Since the days Jesus walked the earth, people have been wondering and speculating about who exactly Jesus was. Some say He was a good teacher and others say He was the Son of God. Some say He was a prophet, and others say He was the most influential prophet of all time.
Today I took the students of the KIVU Gap Year to the Golan Heights where Matthew wrote about a similar question the disciples wrestled with while Jesus was on the earth. Matthew 16:13 is the section in the gospels where Jesus turns to his band of followers and asks, “Who do people say that I am?”
This particular site is actually a place where people came to worship the pagan god Pan. There’s a whole temple site built where people offered animal sacrifices to the god of the underworld at the “gates of hell.” With each sacrifice the people tried to lure Pan out of his slumber to come to earth. There’s an enormous cave where the water coming from Mount Heron ran down the valley to fill the Sea of Galilee.
When Jesus looked over and said, “The gates of hell will not prevail…” He was literally looking at the place where the pagan sacrifice was taking place.
I don’t know what it was about standing in this place, but there was something uniquely interesting about Jesus standing in a place where people were using pagan ceremony to fill their hopes for the future. He looked directly in the face of evil, and said “On this rock I will build my church.”
Another reason I find Jesus so compelling is that He is not afraid of redeeming the world, no matter how sick it may seem. And to think, this was going to be the beginning of His trek to Jerusalem.
On this, the Holy Week of the year, I’m excited to trek from Galilee to Jerusalem. There’s an epiphany surrounding this trip coinciding with the very week Jesus is said to have traveled through the Passion week. It seems as though the importance of this moment is palpable with every place I visit.
Tomorrow…we begin our journey through Jericho to Bethlehem and then on to Jerusalem. Please join me in praying of the students to realize what they’re actually getting a chance to be a part of. What an amazing experience.