170910 Matthew 16:13-20

Last Updated on Monday, 11 September 2017 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Sermon Text: Matthew 16:13-20
Sermon Theme: Confidently Confess Christ!

Two professional football players both kneel before their game. One kneels to protest during the national anthem, and he is praised and celebrated for expressing what he believes in. The other kneels to offer a prayer before taking the field, and he is mocked and ridiculed for expressing what he believes in. This shouldn't come as a surprise to us. Our Lord Jesus knew that, in a sinful world, his followers would be hated. In John chapter 15 our Savior tells you and me, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also...They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." Despite the hatred of the sinful world, you and I are to share with others what we know to be true about the Lord Jesus: that he is the world's one and only Savior. Based on our Gospel Lesson for this Sunday morning, you and I hear the encouragement: CONFIDENTLY CONFESS CHRIST!

As our reading begins, Jesus asks his disciples a very simple, yet a very pointed question: "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" Certainly as true God, Jesus knows what people are saying about him. But he wants to hear it from his disciples. "They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'" There were a lot of wrong thoughts out there about who Jesus truly is.

Were Jesus' disciples giving in to some of the false ideas about him? So he asks them, "'But what about you? Who do you say I am?'" Peter, answering for the whole group, confidently confesses: "'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'" How could Peter, and the other disciples, confidently confess Christ? Because, by the power of God's Word, God the Holy Spirit created faith in their hearts; faith that knew Jesus as the only and only Savior. It was not that the disciples had made their "decision for Christ", but rather, as Jesus says, "'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.'"

But then we are told that Jesus "warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ." Why such an instruction from the Savior? Why not encourage them to confidently confess Christ and share this Good News with everyone they would meet? Because there was a great misunderstanding about what the Christ, the Messiah, the promised Savior, would do for people. Most people living in Jesus day thought the Christ would come to serve them as a political leader; to free them from the control of Roman rule.

There were many people who would have wanted to force Jesus to become their earthly king. But this is not the reason why God's one and only Son came to this earth. Yes, Jesus came to give people freedom; not political freedom but spiritual freedom. Jesus came to set people free from the guilt and control of sin. After his suffering, death and resurrection, then the Savior told his disciples, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

There are times when you and I are guilty of thinking of Jesus as nothing more than someone to take care of our physical needs. We become guilty of thinking that because we are his followers, Jesus should make sure that no troubles come in to our lives. At times we think Jesus should be more like Robin Hood: take from the rich and give it to us.

Then there are those times that we fail to make use of every opportunity we are given to confidently confess Christ. Maybe it is because we don't want to take the time. Maybe it is because we think we don't know what to say. Maybe it is because our life is so much easier if we just go along with crowd, and do whatever everyone else is doing. Such sinful neglect of the truth about Jesus makes you and me guilty. When you I treat Jesus as if he were only a "Bread King" who should simply take care of our physical needs, when you and I don't confidently confess Christ, but rather speak and act as if we are ashamed of him, you and I deserve to have him be ashamed of us, to walk away from us and to sentence you and me to a life that never ends in the pain and torment of hell.

But by the grace of God, you and I do know the truth about Jesus. God the Holy Spirit, working through his almighty Word, has revealed to you and me that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. You and I know that as the promised Savior, Jesus came as your substitute and mine. God's Word proclaims the Good News that, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." The truth about Jesus is that he is mankind's one and only Savior. The truth about Jesus is that he is your Savior and mine. And it is this truth about Jesus that we are to share with others as we confidently confess Christ. It is in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 that we read, "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us."

After Peter confidently confessed Christ, the Savior responds to him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And 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." By misusing this passage, the Roman Catholic Church has used this statement of the Lord of the Church to teach that Peter was the first Pope. But it is clear from the original Greek that Jesus wasn't saying that Peter the man is the rock solid foundation of the Church. Peter confessed that his spiritual foundation is Christ, the Son of the living God. The Christian Church is built on the rock solid foundation of the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ.

As we confidently confess Christ, you and I have some work to do that the Lord of the Church mentions in the verses before us today. That work is to share his Word. In the section of God's Word that is before us, Jesus puts it this way: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." What do these words of the Savior mean? For the answer to that question we turn to chapter 20 of John's Gospel. After his resurrection, the Lord appeared to his disciples and said, "'As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'" As one author has written about these verses, "Jesus is not giving the Church the authority to determine guilt or innocence. But he does give the Church the authority to speak on his behalf."

Wouldn't our lives be so much more simple and easy if we just let people do whatever they want to do? Years of this type of thinking has led to leaders in certain Churches and Church bodies who say that they would give their blessing to lifestyles that God calls sinful. You and I are tempted to think, "It's just not worth it! Life will be a whole lot easier for me if I just let people do whatever they want to do." But there is great danger in this line of thinking. The danger is that if we neglect the Word of God, The Lord may take that Word away from us. The end result would be our spiritual destruction in hell.

Today, you and I join in confessing our sin of neglecting the Word of God from time to time. Confident that Jesus has won forgiveness for this sin, and all of our sins, you and I pray that God the Holy Spirit would strengthen you and me in our desire to confidently confess Christ. You and I pray that the Lord would give us the courage to call sin, sin. You and I pray that the Lord would give us the compassion to proclaim the Good News of the forgiveness of all sins through Jesus Christ, our Savior. You and I pray that the Holy Spirit would guide us in the use of his Word, both the Law and Gospel. You and I pray that he would lead us to confidently confess Christ as we proclaim the truth of God's Word.

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, don't be surprised if the sinful world hates you; after all, they hated our Savior. You and I may face mocking and ridicule for calling ourselves Christian. You and I may face opposition as we share the Word of God with others. But as we do, may God the Holy Spirit give you and me many opportunities to share his Word and bless all efforts as you and I confidently confess Christ! Amen.

 

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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