Now, I have read this quite a few times, but just learned something. The place where Jesus spoke these words is significant. You see, Jesus and the disciples were in Caesarea Philippi near some caves. The Caesareans typically worshiped the greek god, Pan there, and they believed that their god lived in the earth. It was through these caves that they believed he moved back and forth. Literally – the gates of hell! Therefore, all of their worship centered around this place. Their worship was hugely inappropriate for any Jew to be near. (it included prostitution and sexual deeds with goats) The simple fact that Jesus brought them to this place was shocking enough, but Jesus actually suggested that they would be attacking those gates of hell. (Gates were defensive structures in those days so by saying the gates of hell wouldn’t overcome it – he was suggesting an offensive move by the church – well, the disciples.) Most Jews thought it good enough to avoid the world, but Jesus encouraged those interactions.
Now, here’s something else – the rock which would have been near them was a cliff which had niches cut out of it for pagan idols to rest. When Jesus spoke of the rock, it was in direct contrast to what they were literally looking at.
Read the whole interaction again:
13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven;