I want to thank Jesus for this week's powerful meeting of the Upper Room. Miko led the discussion and his first question was gold: "How has your knowledge of who Jesus is evolved over the past year?"
I won't share everyone's responses. It was too personal. You have to have been there. I will be forever grateful that I was. But I will share what was common in everyone's testimony: each person recognized who Christ is while standing at the gates of Hell.
In this week's reading from the Gospel, Jesus leads His disciples to the region of Caesarea Phillipi, where there was a place, at the temple to the false god Pan, which was called the gates of hell (pictured above). It seems it was here that He asked His disciples who they say He is.
Likewise, each young adult recognized Jesus as The Savior when they stood before a choice of life and death: the choice of trusting and loving Jesus, or not. Whether they faced physical need, deep resentment, intense social pressure, or the loss of control over earthly goods, story after story, nearly everyone spoke of coming to know Jesus as Messiah when they recognized that they were already (or very near to) spending their lives in slavery to a lesser good than Him. At the wide open mouth of an existence deprived of Him, they recognized that they need Him and only then could they answer when Christ asked them, "Who do you say that I am?"
And it is here, at the gates of Hell, where Christ asks each of us the same question. The question itself brings us to the gates of Hell, for we either choose Him, or we are swallowed up in vanities.
When you answer with Peter's witness, Christ in turn will tell you who you truly are--how He sees you--and in so doing, He will speak new life into you. Ultimately, in His own revelation, God reveals to you to yourself. Trust that in Him, the gates of Hell will not prevail against you.
"Banias - Temple of Pan 001". Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Banias_-_Temple_of_Pan_001.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Banias_-_Temple_of_Pan_001.jpg?
Here's a great clip from Word on Fire: