Bible Reading: Mark 8
Jesus is only months away from His crucifixion…and He knows it. Knowing that His time on this earth is limited…He begins His final campaign to teach His disciples. There are still some things that they need to firm up in their faith. Among them are 5 key elements that He is going to finalize here…
- He is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
- There is one, and only one, God…and He is it.
- Belief in Him as the Messiah is the foundation for saving faith.
- His church will be built on faith in this foundational fact.
- There is nothing that will be able to stop the growth of His church.
Thoughts about God for My Grandkids:
What comes to your mind when I say, “Peter Pan”? How about…
- a boy that can fly (who wears green tights)
- a fairy with pixie dust
- a grumpy pirate Captain with a hook for a hand
- a crocodile who ate the Captain’s hand and has a clock in his stomach
- a group of lost orphan boys
- an island named Neverland.
Originally, Peter Pan was a play written in 1904, by a man named J.M. Barrie. It’s full title was, “Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”. It was later made into a book. What is amazing is how many times this story has been rewritten and adapted into plays, and books, and movies, and televisions shows. For instance…
Other books based on Peter Pan:
- The Peter Pan Picture Book
- Peter Pan and the Only Children
- After the Rain: A New Adventure for Peter Pan
- The Lost Girls: A Novel
- Peter and the Starcatchers
- Peter and the Shadow Thieves
- Escape from Carnivale
- Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth
- Tiger Lily
- Peter Pan
- Peter and Wendy
- The Terrible Tragedy of Peter Pan
- Walt Disney’s Peter Pan
- Return to Neverland
- Tinker Bell
- The Pirate Fairy
- Peter Pan and the Pirates
- Jake and the Never Land Pirates
- The New Adventures of Peter Pan
- Peter Pan Live!
- Peter and Wendy
- Peter Pan and the Pirates
- Peter Pan: Return to Neverland
- Kingdom Hearts
- Tinker Bell.
All of those are based on one story written in 1904. Or, are they? Was there something before Peter Pan? The answer is: Yes, there is a story behind the story. And here is the amazing thing…Jesus knew about him. Well, “kind of”. Let me explain.
The winter before Jesus was crucified, He was traveling with His disciples about 30 miles north of the Sea of Galilee…way up towards the top of Israel. They came to a city named Caesarea Philippi. It was built by a man named King Philip and he named it after the Roman Emperor, Caesar. However, there was already a city named after Caesar that was located on the Mediterranean Sea. So, to keep people from being confused about which one was being spoken of…he added his own name to it, as well…making the name Caesarea Philippi (meaning: the city of Caesar built by Philip). It was located towards the bottom of Mount Hermon. Melted snow and rainwater seeped into the ground on Mount Hermon and then bubbled up as a spring in a cave that was located at Caesarea Philippi. This spring water formed a stream that then flowed down Mt. Hermon and joined two other streams and eventually became the Jordan River. For many years, people had worshipped different gods at that cave. Not the God of the Bible…but false gods, gods that men had made up in their own creative imagination. And get this…one of them was named “Pan”. Ah, the light begins to come on. Pan was one of the gods that the Greek people had made up long before Jesus lived. He was so popular with the people who lived there that Caesarea Philippi was sometimes called “Paneas”…after Pan. Let me describe him to you. He was a very weird creature…
- From his waist up he had the body of a man, from the waist down he had the legs of a goat.
- Because he was half-goat, he could run so fast across the mountainside that it looked like he could fly.
- He once chased a nymph (a fairy) named Syrinx. She tried to hide from him by turning herself into a bunch of marsh reeds (looks like bamboo). Pan cut down one of the reeds and made it into a musical instrument called a “Pan flute”.
- He spent a lot of time in the forest. He was the one who made the strange noises that people heard at night in the trees when it was dark and scary (he liked to frighten humans).
Compare “Pan” to “Peter Pan” and you will discover that they had a lot of things in common. Both appeared to fly. Both knew a fairy (Peter knew Tinker Bell). Both played a flute. Both lived in the forest. And, there are other similarities. We can be pretty certain that J.M. Barrie based his story about Peter Pan on the ancient stories about Pan.
The Greek people believed in lots of gods…not just Pan. They believed that during the wintertime, when it was cold, the gods would go through the cave, down below the ground, to the underworld where they would live until it warmed up. Then, they would come back to the surface of the earth. That is why the cave was named, “The Gates of Hades”. “Gates,” means entrance and “Hades,” means underworld, or the world underground. They believed that the cave was the entrance to the underworld…where the gods lived.
Jesus knew all about the stories of these false gods that men had made up. He knew about Pan (now you see why I said that He “kind of” knew about Peter Pan). Even in His day, some people still believed in these false gods and worshipped them there at the “Gates of Hades”, in Caesarea Philippi.
One day, Jesus was with His disciples…teaching them as they walked along, together. They were right there in Caesarea Philippi. He knew that the time was getting close for Him to be crucified. The closer the time got…the less time He had to teach His disciples. He knew that what He taught them in those last months had to be the very most important things that He wanted them to learn, remember, and believe. He was about to teach them a lesson that they had to clearly understand. He was going to teach them that He was the one and only true God. There are no others. Any one, or any thing, else that is called “god”…is not a real god, at all. They are only the creation of the imagination of men’s minds. So, there they were…probably standing within sight of the “Gates of Hades”…when Jesus asked them a question. “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples told Him that the people thought that He was one of the great leaders of the past who had come back to life…like Elijah, or one of the prophets, or John the Baptist. Jesus then asked them who they thought He was. Peter spoke up for all of the disciples and said that they thought that He was the “Christ”…that means “Messiah”. He said that they believed that Jesus was the Messiah that God had promised in the Old Testament. The Gospel of Mark only includes part of what Jesus said next…we find the rest in the Gospel of Matthew (16:13-20). There, it says that Jesus responded, “You are correct. I am the Messiah. And, it is on that foundation of faith in Me as the Messiah that I will build My church.” Then He said something very interesting…”And the Gates of Hades will not be able to keep it from happening.” There is the phrase that we learned about earlier, “Gates of Hades”. Jesus knew that the people who lived in Caesarea Philippi had believed for hundreds of years that the Greek gods lived in the cave. So, what He meant was that nothing, not even the gods that they believed lived in the cave would be able to stop people from being saved and becoming a part of God’s family, the church. Nothing on earth…and nothing under the earth…not man…or god…would be able to stop His church from growing.
Next time you hear about Peter Pan…remember that just like Peter Pan is nothing more than the product of man’s creative imagination…Jesus said that all other gods are nothing more than the product of man’s creative imagination. All other gods are false. They are not real. There is only one God and we don’t read about Him in a book of fiction, but in a book of facts called the Bible. Jesus said that His Kingdom would last forever. Peter Pan’s kingdom was called Neverland…probably because it was a place that would “never” last. So, we could say, Jesus’ Kingdom could be called Everland…because His Kingdom in Heaven is a place that will last for-“ever”.
Love you more than bunches and bunches,