The last day of my stay in Israel, I tested positive for Covid. I was the only one in my group, and at the time, it meant that I had to stay and quarantine for a week in Jerusalem. This extended adventure would mean that I would miss leaving with my family on a senior trip for my sister and two cousins.
One of the stops on their trip was to see my cousin Sophia, who was finishing out a session of leadership training with YWAM in Louisville, KY. The morning they were to head her way, they got a call that she'd tested positive for Covid as well.
Instead of seeing the sights of Louisville, they went to Walmart, put together a care package for Sophia and her roommates that also tested positive, and led a worship night on their driveway to encourage the house of YWAMers. I can’t imagine what I would think if a friend’s family showed up outside my window to worship and praise Jesus!
It was one of the coolest signs I’ve seen of a unified family in their love for the Lord! So inspiring!
Learning from Adversity
Maybe it felt a little less than they wanted…having to do it outside since the group was quarantined. But I learned two things in Israel that seem pretty applicable:
- God wastes nothing.
- God is intentional with place.
Here’s a cool example from scripture.
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?””Matthew 16:13-15 CSB
Caesarea Philippi is a fascinating place. People say this place is the “beginning of life.”
They say this because this is where the Jordan river starts, receiving its sweet waters from the runoff of the peaks of Mt Hermon. Lush greenery is everywhere and almost cannot be contained.
It’s very beautiful.
However, there is one element of Caesarea Philippi that you may not have realized.
Caesarea Philippi is a major hub for pagan worship.
Gates of Hades
It’s a bit hard to tell now, but here at the birthplace of the Jordan were once (in Jesus’ day) massive temples dedicated to the gods. This one here (where the cavity is) was a temple of Zeus.
The people here even went so far as to call this cave the Gates of Hades.
It’s pretty large. That white rock in the cave is about five feet tall. They called this the Gates of Hades because of the springs of water that would come up from the cave and help fuel the Jordan.
Isn’t it incredible that Peter declares this in front of an entire pagan worship center?
“They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.””Matthew 16:14-16 CSB
(The Jordan, with the back wall of an ancient temple in the background)
Knowing that the “Gates of Hades” is nearby, Jesus then responds:
“Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.””Matthew 16:17-19 CSB
We are Christ’s church. Jesus has established his temple inside every one of us and has sent the Comforter to guide us. Therefore,
“Don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”2 Timothy 1:8-10 CSB
Peter chose to behold his Messiah, despite fearful surroundings or the likelihood of being shamed or embarrassed, and in the face of an entire village dedicated to worshipping false gods. Let’s see what will happen if we behold like Peter. Jesus is greatly honored when you do.
Hi, I’m Andy! I am an Ouachita Baptist University grad who writes stories, teaches languages, and makes music in between. The puzzle and mystery of languages fascinate me and inspire me to dig deeper in my studies. I love to learn and experience God’s creation and share what I have found with others.