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The Mission of Jesus Part 3

Jesus, the local boy, came to Nazareth as an itinerant rabbi and was given an opportunity to have his say. His audience, full of proud Nazarenes, understood Isaiah 61 to mean foreign neighbors would serve them and make them wealthy. With everyone listening intently Jesus read this familiar and deeply beloved passage. Yet to their shock and amazement he stops reading at the very point when judgment and servitude is pronounced on the Gentiles.

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The crowd witnessed against him, not for him, and was offended at how he took a text of judgment and turned it into an affirmation of mercy. Why would Jesus omit the verses they considered critical to the text? Stunned, they wait for further comments.

He continues,

Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’ And he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:23-27)

The Faith of a Widow

The widow in Sidon refers to 1 Kings 17:1-16. In the eight century BC the prophet Elijah denounced King Ahab for worshiping Baal and announced a famine before fleeing. As the famine set in Elijah goes to a small village called Zarephath near Sidon (Lebanon). He notices a widow gathering sticks to bake a final loaf of bread for her only son. With no other family to care for them and the food supply exhausted, she was making this her final act before giving in to death.

The prophet told her, “Give me the food!” How could he ask a desperate woman for her last morsel of food and expect her starving son to stand by watching?

According to her worldview, every god’s power was limited to their territory. Yahweh, of the land of Israel, could only help those living in Israel. Sidon was Baal’s country, and only Baal had power there. The widow assumed the God of Israel was powerless in her district.

Was this one reason why Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel? He wanted them to have home court advantage. He was proving to Israel that Yahweh could defeat Baal on his own turf. Yahweh was God over the whole earth.

Even Jonah thought he could flee from Yahweh by escaping the land of Israel on a ship. Wrong!

Naaman, the visiting Prime Minister from Damascus, took soil from Israel with him so he could pray to Israel’s God while living in Damascus. Naaman did not expect God to hear him unless he stood on some soil from the land. His solution was taking dirt to Damascus. This was not necessary. God is Lord of all.

In an age holding such beliefs, how could Elijah expect a starving widow to trust a prophet from Israel whose god, in her view, was powerless to help anyone in the region of Sidon?

The woman took an astounding leap of faith into the unknown. She obeyed the prophet and gave him the bread. She is rewarded with a jar of oil with an unlimited supply. Her radical faith in the God of Israel was sustained by a divine supply of oil, the food possibly coming from trading this valuable resource. Her story is a model of faith.

The Faith of a Syrian

Jesus’ second story is recorded in 2 Kings 5:1-15. Naaman, a royal official, was suddenly struck with leprosy. He follows the advice of his wife’s maid and travels to Israel for a cure. After visiting the king he heads to the home of Elisha. Naaman was a powerful man expecting extraordinary courtesy everywhere he went. To his surprise Elisha sends a servant with his instructions. Major insult! The servant tells Naaman to dip in the Jordan seven times.

Naaman was used to the melted snows of Mount Herman that flowed through his hometown, crystal clear cool water. Those in Damascus enjoyed the finest source of ever-flowing water in the Middle East. How could he be expected to get dirty in a muddy stream? Naaman leaves upset yet one of his servants encourages him to follow the prophet’s counsel. He dips seven times in the Jordan river and is healed.

Jesus presented a second Gentile whose remarkable faith was rewarded. To the members of the synagogue Jesus was saying: “If you want to receive the benefits of the new golden age of the Messiah, you must imitate the faith of a Gentile woman and man. I am not asking you to merely tolerate or accept them. You must see such people as demonstrating great faith and acknowledge they can instruct you in the nature of authentic faith.”

A Mission to Go Out and Attract In

Jesus edited the Isaiah text and showed a delicate balance between going out and attracting in. The Anointed One is sent to proclaim the captives free, illustrated by Elijah leaving Israel and helping a woman in Sidon. The Messiah will also attract people to come as Elisha attracted Naaman to Israel.

3 Qualities of Faith

In both of these stories faith is lived out in three areas: intellectual assent, obedience, and trust. The widow of Zarephath ascends intellectually to a place of knowing Yahweh can help her in Baal country. She trusts the God of Israel for tomorrow by obeying the prophet and giving him bread. She combines intellectual assent, obedience and trust.

Similarly, by traveling to Israel Naaman the Syrian validated that the God of Israel could help him. He eventually obeyed the prophet’s counsel and washed in the Jordan river. Without trusting the God of Israel for his future he would not have done so.

