Matthew 16:16-18 (2011)

Matthew 16: Jesus builds his church out of humble people to reveal his glory, (and in glorifying himself in us, we ourselves are glorified in him). And by the way – Jesus owns hell. He can take the doors off if he wants to!

16:16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And 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. This verse is reminding me of John 6:44, telling us that it is not by our merit, that we by our own wisdom choose God and seek his will, but rather by God’s own calling that we follow Jesus. Jesus makes a distinction between fathers in this verse, as if to say; It’s not anything your father has taught you. It’s not anything your heritage could offer you because your father, his father and all your lineage is only man. They are only flesh and blood. But my father is God, and he desires to treat you like a son by offering you truth. A truth that no flesh and blood can know. A truth that leads to salvation.

16:18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rockb I will build my church, and the gates of hellc shall not prevail against it. This is a verse has been abused by the Roman Catholic authorities to say that Peter was a divine, infallible authority over the church of Christ Jesus, and a succession of divine, infallible authorities would come from Peter as he passed down his headship over the church through generations. To put a quick stop to this false exegeses read Acts 15 and note how James makes an authoritative call over Peter, and also Galatians 2:11 where Peter is rebuked by Paul for being in the wrong. Because this verse has been abused some have tried to change what it  means to take the emphasis away from Paul, but it’s pretty hard to avoid that Jesus is talking to Paul here. One commentator (whose comments I really appreciate!) explained it simply and I’m convinced he’s right. Jesus is commenting on Peter’s honor to come; he is going to lead the apostles, and indeed the church into it’s ministry of disciplizing both Jew and Gentile. In those days building where built using a foundation that was simply, I big rock in the ground. Likewise Jesus is informing Peter that he is going to be the first piece in what Jesus is building up as a mighty house – the church. And we can see that this happens in Acts 2, where Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit launches the ministry of the church into action. In this verse I can see a big issue and a small issue that Jesus is addressing. The small issue is Peter. Jesus comments on an honor he will receive, not so that he might boast (Jesus just finished saying that Peter has nothing worth boasting about in the previous verses) but maybe to offer a prophetic affirmation to Peter, the other disciples, and the rest of the Church, that Jesus had acknowledged this honor before Peter denies him three times, giving us further trust in  Peter that he is a true apostle despite his shortcomings. That is the smaller picture. The bigger picture is Jesus’ words I will build my church. Whose church is being built? Jesus’ church. Where is he building it? He’s going to start it right on top of a man named Simon, who Jesus renamed Peter which means rock to signify that he would be the one rock on which a magnificent building is built.
It might also be important to note here that Jesus is not actually talking about a literal church building. That is obvious Peter is not a literal rock, Jesus never builds a literal building on top of Peter either (because that would have killed him). In this metaphor Jesus is using, Peter, who is a person, is called a rock, like that which is chosen for the first part of building a house. Likewise, the rest of house is also constructed from people just like Peter. Not everyone is a rock, not everyone is a door, each person playing their part in the construction of Jesus’ church – a body of people just for him!

Now the really cool part! I will build my church, and the gates of hellc shall not prevail against it. I’m saying this part is really cool because I heard Ed Stetzer preach on this verse and mention something that I had never thought of before. Specifically, gates are primarily defensive, not offensive. The implication totally changes my understanding of the phrase, but makes so much sense when you see it in context of the rest of the bible. If hell has gates… they might as well take them off, because the church that Christ is building will not be limited by any gates. Thats right. Jesus is planning on taking people out of hell. He approaches hell and like Sampson, rips off it’s gates and shouts Who’s with me? Nobody is trapped inside any more. Anyone who hears Jesus invitation is free to follow him and walk right out of hell as if it had never had gates at all.
Why is this so profound? Many people, including myself read this verse as if the church was on the defense and hell was coming against it with an arsenal of… gates?  Our understanding of hell is so often skewed because we view hell through a paradigm of fear. A terrible place, told to me by a preacher with a trembling voice. Many think that hell is where the devil lives, and going to hell means joining the devils team. Wrong! God owns hell, and he’s preparing it as a place to punish the devil for his crimes, and anyone else who walks with the devil. That’s every person that every lived whose path hasn’t been intercepted by God himself. So you see hell is not an army, it is a prison. It is silly to fear the attach of a prison! Prisons are places made by governments to contain those given to injustice. No-one looks a prison and fears being attacked by it. Rather someone (who is given to injustice) might look at a prison and fear the authority who can send them there. Furthermore, Jesus says that the gates of prison will not prevail against his building of the church. Now, everyone one of us is given to injustice because we are selfish. We care more about our pleasure that the right treatment of others. We are all waiting in line until the day we die to be sent by the governing authority to prison for our injustice. But Jesus, under the instruction of the Father, through the power of the Spirit says; I love these prisoners, even though they are unjust. I will build my church out of these prisoners and the gates of their prison will not not hold me back from those I love.

Oh Lord! This is very good news, and I’m getting excited over the imagery you’ve used to reveal your plan and victory! Thank you for your mercy!! Thank you for your strength and love for us, fighting for us when we would not fight for us ourselves. I am one of them Lord, a prisoner, convicted rightly for my lack of regard for your perfect justice – following my own way of selfishness. But because your love is right. Because your heart is BIG, so big that you share your love with sinners, you have set me free and made me a son. I was a outcast, a prisoner and a criminal and you made me a son. The fathers I know in the world reject their sons when they are sent to prison, or when their sons disregard for justice dis-honors their name. But you are not a man that your love should expire, or that your promises are limited. You find the dis-honorable son and embrace him, persuading him to desire righteousness with the lavishing of your loving example, and giving him the power to become righteous by the working of your Holy Spirit, given to us through the sacrifice of your son whose blood atones the wicked.
Lord, I’m reminded of the many people I know whose life is still nothing more that a waiting list to hell. People who don’t know your redeeming love are many. Campbell River, Canada. This whole generation in the world to you, so many who are still waiting for your authority to come down on them, convicting them of their injustice. Be merciful, as you are a merciful God. Love this wicked generation, just as you have loved me – a wicked man. Remove the gates and call out to the lost. Open their ears. Don’t hold them back from your glorious kingdom. Forgive them Lord, just as you have forgiven me. Your heart is BIG Lord SO BIG. Bigger than all the generations of the earth could fill. Open the gates of hell and call the sinners, change them, make them holy by the power of your son and let your love be the glory of their life.

We are not worthy Lord. But you have made us hungry! We deserve hell, but you have made us desire heaven. Feed us please Lord. Feed this generation with your life for your names sake Lord. For the glory of the Lord, feed the lost that we might be found in you, forever singing the praises of our precious king, savior, lover.  Our worship.

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