The “gates of hell” at Caesarea Philippi (photo by Galen Dalrymple, January 2016)
DayBreaks for 8/31/16 – Seeing the Real Jesus
It is interesting how art depicts Jesus so differently from one culture to another. Anglo-Saxon descendants tend to portray him as a white man while African-Americans portray his with their skin color. Asians presume to think of his as Asian. The Lakota Sioux described Jesus as “the buffalo calf of God.”
There are those who love Jesus – and there are those who deeply hate him. No other person throughout history has evoked such a wide range of emotions. You’d think that for someone who lived 2000 years ago that this would no longer be the case – but it is. Why? Because there is something different about Jesus. He wasn’t just a Caesar or rabbi or prophet – he claimed much more for himself than that.
In Matthew 16, Jesus takes his disciples to Caesarea Philippi toward the northern end of Israel. It was a center of pagan worship – most notably of the god, Pan. In the time of Jesus, a great, deep cave shielded by a massive roof of rock was there that dropped seemingly straight down into the center of the earth and it was referred to as “the gates of hell”. Pan worshippers would make human sacrifices there by tossing people into the abyss. If the water from a nearby stream started to flow red with the blood of the sacrifice(s), the worshippers assumed the gods were pleased. If not, more would be thrown in until the water did turn red.
Jesus chose this setting to ask his disciples who they thought we was. Simon Peter makes his famous confession there at that place and said: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus blesses Peter for that confession, and perhaps looking at the rock over the gates of hell, says that Peter got it right and that upon that rock, Jesus would build his church.
Soon thereafter, though, Jesus reveals that he must go to Jerusalem to die. Peter is disturbed and pulls Jesus aside, telling him that he cannot do that. Instead of blessing Peter for trying to save him, he calls Peter “Satan”. I’m sure Peter didn’t see that coming!
Why did Jesus say this? Because the Jews had been subjugated for most of their history: Egyptians, Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Philistines, Greeks, Romans…all had dominated and ground the Jews into the dust. And the Jews were waiting all that time for the deliverer, the Messiah, to come and grind the enemy into dust. That’s what Peter wanted – that’s what they all wanted. But Jesus calls Peter “Satan” because of Peter had a predetermined end in mind for Jesus, Peter and the rest of the Jews, and Peter wasn’t about to let Jesus do something else.
Here’s the point: many may make the right declaration about Jesus, but still only see him as a means to an end instead of the end (Alpha/Omega) himself. Peter would have to learn to trust Jesus. We must learn to trust him, even when things seem horribly off track. That’s not easy when the pain sears our hearts and souls like a red-hot poker being shoved through the middle of us. But we must be careful not to construct our own little vision for Jesus and what he will do and won’t do and when and why he does anything. We must learn, as Peter would have to learn, to simply trust that Jesus knew what he was doing. After all, Jesus was going to die for Peter’s sake – something that would be far better for Peter than grinding the Romans into fine dust.
Can I learn to trust Jesus? Isn’t that what this Christian life is about? Accepting His Lordship, His RULE, and the fact that He knows what He is doing and He will get it done in the way that is most beneficial for us!
Remember: Jesus isn’t the means to our end – he is the end for which we are destined!
PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for the great challenge you put before us with the question you asked Peter – and which you ask us! I pray, Lord, that you will keep us from our own vision of who you are and what you must/should do and learn to trust in your work and vision for us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.