Saturday 8 June 2019
Don’t stay as you are
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’
They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’
Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.And I tell you that you are Peter, (the Greek word for Peter means ‘rock’) and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it...’
This is the first time that the word ‘church’ is recorded in the New Testament. The first time we read about the church, Jesus is telling us that the church will grow. Not ‘is supposed to grow’ or ‘might grow sometimes’ but ‘will grow’. The church will be built because Jesus will build it and not even the gates of Hades (the realm of the dead) will overcome it.
This is a promise from Jesus that a community of people who follow him will be built and will continue to expand across the world and across the generations. This is similar to the words of Jesus to his disciples before he ascended:
‘…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
But what happens when people in the church get stuck in their comfort zone?
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
We do not know exactly how much time has passed between the ascension of Jesus and the persecution that follows the death of Stephen. It could be anything from a few months to a few years. But we do know that the disciples do not immediately go out to Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth, in obedience to Jesus. At first they stay in the comfort zone of Jerusalem. It is only when they get persecuted that they start to preach outside Jerusalem.
Jesus will build his church. His disciples will be witnesses to all nations. Even if it takes persecution or something else to get us out of our comfort zone, Jesus will build his church.
Let’s not expect any church to be a cosy club where everything stays the same. Let’s not stay as we are.
Thomas Halley, Sawyers Church Leadership Team