In Mt. 16 Yeshua takes His boys on a Field Trip: to the Gates of Hell!
Imagine that you wake up one day in the Galilee and Yeshua says to you and the other disciples, “Come on guys—we’re going on a field trip!”
In Matthew 16 we see Yeshua and his disciples heading north from Capernaum, His headquarters. By car, it only takes an hour. But by foot, it is a good 12-hour hike. So why would Yeshua take His disciples on such a journey and to where they going?
Would you believe me if I told you, “To the gates of Hell?”
Matthew tells us that they visited Caesarea Philippi. Not be confused with the port city of Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast, Caesarea Philippi was an utterly pagan city. It was there that they worshipped Pan, the half goat, half man god of Greek mythology. He is often associated with every kind of perversion one can imagine.
Caesarea Philippi was so steeped in immortality that the rabbis reviled it and taught that no good Jew would ever go there. And yet, Yeshua, the greatest Jew of all, takes His Jewish disciples there on a field trip. But why?
When you come with us to Israel, we like to stop here as well. It is quite an impressive site. There are a few things you will notice.
This city can be found at the foot of Mount Hermon. There is a colossal rock wall, referred to as the ‘Rock of the Gods’, as there are many pagan shrines built into the rock. However in the center of the massive rock is a huge cave called the “Cave of the Gods” and inside is a very deep pool and a powerful stream of water flowed. This cave was called the “Gates of Hells”, and these pagans were convinced that this was the passageway for the gods between earth and the underworld.
Yeshua arrives at this most awful city with His disciples and begins a conversation. Let’s read:
When Yeshua 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.”
Yeshua 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—Which is Greek for Rock—and on this rock I will build my congregation, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. (Matt. 16:13-18)
So Yeshua, standing before this massive rock that was thought many to be the source of immense spiritual power, says to Peter, who would lead the body of believers in its early days, in me you are far more powerful than this rock. He was saying that powers of Satan and pagan worship are not worthy to be compared to the Gospel message in the mouths of his apostles and prophets—whom Paul calls the foundation of the New Testament congregation (Eph. 2:20)
But then he says, “The Gates of Hell” will not prevail against the Messianic community. Now Gates do not typically go on the attack. Gates do not move. Of course in context He is referring to the Cave of the Gods, which was only a few meters from where they were standing. He was saying all the powers of hell could not overcome the body of believers.
Yeshua was not just another Greek god or mythical figure… as Peter said, he was the Messiah, the Son of the living God and the Gates of Hell will not overcome his congregation.