It’s Vital To Really Know Jesus

August 27, 2023

Pastor John Hering

Matthew 16:13-20

Matthew 16:13-20

13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  14 They said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  15 He said to them, “But you, who do you say that I am?”  16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overpower 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 commanded the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

People have various opinions about stuff.  For instance, do you associate the color green with limes or apples?  Do you put bean into Chili or not?  What about virus protection?  I don’t mean Covid, I means the virus protection for your computers!  Some will purchase expensive software protection and others are happy with the factory setting for their computer.  What about you?  What kind of summer sausage sandwich do you like?  I like to eat my sandwich with grape jelly.  Some would never think about eating their sandwich without first washing their hands.  Others may tell you that it’s okay to eat with dirty hands because you need to expose your immune system to these viruses so that your immune system can build up a resistance.  What about you?  When was the last time you bought a major appliance? Did you purchase the extended warranty? Some will say that warranties are a scam, but others wouldn’t dare leave Best Buy without that extra protection. How about you?  I know that many personal choices we make in life have a lot to do with our up-bringing, experiences and what you believe is right. It is also interesting to me that many opinions are not necessarily right or wrong. However, some of our personal choices make a huge impact on us and those around us. If your computer crashes because you received a virus and you lose all your pictures and information, if you get sick from eating a sandwich, or your new 72’ TV crashes, you’ll probably think twice about your protection.

The Word of God today invites us to think about a pretty simple question: Do you really know Jesus?  What about you?  How you answer that question will do more than just determine if you are a Lutheran. It determines your eternal destiny. May the Holy Spirit guide our hearts to hear Jesus and realize:

It’s Vital To Really Know Jesus

Jesus Knows Who He Is

Consider the question carefully: Who is Jesus? Jesus knew exactly what the people were saying, but it was time for the disciples to clarify in their own minds by comparing it with other views. 13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?  Who do people today say Jesus is? He knows, but he wants us to pay attention, and listen, and compare. What we hear are a lot of complimentary titles for Jesus. He’s called the  architect of the universe. Counselors call him a wonderful friend. World religions agree that he’s a great prophet. Your friend at work considers Jesus to be an inspirational teacher. These identities of Jesus aren’t really saying anything bad about Jesus at all. But, they aren’t saying enough, either. Jesus knows who he is, but What About You? Who do you say Jesus is?

Here is the answer of the disciples: 14 They said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  15 He said to them, “But you, who do you say that I am?”  16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. To say that Jesus is the Christ is to mean that nobody else completes the prophecies in the Old Testament showing us the exact identity of the Savior. That’s the bottom line. Peter is saying that John the Baptist, Elijah, Moses and the prophets aren’t saviors. If you agree then you’re saying that Allah, Buddha, Mohammed, Peter, Mary, or even ‘the force’ are all not saviors.

Jesus knows what it means when he is called The Christ.” Calling Jesus the Christ also means confessing that you haven’t thoroughly maintained God’s high standards of perfect behavior and so you’re in trouble with God.  Calling Jesus the Christ means that your sins make you sick and you deserve to go to hell to be punished for them. But, Jesus knows who he is.  He knows calling Jesus the Christ (Messiah) also means you believe that he dealt with your problem. He suffered your punishment, and is the only one appointed and authorized by God as the only qualified Savior. Jesus isn’t a block of wood shaped like a person and hanging on a cross. No! He is the Son of the “living God,” alert, active, responsive, and relational among people in the world. Dear Christian Friends – there are no other saviors. No wonder Jesus gets a little upset when the people he came to save are giving themselves over to sins like lying, drunkenness, pornography, stealing, and living the life of a sinner rather than a saint!  Sin ruins and only Jesus saves, so he reminds us, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). Jesus isn’t trying to guard his territory with his claim—he is trying to include more into his kingdom! What about you?  Who do you say Jesus is?

