Monday, August 25, 2014

Who Do You Say that I Am?

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock [2] I will build my church, and the gates of hell [3] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed [4] in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20 (ESV)
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!” For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my father who is in heaven.”  It is a familiar theme in scripture. “No one knows the Father except the Son, and no one knows the Son except the Father and anyone to whom the son chooses to reveal him.” (Matt. 11) “And no one speaking in the Spirit ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 11) These are the words of Scripture that prompt Luther to write in the explanation of the third article of the creed, “I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctifies and keeps me in the one true faith.” Because the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son to bring to faith those whom the Father chooses to reveal the Son. And this he does through the preaching of his word, and baptism, and it is through the word and the Lord’s Supper that he keeps and sustains us in the one true faith, in his church where he daily and richly forgives all our sins, because it is our Lord’s joy to do so.
You can hear the joy in the voice of the Lord as he exclaims, blessed are you Simon Bar Jonah! It is the joy of faith, the joy of salvation, the joy shared with angels who rejoice over even one sinner who repents, it is miraculous joy because salvation is beyond our control, faith is beyond our ability, and confession is the work of the Holy Spirit welling up from out of otherwise sinful and hell bent hearts. Joy! Jesus has it because his disciples have finally confessed what the spirit has led their hearts to believe. They have finally confessed what they were too scared to confess before, that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord. Joy, because he could sense the joy that such a confession brings.
No one else dared say it. It was heard before. It was announced by angels. It came like an outburst from men confused and bewildered on a boat besieged by stormy seas. It came as the tortured cry of demons exposed, but the people dared not to say it. No, the people would say that Jesus was perhaps the Baptizer risen from the dead as Herod thought, or Elijah who was to be the forerunner of Jesus, or perhaps Jeremiah back from the dead to once again be rejected by the leaders of Israel, the same leaders who had such a hard time with Jesus. But the Messiah? The Christ? The words are interchangeable Messiah is Hebrew for the Greek word Christ. It means anointed. The anointed one. The one that careful study of the Old Testament had revealed to them would come. A man anointed to be king of kings, a leader without precedent in history. One who would change the fate of Israel. And they expected that if Jesus was this Christ the world would be at war. But they expected wrong about the messiah, when they expected earthly rule. It is why no one dared to confess what Peter confessed. It is why no one dared to confess this confession we share when we say, “I believe in Jesus Christ my Lord.” No, this was the first time this was confessed as the answer to a question of who Jesus is.
It is an answer that many today will not accept. That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. That Jesus is the king above all kings, the God to whom gods bow on bended knee. No, even today as with Islam people are willing to say that he was a prophet, a great prophet in the order of Elijah or Jeremiah. They will say he was a great moral teacher, but then ignore him. Or they won’t bother with him at all. But blessed are you who confess that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, for you have been blessed. The Father has revealed his salvation to you in a king who is above all kings and a God who is above all gods, A God who has refused to let you wallow in sin and despair, but has taken upon himself the flesh and blood you share, and died on the cross for your redemption and was raised for your justification that having been baptized in his name you would walk in the newness of life, and live in the forgiveness that creates and sustains his church.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen. 

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