Let us pray: Dear Savior, uplift us today! Make our faith strong in You! Preserve us from giving You mere lip service. Yes, cause our hearts, our lips, and our lives to act in concert thereby creating a glorious symphony of praise to You, alone, our One and only Savior! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR GOD WHO CARES ENOUGH FOR US TO PUT HIS LIFE ON THE LINE TO SAVE US!
TEXT: Matthew 16: 13-20
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Many of you know that I like to go incognito when I’m traveling or out in public. No, I don’t put on special glasses or a mustache for those moments—I already have both, thank you very much! Instead, when I’m traveling on an airplane, sitting at a restaurant, or attending some civic function I don’t tell people I’m a pastor. I talk about other issues—business, current events, politics, etc. I can see that they’re curious as to my profession. Finally, when they ask: “What do you do?” I make them guess. And after they fail to guess properly, I inform them: “I’m a Lutheran pastor.” At once their eyes get sharper and you can see them reviewing everything they’ve said to me. All of a sudden those extra “Gods,” religious slights, and vulgarities that they uttered come back to haunt them. I don’t go incognito to humiliate people. No, I do it because thereby I get a true measure of the person. I don’t get the “act” people often put on in front of a pastor, instead I get them as they really are.
If you listen closely to another you’ll find that their language will tell you volumes about their life. Yes, I know that even Christians are sloppy in what they say. Yes, I know that Christians sometimes use words that they really don’t mean. Yet, language does provide insight into one’s soul. Thus, I’m especially troubled when I hear people say things like: “You’re really lucky.” Or, “It’s fate.” What a sad, fatalistic view of life! In reality there is no such thing as “fate” and no such thing as “luck.” Luck doesn’t comfort you when you’re laying on a hospital bed about to die. Fate doesn’t seem very friendly or uplifting when you find you’ve got cancer. That’s why I like to say: “God Bless” instead of “Good luck.” For it is a constant reminder that God in the person of Jesus Christ holds my life and my eternal soul in His strong hands.
Today’s text is all about confessing Christ. It is all about putting your hope and confidence in something and Someone Who is real. So, today I want to ask you this question:
LUCK OR CHRIST—WHERE’S YOUR TRUST?
Why is confessing Christ—literally opening your mouth and telling someone that He is your Savior—why is that so important to God? After all, certainly He can read our hearts and therefore knows what we believe. Well, it’s important because it solidifies our faith, gives glory to our Creator, and provides a vehicle through which the Holy Ghost can work on another’s heart. Actually speaking your confession of Christ helps crystallize what you really believe about Him. When we’re not sure about something our usual response is to say nothing, isn’t it? Well, the absence of talking about Jesus shows the uncertainty of our faith, whereas an open confession of Him shows confidence. With those thoughts in mind listen to the opening words of our lesson.
“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.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”
It’s interesting that the average person was looking for someone to help them, someone who had God in their corner. Indeed, even today when so many seem to care less about God, they still will hang onto a Christian friend kind of like a rabbit’s foot—hoping that some kind of “godly good luck” will rub off on them, too. But, that’s not enough to save anyone’s soul. No, what does save is faith in the real thing. And the real thing was and is Jesus Christ. Note well that Peter answers on behalf of the other 11 disciples. Note well that he says Jesus is the “Son of the Living God.” God isn’t dead and neither is Christ. The resurrection proved that fact. No, He’s alive and well and working at reordering our lives for our salvation and the salvation of all those souls within our sphere of influence.
“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man (mere man), but by my Father in heaven.” When we talk about Christ from the heart it is evidence of the Holy Father’s work within us. We confess because we have faith. And as St. Paul writes: “Faith is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” Luther summarizes this quite well when he says in the catechism: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Christ my Lord or come to Him. But the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the one true faith.” Yes, when we confess Christ we’re confessing the Gospel. And with every word the Holy Ghost is beaming His grace down upon those within earshot. That’s why “God Bless” is far more useful than “good luck.”
Then comes that famous section which the Roman Catholic church totally misunderstands. “And I tell you that you are Peter (the man Peter as it is in the masculine gender) and upon this rock (feminine gender, and in which the greek language uses the same word as Peter) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Rome states that here Christ was founding His Church upon Peter the man. Also, since they believe that the pope is Peter’s direct representative here on earth, the pope speaks for Christ and salvation can only be had if you’re a member of Peter’s, or the Roman Catholic, church. However, the grammar says otherwise. No, Christ was founding His Church upon Peter’s confession, not upon Peter the person. Therefore, it is to Peter and all the other disciples who confess Jesus as the only Savior from sin and death that Jesus gives the heavenly keys. “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.”
This ministry of the keys, the ability to forgive or retain sin, the ability to save souls, is given to all believers, to all who confess Jesus to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” It is given to you and me by the Holy Father who sends it to us through the Spirit’s word of truth. Yes, as His public servant of that Word I have the public authority to preach and teach. And you have the private authority to do so among family and friends. No clergyman has a corner on the God market. There is simply a distinction in our duties as confessors of the Savior.
At the end of this lesson Jesus says something that at first blush we might not quite understand. “Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.” He wasn’t telling them never to confess their faith. No, He was simply telling them to wait a bit until everything—His death on the cross for our sins and His resurrection from our graves–was accomplished. He wanted people to follow Him for His work of saving them and not merely to treat Him as a good luck charm.
So, where’s your trust? Is it in Christ or in “luck?” That’s a question that all people have to answer whether they want to or not. And by God’s grace I hope and pray that you won’t be timid in telling others: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness!” Amen