First the Kingdom, part 15: “Upon this Rock”
When I was a young boy I was taught the basic Bible stories and about Jesus Christ, who came to die for our sins, and rose again for our justification. When I read the Bible for myself I knew the words of Jesus were especially important since they were often printed in red. Our family and our church believed that Jesus is not just a prophet or a good man, but truly God revealing Himself in human form. I took this for granted as well.
When I became a teenager I drifted away from my Christian roots, but felt God calling me back in my early twenties. I returned to the church I attended before only because I knew many of the people there, and about that same time I went to work for an uncle who was also a preacher. One day I said something that startled him. It was something to the effect of what is the big deal about why we believe the way we do about Jesus?
Immediately something came over him, well the Holy Spirit came over him and he began preaching to me right there in the kitchen of the house we were painting! I was dazed as he began from Genesis to Revelation telling about the Person of Christ Who was in the beginning, and created all things! Scripture after scripture rolled off of his tongue for some time and I can tell you that was when I first began to receive the Revelation of Jesus Christ!
From that time on, the Bible opened up to me in a brand new way. I began to see Christ everywhere! Every character and every story seemed to point to and teach me more about Him! How can I explain my experience to people who live in the same time and culture as I have, and who really think as I did then, that they know who Jesus really is? All I can do today is say like a certain blind man in the Gospel of John, “I was blind, but now I see!”
Since that time my life has never been the same. It is wonderful to me to know about the humanity of Jesus. He was born, grew up in a small town, came to be baptized by John, and was anointed by the Holy Spirit to work miracles. Then He submitted to tremendous suffering and humiliation as a man on the cross. Finally He returned from the grave, still in the body of a man, but now a glorified body!
Ultimately He returned to the glory that He had with the Father before time. This is the Jesus that I discovered that day in that kitchen. He is Jesus Christ, the Lord of all! This very Jesus spoke through the prophet Isaiah saying: ”
Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first , and I am the last ; and beside me there is no God. (Isaiah 44:6)
Hundreds of years later, He appeared to the apostle John saying,;
Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that lived, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (Revelation 1:17-18),
And in Revelation 1:8:
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty .
There is no Kingdom without the King. Two thousand years ago Jesus brought the announcement that the time for the Kingdom of God had come. It would not be like any other kingdom. It was not a kingdom that could be destroyed by fire, or physical weapons. It was supernatural from the start, but also very real. The King of this Kingdom was the servant of all, and therein was the real source of His power! Yes, He could call fire down from heaven, or 10,000 angels to fight against His enemies. He has that kind of power after all. But His reign is different. It begins in the hearts of individuals.
Even the hardest of hearts have been known to melt in His Presence. There is both an awesomeness and a tenderness about Him. The surrender to His reign is a sweet surrender. It is the only way to find freedom from our fears, our anxieties, and our evil desires. This sweet surrender is also the only way to maintain that freedom. In that freedom is also the authority to overcome the darkness, the bondage of sin and death. His desire is for all of us to know all the privileges of life in the Kingdom of God!
The story of the disciple and apostle Simon Peter has always fascinated and blessed me. Here was a man of the outdoors, a professional fisherman. When his brother Andrew realized that Jesus was the Messiah, he brought Him to Jesus. Immediately Jesus nicknamed him Cephas, from an Aramaic word meaning a stone. Often in the New Testament the Greek form for “rock” is used and he is known as Peter. Shortly after he and his brother Andrew, along with the brothers and fellow fishermen James and John answered the call of Jesus to follow Him.
What do you suppose motivated these men in their commitment to learn from Jesus about the Kingdom of God and to spread the Good News that it had finally come? We know that at least some of them had personal ambitions of importance in the Kingdom. James and John hoped to sit on the right and left hand of Jesus when He came into power. This, no doubt was before they understood the full plan. (Mark 10:35-40).
Peter came to be one of the Lord’s closest companions. Only Peter, James and John were there to witness His transfiguration and conversation with Moses and Elijah. However One of the more publicized events in the life of Peter is found in Matthew 16:13-20:
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?” And 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. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.
Peter made the bold confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God! The Hebrew prophets had long foretold of a deliver with divine power to rule over Israel and ultimately the world. In Hebrew he would be called the Messiah, meaning “anointed One,” which translated into Greek is “Christos,” and into English as “Christ.” Others had come before and stirred up the hope in many, but this time was different!
Jesus declared that Peter had received a supernatural revelation from heaven. This understanding did not come from human reasoning, but from God. From this passage some people believe that Peter himself is the Rock upon which the Church of Jesus Christ is built. From other New Testament writings, including those of Peter, we know that Jesus is the Rock with a capital R, and the only foundation upon which the Church is built. On the other hand, Peter, along with the other apostles and prophets are stones in that foundation. Important to this foundation is the Revelation of Who Jesus is. Going back to my earlier testimony, it is possible to know intellectually who Jesus his, but the revelation of Him is a supernatural experience like that which these folks had.
Paul, who was not with the original 12, was also blessed. He had his own revelation of the glorified Christ which is recorded in the ninth chapter of the book of Acts. Later, he claimed his apostleship based upon that encounter, saying, “Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” (1 Corinthians 9:1). While the apostles were first in line to know the Lord in this way, they are not to be the last. Paul’s prayer was that ordinary believers would receive from their Heavenly Father the same “spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of Him.” (Ephesians 1:16-23).
This is the foundation upon which The Church of Jesus Christ can exercise Kingdom authority! This is the living Body of Jesus Christ, against which the Gates of Hell cannot stand! Everyone who loves Jesus Christ can know Him better! To know Him IS life eternal! Even the great apostle Paul after all of his missionary accomplishments only wanted to know Him more.
Heavenly Father, place that same hunger in our hearts to know You more, and satisfy that hunger as only You can!