Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we join in thanking You for being our Savior. Without You we are poor in spirit, weak in body, and destitute in soul. But, by relying upon Your strength, love, and mercy, we are strong. Lord, continue to give us Your strength. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE ROCK OF OUR SALVATION!
TEXT: Matthew 16: 13-20
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
When you hear the word “rock” what immediately comes to mind? Modern music lovers might think: Rock and Roll. Most others imagine a hard, stony substance. Jewelry people probably think of diamonds. Me, I think granite ledge. You know, the stuff our church is built on.
That’s a fitting symbol. For God’s Church is literally built on the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ. Scripture speaks of Him as the Rock of our Salvation. He never moves. He never shifts. He is a monolith of Godly love toward sinners like us.
Our lesson today focuses on this, too. So, it is fitting as we begin a new year of Sunday School that we recall what it means to be:
BUILT ON A ROCK
This passage is a familiar one to Lutherans and an important one to Roman Catholicism. The truth it contains helped spearhead the Reformation 500 years ago. For Rome is a religious hierarchy. Rome is built on the power of a man, the pope, who they say is Christ’s vicar on earth, or His substitute. They derive that view from a faulty understanding of this passage. They believe that Peter was the first pope. They believe that right here when Jesus said: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it” Christ was singling out Peter as the first pope. So, at the time of the Reformation and still today, Rome teaches that whatever the Pope officially teaches is as binding upon us as if Christ Himself said it. Thus, if you disagree with the Pope you’re actually disagreeing with Christ.
So, let’s examine the passage. After all, as Lutherans we want to be true to Christ and His Word, don’t we? This section is called: “Peter’s great confession.” And it is. Many people of the time had conflicting views about exactly who Christ was. “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then, when Christ asks all the disciples: “But, what about you? Who do you say I am?” Peter answers for all of them. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That statement is called his great confession for obvious reasons. The chief one being: It’s true.
Next comes Christ’s reply where He calls Peter blessed and states that this great truth didn’t just spring up from Peter’s subconscious on its own, but was revealed to him by the heavenly Father. Yes, as Paul says: “Faith is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.”
Then comes the passage under scrutiny. Note well that this dialogue took place in the Greek language and is recorded in Greek by Matthew. Note well that Peter’s name literally meant: Rock, too. Now the Greek language has masculine, feminine and neuter endings to its words which help clarify exactly what is being referred to. In Greek Christ literally said: “You are Peter (masculine ending to Peter, or Petros), and upon this Rock (feminine ending, or Petra), I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” So, the play on words has two gender endings which don’t agree. So, Christ didn’t build the Church upon the man Peter, but upon his confession, since that has a feminine ending, too. That’s simple Greek sentence structure. Yes, God’s Church is built upon Christ and a faithful confession of Him. This agrees with Paul’s later statement: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Whenever you, I, or any other Christian confesses Christ to be the Son of God and the only Source of salvation—the Holy Spirit works through that confession, implants faith, and the Church is built one soul at a time. It’s also why knowing what the Bible says and being able to enunciate it clearly to others is so vital.
Today we’re all on edge. A new hurricane, Irma, is sweeping across Florida with destruction in its wake. I did a Google search this week on elevations in Florida and a goodly portion of the seacoast is only 5 to 6 feet above the water table. So, a 5 to 10 foot storm surge promises to wash away and cover miles upon miles of homes and businesses. Moreover, the entire state is built on sand. Sand is unstable. Sand shifts. Sand doesn’t stand up too well to hurricanes. I’ll bet many people wish they were high, dry, and built on rock about now.
If I ever build my own home I’m going to build on the high ground and make sure I’ve got some rock under the foundation. That’s just being prudent. Well, when it comes to our souls—what do you want undergirding yours, rock or sand? Sand is alluring, plentiful, and easy to move around. It’s cheaper to build on sand than to blast or drill rock for foundational under-pinings. Likewise it’s easy to base your faith on human emotions, human reason, social customs, and the mentality of the masses which is: “If it feels right for you, then it must be right.” This approach has bred something called: “Cafeteria Catholics” and their protestant equivalent: Liberal Lutherans. Possessing such a faith is a lot like living on a beachfront sandbar—for years it is idyllic and lulls a person into complacency. But when the hurricanes of life hit, and it only takes one, it collapses. You get the point. It’s on your television screens today.
Built on a Rock. That’s who and what we are. And not even the gates of hell will prevail against us, against you, dear believer. And why is this so? Because Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son, obliterated the powers of sin, darkness, Satan and death from our lives. He died on the cross in our place and now is risen from the grave so that through faith in Him we will rise and live eternally, too. God didn’t build His Church on the power of any human being, He built it upon the eternal Rock, Jesus Christ. Learn from Him and do likewise by believing and trusting in your Savior, alone. Yes, celebrate your Lutheran heritage! Amen