Prepare to Listen. On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
Prayerfully Read Matthew 16:13-20
13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 14And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ 15He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ 16Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 17And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
When Peter identified Jesus as “Messiah, the Son of the living God,” he probably had visions of him overthrowing the Romans. They were in a remote district on the northern border of Israel, far from the attention of both the religious and political rulers. It was an ideal place to plan a revolution. Jesus didn’t do so. Instead, he taught about his church, a new concept for those disciples.
He said it would be built on the rock of Peter’s correct confession, “and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Hades isn’t a reference to the place of the dead separated from God, but to “all the forces of evil and destruction” and death. We’ve often presumed Jesus meant the church will withstand attack from hades and evil. But that’s not what Jesus said. It’s not the gates of the church that will hold against hades, but the gates of hades that will not hold against the church. In other words, the church will invade evil forces, taking them head on.
This is the task of the church, to force its way into evil, destruction and death. Places where the weak, the vulnerable, the wounded struggle to live and find meaning. The church isn’t meant to bring about change by working with the rich and powerful. It’s meant to prioritize compassion, mercy, solidarity with the outcasts and wounded and get its hands dirty, touching the wounds of those caught in the trap of evil. Until the church does, it will not prevail against the evil in the world.
How do you think the church can be the church against which hades can’t prevail?
Respond in Prayer
Lord, guide and strengthen your church so that it takes on evil and prevails. Amen.
Live Obediently. Be the church that takes on evil.
 Green, Michael. The Message of Matthew. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press. 2000, p. 181.
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Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.