Sunday, July 30, 2017

Entry #9 (1 Peter 2) - Living stones

Processing 1 Peter 2:4-8
Years ago we had the joy of traveling through Israel while studying the Bible.  To be in the exact location where the Word we were reading and studying took place was amazing.  The word of God became even more alive and I left Israel with a greater love for and understanding of God's word.
One of the locations we visited was Caesarea Philippi.  A beautiful place situated 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and at the base of Mt. Hermon.  There is a beautiful spring there that feeds the Jordan River. Through the years, numerous temples had been built there to a variety of gods.  Where the spring emerges is called the grotto of pan.  Pan was half-may, half-goat, flute playing god over the the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain wilds and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs.  Go figure.
Anyway, around the rocks of the grotto of pan were a series of hewn niches.  Statues of other gods were placed in these niches.  A sacred place of worship, sacrifices and offerings.  During Jesus' time, this place was a Roman sanctuary, which included temples and ritual courtyards that had been built near the grotto.  It was a well-known and frequented place.

What does Jesus say when he gets there?  Matthew 16:13-18 says that when Jesus came to the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples a very important question.  He asked them:  "Who do the people say the son of man is?"

In a place where all these other gods are lined up in their niches, Jesus asks "who do the people say the son of man is?"  What a perfect place to ask this question and to have the following conversation with His disciples. Here's the conversation:
"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” ad they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it" Matthew 16:13-18.
Then Jesus asks His disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"  Guess who answered?  Peter.  The same Peter who goes on to write 1 Peter that I am currently studying and journaling through!
Standing in a place where stone, dead gods occupied caves and niches, Peter declares Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Not a dead god but a living God.  Significant, don't you think? 
Imagine yourself standing in the grotto of pan surrounded by a bunch of stone gods stuck in niches and in the presence of the living God.  Imagine for a minute being Peter - which by the way means rock.  You've declared Jesus as the Christ, the son of the Living God and now Jesus declares that upon you - Peter the rock - He will build His church. Not a moment or visual you would ever forget.
So, fast forward to 1 Peter 2:4 where Peter says: "and coming to Him as to a living stone, which has been rejected by men but is choice and precious in the sight of God."  Peter goes on to say in verse 5 that we "are also as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."  
We follow and put our faith in a living God.  As Peter shares, a living stone.  Jesus, the living stone, was and is rejected by many but it doesn't change the fact that He is the Christ.  - choice and precious in the sight of God.  He is our Cornerstone because we who believe in Him are living stones being built up as a spiritual house - the church. Jesus rejected by men.  A stone of stumbling and a block of offense.  But, our very cornerstone.  
People who at one time worshipped those stone, dead gods would have understood this visual.  They would have understood offering spiritual sacrifices.  In 1 Peter is about building up the church.  Peter is giving them and us the visuals we need so that we can understand how to build and on what or who we are building (Jesus the cornerstone).  To show us what the church looks like and how it should function. Especially during times of great trials, persecution and suffering.
I just love discovering how God's word all fits together.  Don't you?

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