Paul prays that the “eyes of your heart may be enlightened” to see certain things. He prays that we would see and know the hope to which we have been called, the riches of the glorious inheritance we have in Christ (all that he intends to share with us as his co-heirs), and the incomparably great power for those of us who believe.
Paul prays that we see these things with our hearts! They are realities, but not ones which can be seen with our physical eyes. What do you think it takes for us to experience such “enlightened hearts?”
How mindful are you when it comes to the hope to which we have been called (the hope of our salvation, life to the full, and eternal life in Christ)?
How mindful are you of the glorious inheritance we have been given in Christ?
How do these spiritual realities affect your daily decisions, thoughts, attitudes, and actions?
THIS INCOMPARABLY GREAT POWER (OF RESURRECTION)
Paul says that we who believe have access to God’s incomparably great power. What kind of power do you think he is talking about? Is it the power to simply will into existence whatever we decide we want?
The power Paul specifically refers to is the power of resurrection! The power we have been given is the same power God exerted when he raised Jesus from the dead. God wants to exert this same power in and through us as his church!
What is resurrection? What occurs when resurrection takes place?
According to this passage, we have, are being, and will be resurrected.
According to Paul, when did we first experience a spiritual resurrection (died and were raised to a new life)?
How should this reality impact our daily lives?
If each of us lives as we are called, believing we have been made new in Christ, how will this impact the culture of the church? What will daily, communal life in God’s kingdom look like?
The community and all creation is to experience and display the power of resurrection.
HOW DO WE TAP INTO THIS INCOMPARABLY GREAT POWER
In order for us to tap into this incomparably great power of resurrection and allow God to continually exert it in and through us, what must we do?
At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus commends Peter for confessing that Jesus is the Messiah. As a young Jewish man in the first century, Peter would have believed he was confessing Jesus as the one who would drive the Romans out of Palestine, return Israel to its proper place exalted above the Gentiles, and forever establish the Kingdom of David to escort in a new and glorious age.
Given that Jesus would have understood his disciples’ belief that the Messiah would establish God’s kingdom, it makes sense why he immediately follows up his commendation of Peter’s confession with comments about the church (his kingdom on earth). Jesus says that “on this rock” he will build his kingdom, and the “Gates of Hades” will not overcome it.
Caesarea Philippi was a very pagan-oriented city. It had been built by Herod Philip in honor of Caesar Tiberius, and was therefore very “Roman” in culture. It was noted as a center for the worship of the god, Pan. The worship and religious festivals held in honor of Pan wreaked immorality, debauchery, and all forms of evil and decadence. Animal sacrifices were offered at a particular rock formation/cliff which featured a ravine, at the bottom of which was a natural spring. Goats were sacrificed to Pan and thrown into the ravine, turning the water red with blood. The location became known to all as “the Gates of Hades” (entrance to the realm of the dead).
Thus, when Jesus says that he will build his church on “this rock,” he may literally be talking about this rock formation which symbolized the worldly, decadent, idolatrous culture of Caesarea Philippi. Jesus seems to be saying, “Yes, I am the Messiah, and I will build a kingdom (my church). I am going to build it right here in the middle of all this worldliness and sin, and these ‘Gates of Hades’–the idolatry, materialism, immorality, etc. of this world–will not overcome it!”
Then, in verses 21-28, Jesus tells his followers what will have to happen first before God can raise up this glorious church! Jesus will have to first have the faith to die! He goes on to explain that, for the church to be what it is called to be, his disciples must also be willing to die–die to self! They must willingly take up their crosses daily!
What practical lessons can we take from MATTHEW 16:13-28 for ourselves? Consider these questions:
Does our church glorify God in the way we live and love each other and those outside our fellowship on a daily basis?
Are we overcoming and transforming the world around us the way Jesus said we would when he spoke those words at Caesarea Philippi?
Are you dying to self daily to make sure you have done your part to make the church the glorifying and transforming body it is supposed to be? If not, in what areas must you repent and embrace taking up your cross?
When you look at the church, do you see the kingdom of God and feel a responsibility to Jesus and the brothers and sisters in Christ who comprise it, or do you merely see a religious organization and people to whom you feel little connection and obligation?
Are we willing to die today, and everyday, so that God can raise us up both individually and collectively to something more glorious and more glorifying in his name!