Pent 1220 – “Confessing Jesus Christ!” Matthew 16:13-20
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 16th Chapter.
“13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And 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. 18And 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. 19I 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.” 20Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.”
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Jesus poses a question that must be asked in every generation and of every person who claims faith in the Savior of mankind. That question is the foundation of those who are faithful. It is the destruction of those who are hypocrites. It is the confession of those who come to the Altar of God to receive the gifts of Jesus Christ. It is the source of rebirth for those who are baptized into the name of Jesus Christ. It is your confession made when you were admitted to the altar of the Lord to receive His body given for you and His blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. It continues to be your confession long after you remember the words spoken at the altar of God’s presence.
Jesus leads his disciples to the region of Caesarea-Philippi. He has just had a discussion with the Pharisees and Sadducees who oppose him and confess Jesus to be something other than the Son of Man. Jesus warned His disciples against this false belief and now questions them regarding what they have heard. Jesus asks, “Who do people say that the Son of man is?”
We consider for a moment the foundation for the name “Son of Man.” Son of Man is a messianic name of Jesus. This means that God revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures the description and nature of the Redeemer of the world. From the beginning of creation God planned to send a Savior. This Savior would be born of a virgin chosen by God Himself. This truth is revealed in the proclamation of salvation spoken by God to our first parents. In bringing judgment upon those who fell from grace, God also gives hope for redemption and restoration.
God condemns the serpent who was possessed by Satan, and also foretells the defeat of this Satan. Hear those words of condemnation and deliverance. [Genesis 3:15]
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall strike you with respect to your head, and you shall strike him with respect to his heel.”
What is foretold in this prophecy? There is the Virgin Birth of the Savior of the world. A woman chosen by God will conceive a child without the aid of a man. The child to be born will contend with the perpetrator of evil. This child will be the victor, but not without suffering. The child will suffer a mortal wound, but will recover to reign. The tempter will suffer a mortal wound, and will never rise to tempt again.
In the book of Daniel we read a further description of this Savior. Daniel is given a vision of the coronation of Jesus before His Father’s throne. Daniel writes these words. [Daniel 7:13,14]
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be destroyed.”
In time, God came to a virgin woman in Israel, and His spirit overshadowed her. The woman’s name was Mary. She conceived a son by the Holy Spirit and gave birth to Jesus, the Son of the Most High. He is now in the midst of His ministry and will soon complete His saving work enduring crucifixion and death. His final victory will be over death in his resurrection on the third day. Such is God’s description of His Son, the Son of Man.
Yet, such a description is not always held by people. Consider the response of the disciples in answer to Jesus’ question. “Some say John the Baptizer, [or] … Elijah, [or] … Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” These have only given a cursory glance at Jesus. They give answers bordering on superstition and confusion. Herod executed John, and believed that Jesus was the resurrected John. Others knew the prophecies of God concerning the messiah, that Elijah was to appear before the Day of God’s visitation. They failed to see John as the Elijah who was prepare the way for God’s visitation. Instead they viewed Jesus as Elijah.
What do people think of Jesus in our day? Who would people say that Jesus is? Today people fall under the same delusions as did those in past generations. Jesus is a great teacher, a wise man, a servant of God, an enlightened master, but he is not divine. Jesus may be God-like, but he is not God. He died, and is still laying in the grave just as we all will. Jesus’ teaching is good for the people in His time, but that was then and this is now. We are more enlightened than people from centuries ago. Our cultures are different today than they were in the time of Jesus. We must think outside the box.
There are many ways to God. All are equally valid. Truth is fluid and is specific to the individual. There is no objective truth. You know in your own heart what is truth, for you. Such is the deluded confession of this sinful world. Those who hold such false confessions as these continue in the deception of Satan spoken to our first parents. “Did God really say …?”
Jesus now comes to the point of His questioning of the disciples. Having heard the misbelief of those around them, Jesus asks the same question of His disciples. “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter speaking above the group, confesses the truth which Jesus seeks. Peter says without wavering, “You, you are the Christ, the son of the living God.”
What is Peter confessing? Peter is confessing belief in a living God as opposed to a lifeless idol. Peter is confessing that God truly spoke to His people of old through the prophets, and now is speaking to the world through His son, Jesus. This truth confessed by Peter is the foundation of the Church, and Kingdom of God. It is the immovable bedrock of re-creation, rebirth in the Holy Spirit and redemption in the blood of Jesus establish by God from the foundation of the world.
Hear also what Jesus says of this confession. It is the foundation of His Church. This is the solid immovable foundation which cannot be undermined or weakened by anything or anyone. Jesus says the gates of Hades will not prevail against His Church or confession.
We might think that the gates of Hades are throwing themselves against the foundation of the Church. However, a better understanding of this is that the church of God is moving forward into the realm of this world’s fallen prince. Satan is warring against His Creator and seeking to destroy the kingdom of God. Yet, the Kingdom of God, the Church and body of Christ, is moving boldly into the inhabitance of Satan. The gates of protection which Satan builds are burst open by the hand of God. They have no strength, no power to resist the Word of truth and the confession of Truth.
Consider the deceptions and delusions which Satan uses today. He offers what only seems to be a better option. He holds before us threats and fear to turn us from the confession of Jesus Christ. He tempted Peter to fear for his life when faced with confessing himself a disciple of Jesus. Peter had boldly proclaimed his infallibility to deny Jesus. When time came to prove such infallibility, Peter instead proved his fallibility.
What will happen when you are called upon to confess Jesus against the world? How will your confession fair when voices are raised against you, and hands are clenched against this Kingdom of God? We are facing such times today. The tenor of rebellion in our communities is growing bolder every day. The forces of evil are using violence and anarchy to spread chaos and destruction. There is rebellion against duly established and elected authority. There is the temptation for everyone to do what is right in their own sight. The words of Isaiah are being fulfilled in our generation. “We all like sheep have gone astray; each one has turned to his own way.”
Bleak as this may sound to us, Jesus does not leave us without hope. The kingdom of Heaven will not be overcome or destroyed. Those whom God makes His children will not be harmed. Nor will they suffer loss. In times of trial we return to the sanctuary of God to receive strength and security for the day. We come to this house of God to hear again the work which God wrought in us through Word and Sacrament.
Our Lord commended Peter and his disciples for their confession of faith. They held to the truth that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. Yes, the disciples lacked of full understanding of what their confession meant. In time of trial they wavered in their confession. Yet, their Lord returned to them and sent upon them His Spirit that they would remain steadfast in their confession.
In our day our Lord continues to come to us to strengthen our faith and assure our confession. The hymns we sing, the liturgy we follow, the Sacrament we receive, the Word of God we hear all serve to build and encourage faith in Jesus Christ. This is what Paul refer to as the renewing of the mind. Hear, again, his words.
“2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
God works through these means of grace to conform us to the will of Jesus Christ. We learn to recognize what is in accord with God’s will as well as what contradicts God’s will. We leave the contradictions behind and walk forward in the confession of what is in accord with God’s will. We accept in faith the trials which come to us. We turn to the One who is the author of faith for guidance and support. We know and believe that in Jesus we will prevail.
Grant, then, O God, Your will be done,
That when the church bells are ringing,
Many in saving faith may come
Where Christ His message is bringing:
“I know My own; My own know me.
You, not the world, My face shall see.
My peace I leave with you. Amen.” LSB 645: v5 Public Domain
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen