Matthew 16:16-19 – Simon Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by 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 overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
When I went to Israel last year, we visited the ancient walled citadel and city of Megiddo. While there we saw the unearthed ruins of the massive city gates. These were double gates set within walls which were six feet deep. Recesses within the gates provided rather large rooms where stone benches lined the enclosure. These rooms were used during the time of the Old and New Testaments to conduct much of the legal business of the town. Here, the elders held court. Here, business deals were finalized and sealed. Here, beggars sat looking for alms. Here and in the town market square, men gathered, milling about, looking for work. Here, farmers passed through bringing their produce into the city. Here, guards were posted to protect against marauders. The gates of the city were not only important from the standpoint of protection of the inhabitants, but they were also economically and judicially significant.
When our Saviour, Jesus Christ, referred to the Gates of Hades, or Hell, in today's passage, it was said in the context of the powerful judicial importance of the city gates. Within the city gates sat the courts of law. Whenever an accusation was brought against someone, it was brought there. Usually, the decision went to whomever could offer the biggest bribe or ransom to the judges. When Jesus said that the Gates of Hell would not overcome Christ's church, His reference was to this, namely, that no ransom could be offered which would surpass His own sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary for you and for me. Jesus paid the price to gain our freedom. For those who believe and can confess with Simon Peter "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." the Gates of Hell will have no power over them. Jesus Christ will prevail for those who believe. That brings me to those who don't, won't, or can't believe. Someone once said, "When you live within the Gates of Hell long enough, even hell itself becomes attractive to you." Which will it be? The key to the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus Christ, or incarceration within Hell itself? Think about it. It's your choice.
Prayer: Father God, in Jesus' name I come to you. I admit my failure and all my faults. I confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and I ask for forgiveness in Jesus' name. I pray for the power of the Holy Spirit within me to enable me to live as Jesus has called me to live, for I ask all this in Jesus' Holy name. Amen.