St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Confessing Christ

Sermon on Matthew 16:13-20

Text: When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 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. 19 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.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

With many events in history, you will find discrepancies in the accounts of what happened. For example, when you talk about the assassination of President Kennedy, you will find some people claim that it was a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald. Others argue that there must have been at least two, if not three, gunmen. Who was behind it? There are theories about that, too. Some people think one thing. Others have another theory. It’s hard to know who’s right. Thankfully, this is not the case when it comes to speaking about whom Jesus Christ is. This morning, we are going to talk about CONFESSING CHRIST, first of all, by looking at 1. What The World Says About Christ. Then, we will study 2. What Our Faith Teaches.

Jesus, as he was teaching his disciples, began with a question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” When Jesus uses the term “Son of Man,” he is referring to himself. Jesus did not ask this question because he needed his disciples to bring him up to date. He used this question to set up the truth that he wanted to teach them.

His disciples answered, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” These were some of the prevailing opinions about Jesus in his day. We have heard some of them expressed elsewhere in Scriptures. For example, King Herod said that Jesus was John the Baptist, raised from the dead. This must have caused great fear for Herod, because he had John put to death. Apparently, some picked up on Herod’s idea and spread it. Some people thought that Jesus was Elijah. This is due to a misinterpretation of a prophecy found in Malachi 4:5, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.” In reality, that prophecy pointed to the work of John the Baptist, as he got the people ready for the coming of Jesus. Jesus shows us this in Matthew 11:13&14, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.” Still, others thought that Jesus was Jeremiah. It is difficult to say where people might have gotten this notion. It could be that they were influenced by the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees, which speaks of Jeremiah concealing the ark of the covenant in a cave until the Lord would return to Israel. Finally, there were others who said that Jesus was one of the Old Testament prophets, who had come back from the dead. There were many different opinions about whom Jesus was in his day.

In this respect, today’s world is little different from the world of Jesus’ day. People still have many different opinions as to whom Jesus is. The Muslims teach that Jesus was a great prophet, on the level with Moses, but inferior to the greatest prophet of all, Mohammed. If you were to ask a Mormon, who Jesus is, they would tell you that Jesus is one of many sons and daughters of God. However, Jesus is no more divine than any other person here on the earth. Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you that Jesus is only a human being. He was perfect, but still only a human.

The list could go on and on. There are many people out there who think of Jesus as a good man. He gave us a good example as to how we should live our lives. He spoke of loving your neighbor. He spoke about peace. He was a nice man. There are still others who try to deny Christ’s existence entirely. They say that Jesus is merely a name given to a fictional character, who provided the backdrop for some stories that had some moral meanings behind them.

We are surrounded by many ideas as to whom Jesus was. Every place we look, we find someone trying to tell us who Jesus is. Thankfully, we do not have to depend on shifting public opinion to find out the answer. Instead, we have a faith that has been worked in our hearts and the pages of Holy Scriptures, which tell us exactly who Jesus is.

Jesus shows us the reason he asked this initial question from his disciples, by asking a follow-up question: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Jesus shifts the focus from public opinion to an opportunity for the disciples to examine what they believed. He invites them to examine their hearts and confess their faith concerning him.

Peter, as he often did, spoke up for the group. In doing so, he expressed one of the most beautiful confessions about Jesus ever recorded. Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” With this simple statement, Peter confessed many of the truths about whom Jesus is.

First of all, Peter called Jesus, “The Messiah.” In doing so, he was confessing that Jesus was the one who had been promised to the Old Testament believers as the one who would come and pay for their sins. This Messiah was first promised as soon as the first sin was committed. Remember the words that God spoke to the devil in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” God made many similar promises regarding the one who would come and save the world from its sins. Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ.

Peter continues by saying that Jesus is “the Son of the living God.” Jesus was the Son of God from all eternity. He was fully divine. Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of God who had taken on human nature. Jesus was fully God and human at the same time. No one else can make that claim about themselves.

Peter called him “the Son of the living God.” He compares Jesus to all of the idols that were worshiped. His God was a living God. All of the idols were lifeless pieces of wood, stone or metal. Jesus, he confessed, was the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Jesus praised Peter for his faith. He said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” Jesus begins by pointing out the fact that this faith, this confession, was a blessing that came from God. It was not something that he came up with on his own. It was revealed to him by God the Father. Elsewhere, we read that it is the Holy Spirit, who creates faith in the heart. This faith is a gift, a blessing that is not earned. The only way that it can be given is through the work of God.

Jesus continues, “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.” Jesus called him “Peter.” In doing so, Jesus is making a play on words in the Greek. The words “Peter” and “rock” both come from the same root. Jesus called Peter a rock on which he would build his church. This is not to say that Peter was to be the head of the church. Rather, Jesus is pointing to the faith that Peter had expressed and said that that faith is the rock, the foundation, on which the Church is built. Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church. He is the sure foundation stone. Jesus tells Peter that his confession of Christ is the foundation on which the Church is built.

Jesus promises that the gates of Hades will not overcome his Church. When Jesus uses the word “Hades,” he is referring to hell. Jesus assures us that all the forces of hell, no matter how hard they fight, will never overcome his Church. This overcoming is not just a defensive word, as if the Christian is locked inside of a fortress, that is under siege. The word also has an offensive meaning. Not only can all the forces of hell not defeat us, but also the forces of hell are as good as defeated when Christ’s Church makes a stand against them. All of the forces of hell are no match for the Church of Christ, because he has won the victory through his perfect life, his innocent suffering and death, and his glorious resurrection. God promises great blessings to the believers, those who confess Jesus Christ as their Savior.

We, also, have been brought to faith. We did not choose to accept Christ. Rather, it was the Holy Spirit who created that faith. It was a gift that came from him. We, too, have the blessings that Peter received. The greatest blessing that comes to us through our faith is the sure knowledge that Jesus paid for all of the sins that we have ever committed. There is no way that we could have paid the debt that was owed. It is only through believing in Jesus as our Savior that our sins are paid for. We thank our God that he created this faith in our hearts. We, too, confess that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

God has created this faith in our hearts. He also wants us to confess Christ before others. This is not only done by telling unbelievers about Jesus, though that is an important thing that we have the privilege to do. It can be done as we teach the children in Sunday School. It can be done by going and visiting those members who can no longer attend services to let them know that they are still a part of the congregation. We can confess our faith when we visit with those who have not attended services for a while to let them know that we are concerned about them and invite them to rejoin us. There are many ways that we can confess our faith in Christ before others.

As we said earlier, controversy surrounds many people in history. There is much debate about what was done or why it was done. As we have seen, the unbelieving world even debates as to whom Jesus is. We thank God that he has created a faith in our hearts that leads us to know that Jesus is the Christ. He is our Savior. We know, by faith, that he is the Son of God. May God continue to strengthen our faith, so that we may always know, beyond a shadow of a doubt who Jesus is. May God help us to confess Christ before others to his glory. Amen.