Saturday, August 23, 2014

Who is the Son of Man?

Sermon on Matthew 16:13-20
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
August 24, 2014 (Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost)

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  If you took a survey today and asked people what they thought of Jesus, the answers you would get back would be just as varied as the answers the people gave when Jesus asked the question in our text.  Some would say that He was a great teacher, a great moral example.  Others, like the Jews, would say that He was a fraud.  Others, such as the Muslims, might call Him a great prophet, one of the more honored predecessors of their own prophet Mohamed.  Atheists would say He was really a nobody who just so happened to have a myth get named after Him.  That is, if they even believe He existed at all.  Other people you ask might not care who Jesus was.  This last group are the ones we are more likely to meet, in fact, many of them are our friends, neighbors, and even relatives.  They have never even given the question of who Jesus is much thought.

But the question is an important one.  It is important because who Jesus is determines who we are.  This is why after hearing the answers the apostles had gleaned from the people around them, He asked the question again, only now it was personal.  “Who do you say that I am?”  This is a question we all must face if we are to be sure that what God has to give us, namely salvation and eternal life, is indeed ours.  It is a question we face as we examine ourselves in preparation to confess our sins and receive Holy Absolution, as we examine ourselves in preparation for the Lord’s Supper, and especially as we daily examine ourselves in preparation for Judgement Day, which could come at any time.  Who do you say that I am?  What do you believe about Jesus?  Who is He?  How do you answer that question?  Being a Christian, after all, is not a matter of looking at myself to see how I’m doing, but receiving the gifts God has to give through Jesus’ death on the cross.  Which means that the doctrine regarding who Jesus is and what He has done, is the very heart and center of Christianity.

In our text, Peter spoke up in behalf of all the apostles when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Peter confesses his faith that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the Creator of the Universe, who has become man in order to save us.  Peter’s confession is not just his own, it is the confession of all the apostles.  Peter becomes their representative, their spokesman.  In fact, in making this confession Peter represents the entire Church, both of the Old Testament saints who expected Christ’s coming, and of the New Testament saints such as you and me who look back to His first coming and forward to His return in glory.  “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.”

But listen to what Jesus says to Peter next: “This was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven.”  The knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, comes only from God Himself.  You see, God must first speak to us before we can speak back to Him.  After all, like Peter, we are sinners.  We are not able to believe what God wants us to believe in our natural minds.  The fact that this Man Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, is a fact that seems impossible to human reason, and in our sinful pride we think that our reason must be the judge of all truth and falsehood.  Our sinfulness causes us to reject Jesus our Savior because who He is and what He is don’t go along with our reason and our senses.  It is only when God reveals the truth to us and gives us the ability to believe it by creating within us a clean heart that we are able to believe, and to confess, what He has said to us.

And that’s what “confession” is.  It is saying back to God, and to each other, and to the world around us, what He has first said to us.  He tells us that we are sinners.  We repeat back to Him what He has said to us when we say that, yes, we are sinners, as we do every Sunday morning and every day when we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  God then tells us that we are forgiven for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ.  We repeat back to Him what He has said to us by confessing our faith, as we do on Sunday morning in the words of the creed, as well as in all the other words of the liturgy which speak of our salvation through Christ.  We also confess to each other and to those around us as we comfort and encourage one another in Christ and testify to those outside the Church what Christ has done for us.  We speak what God has first spoken to us.

Through our speaking what God has spoken to us, God Himself speaks through us.  God has given me the vocation of preaching His Word to this congregation and administering His Sacraments.  Through my mouth and my hands, Christ’s Word and Christ’s hands work on you to give you salvation.  I don’t speak my own word, but God’s Word (and of course one of your responsibilities is to make sure that what I say is in fact God’s Word by cross-checking my preaching against the Holy Scriptures).  If I speak God’s Word, which He has first spoken to Me, then He is speaking through me to you.  As you confess to your neighbors who do not know Christ concerning the salvation that He has given you, as you comfort and encourage one another with the Gospel, and even as you confess your faith through the words of the liturgy and hymns here on Sunday morning, and as you teachers help these children’s parents to teach them regarding what Jesus did for our salvation, God is speaking through you.  He is speaking the same words He has first spoken to you, but He is now speaking through you.

God continues to speak to us.  He continues to give us life through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, as well as through the conversations and the comforts we receive from each other.  It is only through God’s speaking to us, both in the spoken Word and in the edible and drinkable Word of the Sacrament where He gives us the body and blood of Jesus, that God strengthens us.  To receive the Lord’s Supper is also to confess your faith  that this Jesus whose body and blood we receive is in fact the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  This body and blood will strengthen us in our confession to God and our neighbor of what He has done for us.  Which means that we are blessed, for this was not revealed to us by men, but by our Father, who art in heaven.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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