Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Bonus Sermon for St. Peter and St. Paul, 29 June 2009

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
Matthew 16:13-19
Who Is Jesus?
St. Peter and St. Paul, 29 June 2009
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Holy Gospel appointed for today is one of the most controversial in Christian history: Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 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. And 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. 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 in heaven.”
Part of the controversy over this passage of Matthew 16 concerns Jesus. Who is He? Some pastors in our community deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. In denying that truth of the Word of God, such persons are publicly denying that the Holy Bible is God’s Word. They are unfaithful to their office, their congregation, and their Lord. They are saying that their human knowledge about God is better than what the Father Himself reveals about Himself and His Son from heaven. They are setting themselves above the Word, much like the Roman Catholic Pope. And the controversy over the power and primacy of the Pope is addressed in our Lutheran Confessions: “Therefore, these passages demonstrate that Peter is the representative of the entire assembly of the apostles. They do not grant Peter any privilege or superiority or lordship.25 As for the declaration “on this rock I will build My church” [Matthew 16:18], certainly the Church has not been built upon the authority of a man. Rather, it has been built upon the ministry of the confession Peter made, in which he proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God [Matthew 16:16]. Therefore, Christ addresses Peter as a minister, “On this rock,” that is, this ministry. ‹Therefore, He addresses him as a minister of this office in which this confession, and doctrine is to be in operation and says: “Upon this rock,” i.e., this preaching and preaching office.›
26 Furthermore, the ministry of the New Testament is not bound to places and persons like the Levitical [Old Testament] ministry was. Rather, it is spread throughout the whole world. That is where God gives His gifts, apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers [Ephesians 4:11]. Nor does this ministry work because of the authority of any person, but because of the Word given by Christ [Romans 10:17]. ‹Nor does the person add anything to this Word and office; it matters not who is preaching and teaching it; if there are hearts who receive and cling to it, to them it is done as they hear and believe.›
27 Most of the holy Church Fathers, such as Origen, Cyprian, Augustine, Hilary, and Bede, interpret the passage “on this rock” in this way, as not referring to the person of Peter. 28 Chrysostom says this: “Upon this rock,” not upon Peter. For He built His Church not upon man, but upon the faith of Peter. But what was his faith? “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 29 Hilary says: The Father revealed to Peter that he should say, “You are the Son of the living God” [Matthew 16:17]. Therefore, the building of the Church is upon this rock of confession. This faith is the foundation of the Church. [1]
Who is Jesus? He is a prophet, but not a reincarnated prophet of old. He isn’t Jeremiah, Elijah, or even John the Baptist merely brought back to life. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the One Anointed to be the Savior of the world. He is the Son of the Living God, God Himself. This is part of the unique confession of faith of Christians.
If that were not objectively true, that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and God Himself, what would that mean? A mere man is incapable of hearing prayer. That kind of merely mortal Jesus would be useless if you or are someone you love was hospitalized. Comparing Islam to Christianity, the God of the false prophet Mohammed is not the Father of Jesus. Muslims deny that Jesus is the Son of God. To them, Jesus is merely a prophet and an example, not a Savior. In the Bible, Jesus presents Himself to you.
Allow me to re-introduce and redefine a term for you. That term is catholic. You can’t see my sermon manuscript, but the world “catholic” printed here has a small “c,” not a Captial “C.” There is a big difference. The big C has been associated with the Roman Church for about five hundred years. I want to ignore that word and emphasize the small “c” word “catholic,” which is the common property of all Christians of every time and place. We have nothing to fear of being small “c” catholic, for that word refers to what Christians have always and everywhere believed, taught, and confessed about the Lord, Christ, and salvation from the Bible and the Bible alone.
Is denying what the Bible says on any point small “c” catholic? No. Is adding to the Bible small “c” catholic? No. We have no reason, therefore, to trust the Book of Mormon, Mohammed’s Koran, or any other man-made so-called sacred book. We can call to repentance all who deny the Bible’s promises about the forgiveness of sins, Holy Baptism, or Holy Communion. And we can safely reject the new teachings of the Roman Church such as praying to Mary, angels, and the saints, and we can also safely say that the Roman Pope is not God’s sole supreme authority on earth.
CTLC: “The foundation of all Roman Catholic arguments for the authority of the pope rests on the interpretation of Matthew 16:18 and John 21:15–17. Rome claims that Matthew 16:18 is the “proof text” for papal authority. The argument goes like this: The Lord chose St. Peter to be the head of the apostles, and as such, Christ promises to build His Church on Peter, the Rock. A careful study of the actual words of this text reveals that in fact Christ is playing off Peter’s name [in Greek], “Petros,” to speak about the “Petra,” the rock-solid truth that Peter is expressing, namely, the truth about Christ. On the rock of Peter’s confession—not Peter himself—Christ says He is building His Church.” [2]
In His Word, Jesus does not give us the option to merely consider him as just a man, just a prophet, or just a good moral teacher. He is, according to C. S. Lewis, a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord.
Who is Jesus? He is the Christ, the Son of God, the True Head of His Christian Church on earth. Jesus is the author, the authority behind God’s Word. He is our Savior, Redeemer and Friend, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is the One in Whom we believe, He Whose Person and Work form the content of our Christian teaching. Jesus is the solid Rock upon Whom we build our earthly and heavenly lives. When a pastor stands to announce the forgiveness of your sins “in the stead and by the command” of Christ, the keys of the kingdom of heaven loose in heaven the sins that are loosed on earth in Jesus’ name. He is, after all, always doing His name. Jesus means “Savior.” In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1]Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (297). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
[2]Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (291). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.