Saturday, August 23, 2014

Proper 16

Matthew 16:13-20
The question of faith

Finally! The disciples get it! At least for this Sunday! It came at a crucial time in our Lord’s public ministry.  His focus was set on Jerusalem. Where He would complete His work of redemption. He was set to suffer many things. For your salvation.

Our Lord is at a critical location in His ministry. Caesarea Philippi was a Gentile city. Built by Herod’s son, Philip. In honor of Caesar. Jesus stood in a pagan region. Where false deities and their supporters abound. Critical also were His companions. The disciples were personally selected and taught by Jesus. They had witnessed every aspect of His public ministry.

The Lord asked two important questions. At this moment. In this location.  Of His disciples. The answers to the questions were important. For them. And for His followers today. There can be no doubt that Jesus was aware of the gravity of the question. Today consider the two important questions of faith.

I.        The first question was addressed to the disciples, “who do men say the Son of Man is?” (V.13)

A.      The response was varied. No consensus existed among the answers. John the Baptist was considered so great a contemporary figure. Some felt he would rise from the dead. Elijah, the great prophet of old, was looked upon as the peak of the prophetic line. His return would signal the coming of the Messiah. Jeremiah was considered another signal of the Messiah’s impending return.

B.        Our Lord heard the verdict of the people. He was named among the great company of the prophets of the Old Testament.   These were extraordinary men. But, these were “flesh and blood” interpretations. A shadow of the Son of Man. Each was built on a false and imperfect premise. This strived to understand men and events from a perspective of human logic.  A contrast to God’s revelation in the Scriptures.

C.       Today, the world’s responses differ little from those found in the text. At the basis of these opinions is human reason riddled with sin. People choose a classification of Jesus that fits their needs. It serves their desires at the moment. To them Jesus is just another spiritual guide seeking loyalty.  Fickle people. Then and now. Find no comfort in the claim that Jesus is more than greatest among great men. He is superior to them all.

II.     The second question was addressed once again to the disciples. “But you, who do you, say I am?” (V.15)

A.      Jesus asked for a confession of the lips. That stems from a conviction of the heart. Peter, ever the spokesman for the Twelve, responded with the words, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v.16). Jesus, the long-expected Messiah.  The one God had promised. Since the fall of mankind into sin. He was the Savior of the world. Whose mission was the defeat and destruction of sin, death, and the power of the devil.
This was no mere human. Elevated to the highest category of honor. This was God Himself. He defied simple human descriptions.

B.      God revealed Jesus to Peter. Such understanding was not transmitted from one person to the other. As secondhand information. One who is infinitely greater than flesh and blood revealed the identity of Jesus to Peter.

C.       Today, the faithful of God continue to confess, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.” Through Word and Sacrament, Christ, the Son of the Living God, is ever revealed to humankind. Not be human means. But by the Spirit of God. He calls. Enlightens. Sanctifies. And keeps you. He calls you by the Gospel. He enlightens you with His gifts. He sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth. And keeps you with Jesus Christ, in the true faith. 

III.   And now, the critical question is addressed to each of us, “You, who do you, say that I am?

A.      We can answer the question only through the intervention of the Holy Spirit in your life. The Spirit’s means are Word and Sacrament.  They come to the troubled heart of the sinner. The saving faith freely given by God leads each one of us to confess: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

B.       The source of our confession and our actions is the faith the Spirit gives us.  Because Jesus is the Christ. Your sins are forgiven. Because Jesus is the Christ. You are empowered to live a new life. Because Jesus is the Christ. You have the sure certainty of eternal life.

So.  What do you think of Jesus? Who is He? The answer to this question defines your identity. It determines your destiny.
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