Jesus & Women

Another significant factor has to do with gender. The first story concerns a woman, the second a man. Jesus did not take stories of faith from Abraham, Moses or David. He selected stories involving a woman and a man, inaugurating a new fellowship in which men and women share equally. Jesus was revolutionary with regards to gender equality. Read the Gospels carefully and you will see Him doing this over and over. Jesus is presented in the temple to both Anna and Simeon. Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and calls Zachaeus out of a sycamore tree in Jericho. Consistently in His ministry He supports both Jew and Gentile, men and women.

Jesus gave evidence of mercy from those outside the covenant community. He was saying,

You really want redemption to come? It is not going to be by sitting around wondering when enemies are going to get what is coming to them? It will happen when you start showing mercy to those around you, to everyone created in God’s image.”

The congregation at Nazareth became angry. Our passage concludes,

When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.” (Luke 4:28-30)

Jesus disagreed with their political and economic goals and the people became furious. They drove him out of town to throw him off a cliff and stone him, yet he walked through the crowd and went on his way.

Jesus rejected the narrow nationalism of his day. Scripture about judgment was transformed into a message of grace and his listeners got upset. They became angry when Jesus suggested redemption is not dependent upon location or ancestry but being willing to show mercy, set the oppressed free, show compassion, even if persecuted.

Jesus reveals two very important things:

  1. Faith has three major components.
    1. Intellectual assent! An ongoing understanding of who God is.
    2. A daily walk of trust! Maintaining faith throughout life, no matter what happens.
    3. Obedience! Doing and fulfilling the commands of Jesus.
  2. To follow Him you must engage in the following:
    • Proclamation! Sharing the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
    • Justice advocacy! Bringing liberty to those oppressed.
    • Compassion! Meeting the felt needs of others.

The story is a snapshot of Jesus ministry. He proclaimed a message bringing interested listeners to a hostile response and violent behavior. Jesus’ life would end when an interested crowd turned hostile and violent, crying “Crucify Him!” In a few short years He would be placed on a cross and three days later walk out of a garden, the resurrected Savior.

The challenge

Will you live a life of faith, one of intellectual assent, trust and obedience? Will you engage yourself in the mission of Jesus, proclaiming the good news of His life, death, and resurrection? Will you engage in justice advocacy for those oppressed by doing acts of compassion that meet the needs of others?

How can you continue the mission of Jesus? Share your comments below.

The Mission of Jesus Part 2

Why did the people of Nazareth want to throw Jesus from a cliff? As we continue to explore the mission of Jesus our text in Luke gives us some clues.

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Luke 4:17-22

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son”

The Sermon

And Jesus reads from Isaiah 61, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. He reads the messianic text to people thinking the Messiah was coming from their town. He then sits down and gives a very short sermon, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. The sermon was actually the person reading the text.

What Jesus read is slightly different then Isaiah 61. Isaiah 61:2 reads, “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God. Jesus removes the day of vengeance of our God and adds a line from Isaiah 58, “to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to set the oppressed free. By inserting this phrase, his audience knew He has now made reference to the larger understanding of Isaiah 58, which declares, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him…Then shall your light break forth like the dawn…your righteousness shall go before you.

Jesus was saying,

You’re living in a land of foreign occupation, an oppressed land. Yet if you want redemption this is what you must do: Redemption will come when you show charity to the less fortunate, not when God brings vengeance upon your oppressors.”

Spoke well of Jesus or against Him?

Luke 4:22 is often translated, “And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words coming from his mouth. And they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’” This may not clearly represent the situation. Why would they say such wonderful things but want to drive Him off a cliff moments later?

The NKJV translates the verse, “So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. This is more accurate. They bore witness neither favorably or unfavorably. The Greek can be positive or negative, depending on the context.

Most translators prefer, “spoke well of him,” the NKJV stays neutral with “bore witness to Him.”

Kenneth Bailey, a New Testament scholar from the Middle East, fluent in Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, and other ancient languages believes the Greek would be more accurate translated, “And all witnessed against him, and were amazed at the words of mercy that came out of his mouth; and they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’”

Too often the last phrase is interpreted to mean how can the unlearned son of a carpenter read? Yet the Bible gives clues Jesus does not fit this description.

Jesus is reading Isaiah, what does this reveal? Literate! More than just read, He takes and deletes portions of Isaiah 61 and inserts information from Isaiah 58. Genius!

The Genius Jesus

Ray Vander Laan, a proponent of studying God’s word in the original Jewish context, addresses Jesus’ level of education. In the first century all youth in Galilee went to school. Boys were taught the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. The goal was for every boy to have memorized the first five books of the Bible by the age of 12. If a boy accomplished this he would continue his education. One way parents declared their 12-year old boy had done this was to take him to his first Passover, not meaning the actual first one. Children accompanied their parents from birth. A first Passover refers to the first time a son is old enough in faith to kill the lamb for their family.

“Now Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.” (Luke 2:41-42) He memorized the first 5 books of the Bible.

People sometimes think, “Well, Jesus is God. Of course he knew.” Too often His human nature is dismissed. Jesus had to memorize like all the other youth and we have an example to follow. Believers should value memorizing of Scripture.

Not many boys went to the next level. Imagine memorizing the first 5 books of the Bible. Those, like Jesus, who accomplished this would continue studying from ages 12 to 15 while learning the family trade. The focus became learning the rest of the Old Testament, memorizing the Psalms and Prophets. Jesus studied Scripture while developing carpenter skills, wood and stone craftsmanship.

Most boys were finished at 15. The next level required dedication, commitment, knowledge and ability. Many were unable to give the necessary time. They needed a natural ability to skillfully learn, similar to playing basketball for the NBA.

I was a good basketball player, making the high school team. The coaches could only select 15 from a junior and senior class of over 900 students. My team made it to the Elite 8 State Finals. We went up against some great players. Kevin Garnett, current NBA player for the Nets, played on a team at the time. I cannot play basketball like Kevin Garnett. Likewise, only a few students in Galilee had the ability to go to the next level of study. Jesus did!

How is this known? The advanced students studied the rest of the Old Testament with a teacher in authority, a special title. This limited number of instructors went through the process of memorizing the Old Testament, learning from another teacher in authority. The study continued from age 15 to 30.

At this 30 years of age two teachers in authority would either decree a graduate student as someone with authority or as someone not having the necessary skills. If not conferred they continued in the family business.

The Authority of Jesus

Jesus underwent the process to become a teacher with authority. He memorized the first 5 books of the Bible, went to the temple for his first Passover, learned the rest of the Old Testament, studied with one of these special teachers, then at age 30 completed His training and became designated as a teacher with authority.

What two special teachers granted Jesus this special title? Does the Bible tell us? Approaching the Jordan River John the Baptizer addressed the messianic authority of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” In other words, as a teacher with authority he attested his authority.

Who was the second person to attest the authority of Jesus? Heaven is ripped open and God became the second witness to the teaching authority of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son; with Him I am well pleased.” He is the only religious teacher in history receiving authority from God. When He speaks, God speaks.

What is Jesus saying?

The phrase “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” means they were asking, “Didn’t he grow up here? Doesn’t he know how we feel and how we understand this text? Doesn’t he understand the Messiah will come from our town and bring vengeance to our enemies? What does he mean redemption will come when we show charity to those around us? Are we not waiting for God to crush our occupiers and enemies?”

They saw Jesus as a hometown boy who understood their town’s messianic expectations. The good news Jesus shares and the merciful verses he reads were their stumbling block. Jesus had removed vengeance on the Gentiles from the equation. They were amazed, surprised, disappointed and upset at His words of mercy.

The people of Nazareth loved the promises in Isaiah 61 only as they understood them, as a town resettling after the Babylonian exile. Isaiah wrote, “They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.

Nazareth was founded to rebuild a former devastation. The citizens intended to possess a double portion. Gentiles would serve them and the wealth of foreign neighbors would flow to them. With the coming of the Messiah, the anointed one of God, hard work would be done by foreigners. The people of Nazareth would become wealthy thanks to their labor.

Instead Jesus proclaims, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus. He is the anointed One of God. He announces the dawning of the Messianic age as an event taking place before their eyes in him.

Jesus came to proclaim good news, to show compassion (recover of sight to the blind), and for justice advocacy (liberty to the captives and oppressed).”

Next week, we’ll look at the rest of Jesus’ message in the synagogue before the townspeople attempt to kill him.

The challenge

Proclaim good news, show compassion, and act as a justice advocate for those around you. Follow in the footsteps of Jesus and the mission He came to fulfill.

How can you proclaim the good news of Jesus to your neighbor? What acts of compassion have you shown lately? Share your comments below.

The Mission of Jesus Part 1

What was the mission of Jesus? Why did He come to earth? A passage from the gospel of Luke helps us understand this. I will be taking the next several weeks to unpack this important scripture.

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But before I do, let me ask you, who is God? Or maybe what is God? You might say that:

  • God is holy
  • God is powerful
  • God is omnipotent
  • God is love
  • God is wise

He can be described both abstractly and concretely.

