The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“On This Rock”
August 27, 2017
Sermon Text: Matthew 16:13-20
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
Although impossible to say for sure, the way it is written and presented, Simon Peter’s response seems to be immediate and decisive to the question asked.
To our Lord’s inquiry, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter relies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15)
There appears to have been no delay… no equivocation… no hemming and hawing on Peter’s part. He didn’t ask the Lord for a hint. He didn’t ask the Lord if, to this one-question quiz, it could be multiple choice… “Am I…A… B… or C?”
No. To the direct question comes the direct answer, filled with all conviction and certainty, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Peter, in essence said… declared… “You, dear Master, are the Messiah, the Anointed One (which is what the title “Christ” means). You are the One divinely promised in the Garden of Eden right after the fall into sin. You are the One whom the prophets of old spoke about, the One more and more information was given about over the course of time regarding Your coming, until in the fullness of time, You actually came to us… to all mankind… to save us. You are the Christ, and what is more, you who refer to yourself as the ‘Son of Man’ having taken on our flesh… are most certainly also the ‘Son of the Living God.’”
It is one of the great confessions of faith… one that is not only made by Peter, but by each and every Christian down throughout time. Where we acknowledge without any doubt or equivocation that this Jesus is the Christ, the very Savior of the world… that He is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity and also true Man, born of the Virgin Mary… that this Jesus, Peter’s Jesus, our Jesus… is Lord… and all that goes with that divine title and position.
To Peter’s statement, our Lord says, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17)
Indeed, blessed is the man, woman and child who makes this good confession. They are blessed because they are connected to the Rock. They stand firmly upon the Rock of their salvation and it is Jesus Christ. And come what may… come each and every storm of life accompanied by even hurricane force winds… they shall not be swept away… but rather, will remain safe and sound, secure in Jesus Christ.
Our Lord is quick to point out to Peter and to all of us that the confession he made… that we make… isn’t something that we come to on our own. As there is no “making a decision for Jesus” on our own, neither is there making this confession on our own… of our own doing.
Rather it is of divine origin. It is divinely revealed, shared with us, imparted to us by our heavenly Father. Where? Here… in His Word. And it becomes our confession, is made our confession by the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in us through the all-powerful Word of God that is preached and taught to us, read and studied by us, which alone changes an unbelieving heart and mind… which alone opens our lips to make the good confession and sing forth God’s praise.
You know, in just a couple of months, we will join all of Christendom in celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, giving thanks to God for bringing the visible church here on earth back to the Word of God and the eternal truths, glorious truths, it proclaims.
This includes the truth regarding what our Savior, Jesus, says next in our text. “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
At the time of the Reformation and still to this day, the Roman Catholic Church holds that our Lord is here telling Peter that on him… on Peter… He will build His Church.
I will spare you the grammatical and syntactical problems of the same and go to the very truth which is born out again and again in Holy Scripture. And that is there is only one Rock on which the Holy Christian Church is built and it is Jesus Christ.
Ok. That’s it. You can go home now. Well… maybe not so fast as it worth noting that what our Lord is saying to Peter and the other disciples… as well as all of us… is that His Church is built on the rock of Peter’s confession… the confession that He… Jesus… is the Messiah… that He… Jesus… is the very Son of God.
The idea that Christ’s Church can… would… is… built on any man… any mere mortal… even if it happens to be an Apostle… even if it is the one who is “first among the Apostles” is ludicrous.
Christ’s Church is built on the confession of Christ… the confession of all Christians that Jesus is the Christ. Remember that the Church is not bricks and mortar. It is not a building, an edifice, institution or organization (which, those viewing it that way are many times turned off to the church because they see a primarily human institution that is many times corrupt, hypocritical, oppressive and to them, downright “unchristian” in its actions).
No. The Church is Christ’s body. It is all the precious men, women and children who make up that Body, His Body… who are part of His Body… who live and dwell and carry out their daily lives in this His holy Body, sacred Body, spiritual Body… not made, as Scripture says, by human hands.
What that means for you and me, my friends, is that we could not be safer or more secure than on the Rock of our salvation from sin, death, the devil and all that the world would throw at us… all that comes upon us in this our brief sojourn here on earth.
Our Rock is Jesus. No other… none other. Our confession is Jesus. No other… none other. Not now… not ever. Here we stand by the grace of God. On the Rock! Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“On This Rock” 8/27/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Luther