Pentecost 11, 2014
“The Church will stand”
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:13-14)
The Disciples had heard the people talking and seen their reaction to Jesus’ teaching, preaching, and miracles. Most of the people didn’t quite know who Jesus was…but they knew He was someone very special. Many treated Jesus like a miracle worker…others a prophet reincarnated. Some knew that Jesus was the Son of God like the woman in our text last week that begged Jesus to heal her demon possessed daughter. The people that should have known the most about Jesus identity were the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law. But from their actions we see their denial of Jesus as God and Lord; as the Messiah.
The world around us acknowledges that there was in fact a historical Jesus. Unfortunately that does not mean they know the truth about Jesus or his true identity. Throughout history people have offered ideas about who Jesus is. The German atheist Fichte even wrote of Him: “Till the end of time all the sensible will bow low before this Jesus of Nazareth, and all will humbly acknowledge the exceeding glory of this great phenomenon.” Richter the pantheist calls Jesus “the purest of the mighty, the mightiest of the pure, who still continues to rule and guide the ages.” Hegel the philosopher wrote: “Among the improvers of ideal humanity He stands in the very first class and remains the highest model of religion within the reach of our thought.” Renan, the French rationalist, said: “Jesus is unique in everything, and nothing can compare with Him. He is a man of colossal dimension.” Such answers are complimentary, but they express nothing about the true nature or mission of Jesus Christ. Our verdict on His person is inadequate if we merely elevate Him to the highest rank among the sons of men.
The world hasn’t changed. There are many religions that claim Christ to be part of their teachings…and while they claim Jesus…they don’t truly know Him. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim Jesus in their writings to be a creation of God; not God Himself in the flesh. Mormons make the claim to be another Christian denomination and yet say that Jesus is A lord just as every good Mormon may become lord. Seventh Day Adventists also claim to be Christian and yet proclaim that Jesus was a creation that God exalted to be His son. The Unification Church says that Jesus was a perfect man, not God—the son of Zechariah. Jews believe Jesus to be a prophet. Muslims also claim that Jesus was a prophet…but a lesser prophet to the prophet Mohammed.
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15) So who is Jesus? Who do you think Jesus is? The easy answer that we are thinking this morning…or the answer you expect me to want is that Jesus is your Savior. Jesus is our God and Lord. That is the truth! That is the correct answer. But is that what you believe? Is that what you profess by word and action? If we take a hard look in the mirror the best we can answer is “sometimes.”
The truth is that we often proclaim Jesus to be Lord and yet have a hard time being found in the place our Lord promises to be; namely His church. There are often times when we are found in Church proclaiming Jesus as Lord and yet fail to share that with others once we leave this place. We often fail at sharing the truth of Jesus with others; those we love and are close to and those whom we barely know. We fail at telling our family and friends who Jesus is by our words and actions.
When we fight with others, when we cuss or swear, when we steal, murder, commit adultery, put others, other things, or ourselves first, watch lewd movies or televisions shows, drink too much…or any other sinful act… we proclaim loud and clear to all around us that Jesus is not our Lord or our Savior. There isn’t a single person among us that has not failed at sharing the truth about Jesus. Each of us is indeed a poor miserable sinner. We are not alone. Even the Disciples…who were with Jesus…who saw the miracles firsthand…didn’t always believe, proclaim, or live as they should as people of Christ; Christians.
But God is always faithful. Despite all our sinfulness He loves us. God gave His Son to die on the cross…to bear our sin…to bear the wrath we deserve…that we would be forgiven for Jesus sake. We are forgiven. God washes away all our sins and makes us new. God has given us the gift of His Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in you. The Holy Spirit creates and sustains your faith. Through the Holy Spirit Peter was able to make his good confession.
“Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “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." (Matthew 16:16-18) For “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
My brothers and sisters in Christ, God has given each of you the same ability to proclaim Jesus is Lord to your family, friends, and neighbors for He has given you the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is joyous news! You are God’s tools to share the joyous news that Jesus is Lord! You get to invite them to come to the place Jesus promises to be…this place…this Church. You get to share the good news that salvation is theirs in Christ! You get to share life saving news! Because Jesus is Lord; because Jesus is God in the flesh we are indeed forgiven and heirs of life eternal.
While the world around us rejects Christ and continues to spiral towards destruction have no fear. As false churches pop up claiming Christ as their own only to teach lies…have no fear. Even as Churches are closing have confidence in Christ. Remember the words of our hymn: “Built on the Rock the Church doth stand, even when steeples are falling; crumbled have spires in every land, bells still are chiming and calling, calling the young and old to rest, but above all the soul distrest, longing for rest everlasting.”
The Church shall ever stand in this world until our Lord’s return. No matter how Satan attacks God’s Church…no matter how desperate the world becomes the Church shall stand. The Church is built on the Rock. That Rock is the confession that Jesus is Lord. That Rock is Christ Jesus. He is found in this place. When you have doubts come to His place. Look to the Baptismal Font where you were clothed in Christ, look to the altar where Christ comes to you in His body and blood, look to the cross where Christ won salvation for you.
Who is Jesus? Jesus is my God and Lord. Jesus is my Savior. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.