  • God is a shepherd
  • God is a rock
  • God is living water
  • God is bread
  • God is a nursing mother
  • God is a father

These words not only create images but smells, touch and even taste. Scripture does not emphasize thinking about the goodness of God but rather “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

When examining the life of Jesus people describe him as “powerful, wise and gentle,” yet in concrete terms Jesus was born in Bethlehem, laid in a manger, and had the heavens and angels announce his birth. A manger is a place for water, not hay. Animals were brought out to graze. Food was not brought into a stable.

The word Bethlehem (bet lehem) means house of bread or place of bread. In Arabic the meaning is house of meat. I love this dual meaning with Arab brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth, which means “branch or shoot”, referencing the messianic words of Isaiah 11 which states, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.

Connecting the western and eastern understanding, Jesus is:

  • the Light of the world came into the world and announced by starlight.
  • the Bread of life and Lamb of God was born in the city of bread and meat.
  • the Living Water was placed in a water trough.
  • and, the Shoot from Jesse’s stump grew up in branch-town.

Jesus gave his inaugural address boldly and shockingly in branch-town, declaring His spirit-led messianic mission.

Luke 4:14-16

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.”

The town of Nazareth

Understanding the synagogue service requires some history regarding Nazareth, a town of about 200-250 people founded by returnees from Babylon in about 150 B.C. The people named the community Nazareth, deciding they were the ones where the Messiah would come. They named the town neser (branch), referencing the messianic words of Isaiah 11:1. They were saying, “We are Nazareth. We are Jesse’s family and the messiah is going to be from here.” Yet everyone looked down on them. Remember the often quoted saying, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” In other words, “What right do they have to claim the Messiah?”

The setting of Jesus speaking in Nazareth

The gospel of Luke is a sequential gospel, placing things in chronological order. This helps provide a proper context for the passage.

According to Luke, Jesus is baptized and spends 40 days in the wilderness preparing for ministry. After this He, “returns in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. Jesus ministers throughout the Galilee region. This suggests he was a member of the synagogues in a number of communities, including Nazareth and Capernaum.

Luke 8 gives the story of Jairus, the synagogue ruler of Capernaum. The man had various responsibilities. He was the custodian of the building and the master of ceremonies for weekly services. He had the responsibility to schedule synagogue speakers and record the Scripture read and discussed. A list was posted on the wall for the community. A portion from the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, was read along with a section from the prophets.

The Scripture reading was selected far in advance. Similar to Liturgical churches today they created something like a Scripture calendar, detailing what whould be emphasized each week. In Jesus’ day some believe the Scripture passage may have been selected as far as 200 years in advance, evidence points to at least 3 years. This has huge implications to the particular passage Jesus read on that particular day. God is not a God of coincidence. He arranged this moment years before it occurred.

Jesus, one of their own, did some wonderful things in Capernaum and was scheduled to speak in the Nazareth synagogue. The place may have been packed with townspeople. The speaking list posted Jesus as the selected teacher.

Citizens believed the Messiah would come from their community. Jesus healed people, cast out demons, and did amazing things in the region. They came to the synagogue wondering if one of their own was who they were waiting for, if this was the one they should be expecting.

Next week, we’ll look at the message Jesus shared…

The challenge

Grow in your understanding of God. He is holy and powerful our Shepherd and the Rock.

What does God mean to you? Share your comments below.

Called to Mission

Revelation 3:7-13

“‘Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open:

‘I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me. Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.

‘Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.

‘Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

mission

Ancient Philadelphia

Twenty-five miles southeast of Sardis, along the Hermus River valley, lays the high plateau city of Philadelphia. The city was established by the Pergamenian king Attalus II, described as “Philadelphus” because of a deep-seeded love for his brother. Along with textile and leather industries, a vine-growing district to the northeast contributed greatly to the city’s prosperity. Strategically located at the trade routes leading to Mysia, Lydia, and Phrygia, the place earned the title “gateway to the East.” Philadelphia disseminated Greek culture and language into far distant regions.

Philadelphia was also a center for pagan worship, having so many gods and temples the city was referred to as “little Athens.”

A faithful church

The letter to Philadelphia does not contain disapproval or reproach; it addresses a church keeping the faith. Churches can have a strong testimony and a vibrant witness; not every church experiences trouble. Although local believers were possibly kicked out of the local synagogue, Jesus is described as “the one who has the key of David” and is the door into divine fellowship.

Long after the surrounding country succumbed to Muslim control under Turkey, Philadelphia was a Christian community until 1392. Philadelphia was a faithful church.

An open door

The church had an open door of mission for the kingdom. They had the geographical ability to widely spread the message of Jesus everywhere.

When addressing mission, Paul mentioned open doors on several occasions. Writing to the Corinthian church of his plans to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, he declares, “There is a wide-open door for a great work here.” (1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col 4:3)

The church is called to mission.

A doorway to divine fellowship

The church had obeyed God, did not deny Jesus, and gained an open door to divine fellowship.

A humbling message

“I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue … to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.”

When believers are verbally attacked and denounced by others, those people will eventually have to humble themselves and acknowledge Jesus as the true Messiah. (Romans 14:11)

The promise

In a city known for various games and festivals, a promised crown was especially appropriate. Perseverance would lead to a victorious crown.

The city often experienced devastating earthquakes, causing people to flee and set-up temporary housing in rural areas. The promise of permanence within the New Jerusalem held a special meaning.

William Barclay wrote about Philadelphia, “When a man served the state well … the memorial which the city gave him was to erect a pillar in one of the temples with his name inscribed upon it.” (Letters to the Seven Churches, p. 70) Jesus promises overcomers, “All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it.” His followers are forever honored in the house of God.

Jesus promises that the faithful belong to God, are citizens of the New Jerusalem, and maintain a special relationship with Him.

The message today

What motivates you? Are you pursuing opportunities to serve in the kingdom?

Expect His help but also expect to be criticized by others. Not everyone is happy when you successfully represent Jesus.

An urgent need

John Stott accurately prescribes the church as urgently needing believers of profound zeal, willing to count all things loss for God’s glory and willing to hazard life, comfort, career, and reputation for Him. Open doors are many, but there are few going through them.

“He sets before us the open doors of salvation and of service. He bids us go in through the one to receive salvation and out through the other to give service.” (What Christ Thinks of the Church, pp. 103-104).

The challenge

Pursue open doors provided by God. Seek opportunities to make disciples and advance His kingdom.

What doors have God opened for you?  Share your comments below.

Storming the Gates of Hell

Bringing love, justice, and peace to the world

What is our role as the church? To discover this we need to look at Jesus and His work on earth. 1 John 3:8 states: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

The cross is victory over the powers holding people in bondage; sin, death, and the devil. As God’s emissaries, believers are called and empowered to continue the work Jesus began with his life, death and resurrection.

Jesus desires to use you to build His church and advance His kingdom. Matthew 16 helps you to better understand your role.

Matthew 16:15-18

He (Jesus) 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.

Gates of hell

Caesarea Philippi – Temple of Pan and Cave known as the Gates of Hell

City of false gods

Jesus travels with His disciples 20 miles north of Galilee to the district of Caesarea Philippi. In this area is a rocky hillside where shrines dedicated to the god of Pan, Echo, and Hermes existed. Next to these shrines is a large cave where a powerful stream once flowed, called the “Gates of Hell”.

The worshippers of Pan would perform human sacrifices in the cave and cast the remains into a natural abyss at the back of the cave.

The living God

In this area where other god’s required human sacrifice, Peter confesses Jesus to be “the Son of the living God.” God brings life, not death. Jesus promised in John 10:10, “I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.”

An advancing kingdom

In this passage Jesus is saying,

The church will overcome these lesser gods – the god of Pan, Echo, and Hermes. Other gods focus on self, materialism, pride, fame, sex, power and bring death. I will build my church over these things and the gates of hell shall not prevail against my advancing kingdom.”

Storming the gates of hell

We advance the kingdom by charging the gates of hell, as inaugurated by God’s reign of love, justice, and peace. Where there is despair, bring hope. Where there is unbelief, bring faith. Where there is hatred, bring love. Where there is sickness, offer healing.

We are to be walking, talking, representatives of Jesus to the world.

Committed to the Church

Connect to a community of faith. You cannot effectively advance the kingdom of God on your own. Believers working together with a common goal make it happen.

We need one another. Paul refers to the church as the Body of Christ, with everyone having an important function. You need the church and the church needs you.

Promised victory

When we work together what does Jesus say will happen? “They shall not prevail against us!” The keys of the kingdom have been given to us.

Victory has been promised. We simply need to be willing to advance on the gates of hell.

The challenge

Commit yourself to the task of storming the gates of hell until His imminent return. Be intentional to turn people to Jesus at home and work by displaying His love, justice, and peace to the world.

Listen to my podcast “Build the Church, Advance the Kingdom” The podcast gives a more in-depth discussion of this passage of scripture.

What are some ways that you can storm the gates of hell? Share your comments below.