Sermon for Pentecost 13 – 8.27.23

+ 13th Sunday after Pentecost – August 27th, 2023 +

Series A: Isaiah 51:1-6; Romans 11:33-12:8; Matthew 16:13—20

Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church

Milton, WA

 

“On Christ the Solid Rock”

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

When we were looking for our first home back in Southern California there was one house we crossed off the list as soon as we walked in the front door. The hallway was sloped. Like a carnival fun house. The foundation was cracked and crumbling. It doesn’t take an engineer to tell you that the foundation makes the house.

 

Today’s Gospel reading does something similar for us as we hear and read it. What’s true in home-building is even more true in matters of faith and confession. The foundation makes the house. And the foundation of today’s Gospel reading rests firmly on Christ…who he is and what he has done to build, preserve, and save you, his church, his people. Jesus’ promises to build his church, to give authority to forgive sin, and his victory over the gates of death and hell in his own death and resurrection.

 

Jesus starts with a question. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

 

This is one of Jesus’ favorite titles for himself. It’s messianic, and yet reveals his humility and his humanity, and his passion and suffering. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

 

Not surprisingly, 1st century answers to this question abounded. “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Others thought he would be a priestly or kingly figure. A warrior. The Son of David. That he would come and kick out the Romans and establish an earthly kingdom. They were partly right. Jesus is a priest, a prophet, a king, a warrior, and the Son of David but all of those in connection to his cross. His kingdom is not of this world.

 

Answering this question right is like having a good foundation under your house. And sadly, many were building on sinking sand of their opinions instead of the firm foundation of Jesus’ word.

 

It’s no different today. When you ask, “Who is Jesus” you’ll get all kinds of answers. Jesus is a moral example. An obedient Jew. A miracle worker. An exorcist. A new Moses. A wise or good teacher. Some even treat Jesus more like a mascot a mystical friend, or even their homeboy. The list could go on. There is no end to people making Jesus in their own image, or laying down ideas of Jesus like a foundation. But remember, only a good foundation makes a good house.

 

Jesus goes on. “But who do you say that I am?” The answer to that question, again, is similar to laying a foundation. This time for his disciples. For us. Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

 

Peter answers correctly, a fully loaded phrase, packed with God’s promises – a firm foundation to be sure. The Christ is New Testament language for the Old Testament word Messiah. The Anointed One. Priests. Kings. Prophets. They were all anointed in the Old Testament. Set aside for a holy purpose.

 

Peter’s confession reveals that the prophet who is like Moses, only greater, has finally come, not in the burning bush but in the flesh and blood of Jesus. The true King of Israel and Son of David who will rule on an eternal throne is here. The great high priest to whom Aaron pointed has come as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. It all happens in Jesus, the Christ. Son of Man and Son of the Living God.

 

The Son of the Living God is an important phrase in this confession as well. Jesus is not a dead god like all the other so-called gods and goddesses made by the hands of men. Not the gods of our own imagination either. The living God. The God who came down in human flesh as true God and true man to save you by dying and rising again from the dead.

 

Peter makes this confession, and yet he is not alone. The disciples are there, he speaks for them. But more…Peter’s answer is our answer too. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is what we confess in the Creeds of the church as well. You could even say that Peter confesses the first apostles’ creed when he says, ““you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

 

To confess the Christian faith as Peter does here, as we do in our creeds, and in our baptized life is a lot like having a good foundation to a house. A good, faithful, biblical, true creed and confession of who Christ is and what he is done makes for a good and faithful house of the Lord. When we build our faith on anything or anyone except the Christ, the Son of the Living God crucified and risen for you, we build it on something like jello, molded after our sinful nature, and always an unsure foundation.

 

The opposite of confession is denial. An anti-confession of sorts. In our sin, we’re quite good at this. We deny Christ both with our lips and with our lives. With our lives by our attempts to justify ourselves, to be Christ for ourselves, to live as though God did not matter and as if all that mattered was Me. We deny Christ when we lay as our foundation anything or anyone other than the word and work of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

 

That’s why it’s important to remember that while Peter said these words, made a good confession, this wasn’t something that came from him. Confession of who Jesus is, is like faith in Jesus – it’s a gift.

 

“To confess” means to say back what you have heard, to say the same thing. Jesus reminded Peter that he didn’t come to this conclusion by his own reason, strength, or intuition. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” 

 

We say the same thing in our catechism when we confess, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him.” Peter’s confession, like our confessions of Christ, is by grace. The working of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our hearts, ears, minds, and mouths.

 

Jesus continues his blessing… 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.”

 

The keys are Jesus’ authority given to bind and set free from sin. Jesus wasn’t making Peter the Pope. Jesus was making Peter, the confessing disciple, an apostle, sent with the authority of Jesus Himself, whose confessing mouth would bind the devil and free men from bondage to sin and death.

 

Jesus also promises to preserve his church, to build it on the sure foundation of his death and resurrection, and by his death and resurrection to storm the very gates of death and hell. In Jesus’ death, the gates of death will not stand against him. For he comes in the power of his life, death, and resurrection. His is a victory that destroys death. Death is utterly, completely defeated in Jesus dying and rising for you. On the rock of Golgotha and out of the rock of his tomb, Jesus has taken down the gates of Hades. Ripped them off their hinges. Trampled them underfoot. Death is dead. Done. Sin, death, and the devil hold no more power. Not over Jesus. And not over you. This is what Peter’s confession means. It is the confession of Jesus who overcomes death. And in Jesus, you overcome death as well. No matter how bad it looks in the world right now.

 

On this solid rock, on this confession, on Christ’s death and resurrection, you his church are built.

On the firm foundation of Christ’s dying and rising Christ builds his church.

On the rock of Mt. Calvary where Jesus died and on the stone he rolled away, Christ builds his church, giving you a firm foundation.

 

For it is not we who are to build, but God. No human being builds the church, but Christ alone. We are to confess, while God builds. We are to preach, while God builds. We are to pray to God, while God builds. Christ alone is your Lord; by his grace alone you live, just as you are. In His church, Christ is building.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

Church Office Hours

Monday - Thursday 8:30am-3:30pm

Friday 8:30am-11:30am

The office is closed on Fridays during the summer months of June, July, and August.

Preschool Office Hours

August - May
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
8:30am-12:30pm

By appointment only June and July

Contact

Address
2306 Milton Way
Milton, WA 98354
Phone
(253) 922-6977
Fax
(253) 922-6977