An involved siege on a fortified castle is not something you associate with Christmas. But I ask you to go on a quick journey with me.
“When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven! And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” Then he instructed his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Matthew 16:13-21 NET
Jesus just told us a bunch of things that may not be so obvious on the surface. First off, we see Him conversing with his disciples in an almost pop quiz sort of moment. He was asking who people say He is, hoping that someone would have gotten it into their head He was the messiah. When they named a bunch of people besides the messiah, Jesus asked them who they thought he was. Peter, in typical fashion, speaks first and actually gives the correct answer. Jesus then uses a play on words to make a striking illustration. Peters’s original name, if you’ll remember, was Simon. In their language, this actually means listener…and it seems fitting that then Peter gives the correct answer here. Then comes the play on words. The term Petros, which is used as the name for Peter in this passage refers to his name as given by Jesus, obviously, but it actually means a rock, a piece of stone. Like this:
Then he says that upon this “petra” he will build the kingdom. A petra often refers to an immovable mountain of rock, like this:
It is apparent that Peter as a rock means he was hard, rough, sturdy, etc… but on his own not capable of amounting to much. But with Jesus, as he had just proclaimed Jesus to be the messiah, he could be a part of something much larger and important than himself. Like a powerful army of rocks, gathered together in a singular purpose. Building the church of Jesus Christ on the foundation of the rock of Jesus. It’s like Peter said “you are the messiah” and Jesus says “bingo, rock-man! And on this mountain of rock you’ve just correctly identified as the messiah, Jesus, I’ll build my church.”
Then Jesus adds what at first seems to be an afterthought. He says “and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Unless there is a large earthquake, or a torrential rain causing mudslides or an eruption of a volcano, a mountain or a foundation built of large stones don’t do much “sieging”. In fact, we wouldn’t think of a rock or a mountain as anything but an inanimate object. But here Jesus is saying something quite profound, he is indicating here that us believers that have become members of the body of Christ, built on the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ. That means we are meant for action. And Jesus specifically says that when we follow Him into battle, using His battle plans, and His weapons, the gates of Hell cannot withstand our attack. Let’s be honest, gates are not an offensive weapon but a defensive one. They don’t attack anyone or anything, they either keep things inside or keep things out. I think many times we view being a Christian as being on the defensive. But clearly Jesus saw us in a battle against Satan and his armies, laying siege to take hold of them and bind them and set the captives free.
So now you’re saying, this is great, but what does this have to do with Christmas? Great question. The first battle plans for this siege were revealed to us in Genesis 3 when God told Eve that the messiah would come from her somewhere and sometime in the future to defeat Satan. And when Jesus was born on that first Christmas, this marked the birth of our supreme battle commander here on earth. Born to lead us, save us, set us free, to defeat Satan. So Christmas is the time we celebrate the arrival of our savior and lord, Jesus the messiah and king. All because of a baby boy born and laid in the manger.
To start at the beginning of this Advent/Christmas series, click here
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