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” You heard Peter’s confession—he declares Jesus to be the Son of God.  Jesus answers by saying Peter is blessed. Why? Jesus comments on who Peter’s dad is—the son of Jonah. That makes him a sinner by birth. That means his flesh and blood are corrupt by sin that he cannot grasp the greatness of Jesus’ identity on its own. He’s blessed because the true identity of Jesus as Savior was revealed to him by the Father in heaven … revealed through the words and works of the Son. Therefore, Peter’s confession is in no way the product of his own reason, superior intellect, meritorious quality in himself or outstanding effort. Peter’s conviction was a gift of God’s grace. But, what about you? Are you blessed like the almost drowning, often disagreeing, three times denying disciple, Peter? Jesus knows who he is.  Jesus reveals his saving love not to those who are so “good” they don’t need it but to those who aren’t good enough. That’s Peter. That’s you. Like Peter let us always answer Jesus’ question clearly with Jesus’ answer: You are my Savior!

Jesus’ Church Knows Who He Is

Do you know anything about the Christian church in Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s? It existed during the rise of Nazism and then the deliberate, systematic annihilation of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, mentally disabled people and nearly anyone else who did not fit into the Aryan future. The church as a whole ignored the destruction of the Jews, tolerated religious allegiance to Hitler, and allowed Christian teachings to be used by the Nazi government for purposes directly contradicting the gospel and mission of Jesus. As long as the organized church institution remained in the form of buildings and budgets, traditions and religious rites, church membership statistics, and the like, church members considered themselves faithful and a part of Jesus’ church.  Surprisingly, allegiance to church membership can clash with allegiance to Jesus. But What About You? Listen to Jesus reply to Peter’s conviction to remind us that Jesus’ Church Knows Who Jesus is!

18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overpower it. What was it that caused Jesus to change Peter’s name from “pebble” to “Rocky?” Was it Peter’s great strength of some kind or membership in a religious organization? No, it was his conviction in his Savior Jesus, who is not only the Rock but also the Builder of the Church. Whose church? Not St. Peter’s church! Not the Lutheran Church! Not Divine Peace Church! Jesus says it is HIS Church.  Peter was a member of Jesus’ Church that knew exactly who Jesus was, and still it!

Jesus continues to explain just how he plans to teach HIS church to know exactly who He Is! 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. You know what binds and loosens a person—the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.  Like a parent handing the car keys over to a 16-year-old and entrusting that child with a new and great responsibility, Jesus entrusts his kingdom to us because we know who he is!  But he doesn’t leave us alone. When we use the law key to lock the kingdom of heaven to someone who refuses and rejects Jesus, it is a validation of what is already and will continue to be true in heaven. When we use the Gospel key to unlock the kingdom of heaven to someone who repents and relies on Jesus, it is a validation of what is already and will continue to be true in heaven.

Here’s a helpful hint for this great responsibility. Notice how Jesus uses the words “church” and “kingdom” interchangeably. The proper way to understand Jesus’ kingdom is not a place but an organized activity. Since Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, it isn’t outlined with boundaries and buildings. Instead the kingdom of heaven operates wherever the Savior, Jesus is believed and shared. How helpful for building the kingdom it would be if we understood the word “church” in the same way!  Instead of a place we go let’s consider church a process we experience, not a destination where you arrive and cross the finish line and say, “I’m here,” but a race of constant participation. Instead of an ancient castle with a moat around it filled with water and alligators that sit on the truth about God, let’s create our church to be more like a summer festival in Dallas celebrating a story … a cause … a life … and sharing it with as many people as possible.

Did you find Jesus’ last statement reason for pause.  Didn’t is sound kind of weird for me to proclaim the following statement and then say, “This is the gospel of the Lord?: 20 Then he commanded the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. Unlike this moment in the ministry of Jesus when it wasn’t quite time for his disciples to go and tell everyone about the true identity of the Savior, today the time has come because we are Jesus’ Church and We know Who He is!  Jesus has given us his blessing! Hell cannot stand against us! The only one who can stop us, is us! There’s nothing wrong with comfortable chairs as long as they are matched by conviction to know the identity of Jesus, to be Christians and a church who acts in such a way that people think of Jesus when they see us, and to reach others with his love.

What makes the difference is conviction. Conviction tells you whether it is vital to have software protection or not; whether it is vital to enjoy jelly on your summer sausage or not; whether it is vital to purchase the extended warranty or not.  Many people have an opinion who Jesus is, but it is Holy Spirit’s created conviction that Jesus is the Christ that grabs you like it grabbed Peter and realize It Is Vital To Really Know Jesus.  What about you?  Jesus Knows Who He Is.   Jesus’ Church Knows Who He is.  It is my prayer that you continue to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31).  Amen.

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