Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost 10

"Christ: Our Rock of Faith"

Matthew 16:13-20

August 27, 2017

People love celebrities. Why? I don't understand it myself but look at the popularity of the tabloids and those so-called reality TV shows like "Big Brother," "Survivor,"and "The Bachelor/Bachelorette."Why is it people stand in line for hours to watch celebrities walk the red carpet at award shows? It's something to do with human nature. This is nothing new. Jesus was a celebrity. People flocked to Him and he was the subject of conversation. The question He posed to the disciples is simple. Do the crowds really know who I am?

Read: Matthew 16:13-20. When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And 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. And 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. I 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."

Who is Jesus? Here's where the confusion reveals itself. The vast majority of people didn't know or understand who Jesus was. The disciples reported some people thought He was a reincarnated John the Baptist. Others thought He was the great prophet Elijah returned from heaven to usher in the Messianic age. Others thought He was one of the other OT prophets returning to speak the word of God.

Even today, there's a lot of confusion about who Jesus is. Are we on the same page as Peter when he confessed, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God"? How often do we think we know what we believe? Yet, when push comes to shove, we're hard-pressed to explain what we believe in a simple, clear manner. We need to know what we believe about Jesus so we don't become confused with all the other false teachings about Jesus. The Jesus Christ we confess is NOT the same Jesus the Mormons, Muslims, Moonies and Jehovah Witnesses talk about.

Who is Jesus? It was a relief when Peter answered correctly, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."Think of how embarrassing it would have been for Jesus if His own disciples didn't get the answer correct. Because of his confession, Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter, which means rock. Our confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God is built on the rock of faith.

Because there were so many answers to that question early on, the church developed the creeds. The creeds are our bed-rock statements of faith. Both the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds are a brief summary and answer to the question, "who is Jesus?"

It's kind of interesting that not all Christians use the creeds. Baptists are fond of saying "Deeds not creeds!"What does that mean? They want to emphasize sanctified living. In other words, they don't want people to give lip service to the faith but live the faith day in and day out. Baptists like to criticize Lutherans and Catholics for going to church and confessing the creeds and then living the rest of the week as if they didn't mean anything.

When you think about it, "deeds not creeds"is a creed in itself. It's easy to sloganeer. Slogans on bumper stickers can be cute and even sometimes clever. The problem with cutesy sayings is their lack of substance. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder then the meaning of the bumper sticker slogan is also in the eye of whoever reads it.

We don't want to be hypocrites. We should practice what we preach. Nevertheless, you still need to know what you believe before you can begin to actively confess and live it. Not only is it important that we are able to tell others who Jesus is but out answers should be the same.

Not only do we need to be able to clearly explain who Jesus is to non-Christians but we need to speak plainly to other Christians as well. In much of American Christianity personal testimonies have replaced the creeds. There's the Baptist preacher's story about the lack of substance in testimonies that are summed up as: "Jesus is my Lord who lives in my heart."This may be heart-felt and sincere, but does that tell you who Jesus is? No.

Jesus is more than a "burning feeling"you have within your being. Jesus is not some sort of emotional experience you have. This kind of well-intended testimony doesn't reveal who Jesus is or what He has done for you. To the non-believer, the question would be "who is this Jesus and why does He want to live in my heart?"Jesus Christ is the object of our faith not a subjective emotion for the moment.

Today's Gospel is above all about our faith in Jesus Christ. It is this faith that puts us into relationship with Christ and one another. This relationship leads the Christian to commitment: to follow, submit and, yes, even obey. Our faith receives the promises and blessings of God revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ. As we receive and believe, we then confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God to the world.

The disciples had already believed Jesus was the promised Messiah. They knew but as yet had not seen the fullness of what that meant. They would soon enough in our Lord's Transfiguration and His resurrection. After these happened, they would go and tell all they had seen and heard. Their confession of faith is the rock of the church's Gospel proclamation.

Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom. You have all kinds of keys. Each opens just one lock. There is only one set of keys that will open the gates of heaven. Those are the keys of faith. Upon this "rock"is Peter's confession of faith: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. When we believe and confess with Peter that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, the gates of heaven are open to us.

We confess Jesus Christ is Lord because he has come to us to save us from the power of sin, death and the devil. He went to the cross to take on our punishment for sin. We receive Him and His blessings by faith. He comes to us in the Word and in the sacraments to strengthen that faith, assure us that we are His redeemed and forgiven children and then encourage our witness of Him to the world.

Jesus Christ is our Rock and Cornerstone. Today we have once again confessed to the world that Jesus is our Rock of faith. Because we have been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, our lives are now living sacrifices to the Lord no longer conformed to the standards of the world. Our confession of faith means the keys have opened the Kingdom of Heaven to us. These blessings are ours simply because we have confessed with all sincerity with Peter and the people of God through the generations that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Amen.


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