Friday of Pentecost 13 – Matthew 16:13-20

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. Did you have some things you misunderstood as a child? My father had us recite Luther’s evening prayer after dinner every night. In the final part of that prayer, we pray that God sends his holy angel “that the wicked foe may have no power over us.” Being something we recited every night, we often spoke it rather quickly and the words sometimes ran together. When I was a small child, I thought I was praying for God’s angel to protect us from the “wicked foam.” It was only when I learned how to read and saw the prayer in print that I realized the angel was protecting me from “the wicked foe.” I had spent many hours wondering what the wicked foam was. This text involves another of those misunderstandings, but this one is not childish. It in fact it was not until many years later that I was disabused of it. Jesus says that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church. For some reason I always imagined the church being attacked by the gates of hell. In truth, as I think about it, this is not very reasonable. Gates do not attack. They are defensive. But for reasons which I continue to wonder about, I assumed the church was defensive and the devil was on the attack. That is not what Jesus means. It is the church that is attacking the gates of hell, and prevailing. How do you assault hell’s gates? Every time you forgive someone, you are snatching them from Satan’s power. His power is the power of sin. Forgiveness, the heavenly and earthly loosing which Jesus speaks about here, dissolves hell’s power over people. That takes Jesus. You cannot hope to prevail against Satan’s might on your own. But you are not on your own. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God has promised his presence. When you speak those words, they are heaven’s words found in your mouth. The gates of hell crumble before those words. Go assault the gates of hell today. Forgive someone.

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