Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr;
Now 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.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.” (Matthew 16:13–20, ESV)
(Thanks to Kyle Castens)
Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;
It’s a very personal question, don’t you think? Jesus says, “Who do you say that I am?” In a way it’s a question that makes you put yourself in the story. Standing there with the disciples, listening to Jesus, ready to answer his questions. The disciples had just answered the question about other people and Jesus, now it was their turn to answer for themselves. Peter speaks up for them all. He’s the hero of the story. He says, “You are the Christ the son of the living God.” Of course if we put ourselves there it’s in Peter’s sandals. We get the question right. We get the blessing of Jesus. “Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah!” Ah! Isn’t that a wonderful place to be? Basking in Peter’s glory. Even if ultimately Peter doesn’t get to take credit. Jesus clearly says also, “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven”. But still, if we would put ourselves in the story, he would be right there with Peter at that very moment.
But the really a small problem. If you going to be Peter you need to take all of Peter. It’s easy to be there with Peter when he makes that wonderful confession that doesn’t come from his flesh and blood, but from God. He says clearly and correctly who Jesus is. It’s the next part that’s a bit uncomfortable. We like the Jesus that says “Blessed Are You!” But this Jesus were not so sure about. And it may cause you to try to find a different place to be in the story.
It’s when Peter tries to tell Jesus what the Christ is. Jesus confesses it.
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21, ESV)
Now Peter confesses with his flesh and blood. He takes Jesus aside. Apparently he doesn’t want to embarrass him.
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (Matthew 16:22, ESV)
He does fine when it comes to who the Christ is. But he struggles when it comes to what the Christ is.
It’s pretty clear, that you wouldn’t want to be Peter now. But the truth is he’s more you then you might want to admit. The whole problem with admitting what the Christ is, is that, if the Christ must suffer and die requires there to be a reason. And the reason is you. God’s law clearly shows you that it’s you. God’s law shows you your imperfection. Like looking in the mirror and seeing your dirty face. The law comes down on you and condemns you to death. You have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You have not lived perfectly according to God’s demand. You have neglected to share what you have been given with those who need it. You have sought to be your own God. You have been self-centered. You have agreed with human speculation and invention about how the world should be an ignored God’s Word. And there is only one solution for your sin problem. The Christ must die. That is what he is.
He has come to do the things of God. He has come to fulfill God’s law perfectly. Peter (that’s you) may not have the things of God in mind, but Jesus the Christ always does. It is those things that define exactly who he is. Remember that Emmaus road? Jesus walks with his disciples in discusses the things that have happened in relationship to who Jesus the Christ is. He puts his whole life, his whole death, and his whole resurrection, in the context of what it means to be the Christ. And he shows how God’s Word is the key to understanding who the Christ is.
“And beginning with Moses and all of the prophets, he interpreted to them in all of Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:27).
Who is Jesus? He is the Christ, the son of the living God. What does this mean? It means the cross and death. It means the grave and resurrection. It means forgiveness and life forever. These are the things that do not come to you by flesh and blood but are revealed from God’s Word.
It’s okay to put yourself in Peter’s shoes. It’s okay to bask in the wonder of what it means to declare Jesus the Christ. It’s okay to live in the fact that the Christ died on the cross for your forgiveness, your life, and your salvation. After all Jesus says that this faith is the foundation of the church. After Peter’s great confession Jesus says to him, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail over it.” This rock, his faith to confess who Jesus is and what he is. Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. St. Paul says it.
“built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph 2:20–21).
You don’t really have to worry about putting yourself into the story. God has already put you into the story. The story of Jesus, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his coming again, is your story. In fact you are a major character. The whole of his life was lived for you. You are the one who gains everything by what the Christ does. You are put into the story by means of the water poured over your head and the work of the Holy Spirit to give you “the rock” the faith to confess who and what Jesus is for you. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.