM well enough that they could carry on effectively in his absence. So in this heart to heart talk that Jesus is preparing to have with his disciples, the whole plan of salvation is at stake. The gospel message - the good news of his coming, is on the line. He has to make sure they understand.
Now, today, we’re here in this beautiful sanctuary. We’re away from the pressures of our day to day life. I’ve taken the clock down from the back of the church for today. You’re all back in your own pews (not like a couple of weeks ago), and now, as your pastor, I want to have a heart-to-heart talk with you. Lord willing, not because I’m leaving here, but because we’re working together to build this church.
(O.K. Are you with me? I want your undivided attention this morning - and you always do so well at that - but I want everyone, from the youngest to the oldest to join in our heart-to-heart talk today.) It’s not going to be long - but I don’t want anything to distract you from God’s word to you today.
Now...let’s look at our text. The first thing Jesus asks his disciples is “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Let’s stop right there for a minute. Because there’s something really important about WHERE Jesus asked this question. See, he waited until he got to Cesarea Philippi. And the reason he did that is because of all the regions around there, this area was probably the most mixed religiously of any other reason. When Jesus asked the question, “Who do you think I am?” there were at least 14 temples, or places of worship, for the god Baal within about a 5 to 6 miles radius. And so they were passing all these other places of worship. Behind them, in the cliff, was the Greek god, PAN who many of the people came to worship. In front of would have been the temple that was built for Ceasar and we all know what the people had to do every year - come and bow and say, “Ceasar is Lord.” So in the middle of this religiousity, and so-called worship - Jesus takes his core group of people aside and he asks them a very important question. Who do YOU say that I am? And Peter understands the question. And he says, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”
Every one of the gospels talks about the word Christ. Christ and Messiah are the same. Obviously one is Hebrew and one is Greek. But they both mean the same - it means, “the anointed one.” In other words, when Peter looked at Jesus, he said, “We want you to know that we know that you ARE the anointed one. You’re not one of the prophets. You’re not Jeremiah. You’re not Elijah. You’re not just an incredible person in the religious life of Jesus history. You are the anointed one.