Monday, January 19, 2015

Sermon for The Confession of St. Peter: "Who is Jesus?"

+ The Confession of St. Peter – January 18th, 2015 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Acts 4:8-13; 2 Peter 1:1-15; Mark 8:27-35

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Long before the Caterpillar asked Alice, and before Peter Townshend and the Who sang it in 1978, the crowds around Galilee and in the villages of Caesarea Phillipi were asking the question:

Who are you?! Come on, I really wanna know. Who are you?

That seems to be the question – in Jesus’ day and ours.

Who is Jesus?

Now, as readers of Mark’s Gospel we already know the answer. Mark 1:1... The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

St. Mark lets us in on the divine secret – Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, God’s promised chosen Savior for you, for the world. Meanwhile, Jesus conceals this confession from the players on stage in the greatest drama of history, at least until his death and resurrection. To be sure, there are epiphanies along the way: Jesus’ Baptism, the blind man’s healing, raising Lazarus from the dead, calming the wind and waves, teaching with authority, his transfiguration.

But in Mark’s Gospel, it’s not until a pagan Roman centurion at Jesus’ crucifixion that his true identity is revealed for all to see: Truly this man was the Son of God. How right he is. In the cross Jesus reveals the kind of Messiah he is: a suffering Servant for you.

But since Jesus and the disciples are in Caesarea Phillipi and not yet in Jerusalem, Jesus asks his disciples:

“Who do people say that I am?”
“John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

A prophet. A teacher. A wise man of God, but certainly not God.

Not much has changed in 2000 years. Ask a Mormon who knows their Book of Mormon or a Muslim who knows their Qur’an, or an Atheist and they’ll say the same thing: Jesus was a prophet, a wise man, a teacher, maybe even a man of God, but certainly not God. These are just a few of the false Jesuses out there.

C.S. Lewis said there are really only three answers. Jesus is a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can all at his feet and call him Lord and God (Mere Christianity, p. 52).

Who do you say that I am?

Peter answers the question rightly by divine gift. And the Church in every generation must also answer Jesus’ question.
Who do you say that I am?

One of the greatest errors a congregation can make is to ignore our history and the confession of faith which the cloud of witnesses who surround us have handed down, to leave aside the faith confessed in the Creeds, the Lutheran Confessions, the hymns, and liturgy of the Church. These are not preferences about what we feel we like better than other things, but rather true confessions of faith based on the right teaching of Scripture. These gifts keep us confessing the faith in the pattern of sound words with St. Peter:
“You are the Christ.”

Contrary to our relativistic culture, words matter. It’s true in our every-day pattern of speech: for example, gentlemen, when your wife asks you how she looks in a particular outfit, you will choose your words carefully. How much more important then, are the words we use whenever we confess who Jesus is and what he’s done for us.

Because how we answer Jesus’ question says a lot about our confession of faith. We believe it really matters, not only what people believe in their hearts, but also what they confess with their lips.

Jesus is the Christ, anointed to be your Savior at His baptism in order to anoint you with new life by the Spirit in your Baptism.
Jesus is chosen by the Father to be the Messiah, the Chosen one, in order that by His birth, life, death, and resurrection he declares that you are His chosen people.
Jesus is born in order to give you the new birth of washing and regeneration in the Holy Spirit through Baptism.
Jesus is placed under the Law to obey, fulfill, and suffer the punishments of the Law for us who must confess, along with Peter that we fail to keep it daily.
Jesus died to destroy your death. Jesus rose from the dead and lives to give you new life in His saving name we confess today along with St. Peter: You are the Christ.

Wherever this confession is found, there’s the Church. And just as he did for Peter, Jesus places our hope and trust, not in ourselves, nor in what we say, do, or have done, but in Christ’s words and deeds for us. What Jesus has done for you, is doing, and will continue to do for your salvation.

When you read about the Christian church growing in the book of Acts it’s always because of this confession. Peter’s and ours: Jesus is the Christ. Wherever you see the Church - as we do in Acts 2:42 gathered around the apostles’ teaching, the liturgy, the Lord’s Supper, and the fellowship of believers – there you see the church flourishing around this confession.

And as important as it is for us to answer Jesus’ question, it’s also important to hear how Jesus answers his own question. Who does Jesus say that he is?

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

This is the kind of Messiah Jesus is: For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45). Jesus enters into the pain and suffering of this world, he takes on our sin and death in order to rescue us from pain, suffering, sin, and death. It is a radical rescue that takes nothing less than the death of the Son of God to accomplish. Jesus’ cross is your salvation and your solace from the severity of your sin.

Jesus’ cross is the clearest answer to the question: Who does Jesus say that he is?

And yet, after Peter made that good confession, he took Jesus aside and tried to rebuke him for saying he must suffer and die.

Peter’s rebuke is a warning to us; we need always be on guard against losing our confession and falling away from the faith. Satan tempts us the same way he did Peter: to set our minds on the things of man; to avoid the things of God; to point us away from Jesus crucified for us, away from his suffering and death on our behalf and onto something or someone else. Some churches do it by the way they worship, or by replacing the meat and potatoes of God’s Word with entertainment and self-esteem building. The devil has many tricks, but the game is always the same: out with Jesus and in with our favorite idol, ourselves.

Thank God for Jesus’ rebuke of Peter’s sin and ours, for by it we come to confess the truth all the more clearly and boldly. Thank God for Peter’s confession. For Peter teaches us to confess Christ rightly. Jesus says, “You are Peter – that is rock – and on this rock, that is Peter’s confession, Christ builds his church. The church is built on this confession: Jesus is the Christ.

Through Peter’s confession and because of it, we are able to confess that we too believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We confess with Peter, Jesus is the Christ, the one who suffered for me, was crucified, died, and was buried for me, who rose and lives for me, who is present in his Word and in his Supper, in my Baptism and in the absolution for me. The same faith which the Father of Jesus worked in and revealed to Peter, the Spirit of the Father also works in each of us.

Who is Jesus? He is the one baptizing you through his servant the pastor. He is the one absolving you in the stead and by the command of his servant of the Word. He is the one giving you his body and blood in the bread and wine to forgive your sin.

And in this epiphany season, Peter’s confession also teaches is also for those outside of the Church. When we share the Gospel with others we’re also making a confession. We’re telling them what we believe and why. People’s questions about Christianity will come in all different forms, but the best answer is found in answering Jesus’ question to the disciples:
Who do you say that I am?

Jesus is the Christ, who suffered, was killed, died and rose for you.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment