The Gospel of Matthew tells of a time when Jesus engaged His disciples at a monument to hell, death, and darkness. The city of Caesarea Philippi was only twenty-five miles from the Jewish cities of Galilee and yet it was a million miles away from the worship of the true God. Sitting at the base of Mount Hermon, Caesarea Philippi was the center of worship for the Greek god, Pan. The local people built shrines and temples to Pan in the rock cliff face that stood over the entrance to a cave that they believed to be the entrance to the underworld – a Gate of Hell. The people believed that each winter the gods descended into the underworld through the cave entrance and returned to the surface of the earth in the spring. As the god of shepherds, flocks, and mountains, Pan was worshiped as a god of fertility, requiring dark deeds of bestiality and temple prostitution. The residents of Caesarea Philippi believed that their sexual perversions would ensure Pan’s return. The darkness was easy to see.
It was, most likely, in the face of this Gate of Hell that Jesus spoke.
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And 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. And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19)
“On this rock” – the confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God – Jesus builds his church and the gates of Hell, all of them, will not prevail. That includes Manikarnika Ghat and the fog of Hinduism. Gates cannot stand before the Kingdom of God. The mission of God – the work of the Church and agencies like Mission India – proclaims the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ to everyone living behind gates of Hell. Whether the Church is in India or the USA, it is our joy to boldly tell the story of Jesus, no matter how dark the place.
Look for the light – it is here. It is Jesus!
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5