Text: Matthew 16:13-20
18 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. 19 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.”
To have access to our church building you need a key. During services the building is opened and access granted. Following services the building is locked and you can’t get in … unless you have a key.
God’s word functions in a similar way; Locked and opened, bound and free, command and promise, Law and Gospel.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 6:23
Here, wages are contrasted against a free gift and sin and death exchanged for eternal life by means of Christ Jesus our Lord.
To proclaim the truth of who Christ Jesus is and what he has done … you have to know the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done. You have to be brought from death to life. This change and this knowledge comes to you – not by your own efforts or wisdom and strength – but by the power of God’s free gift through the Holy Spirit, working through the word, so that you and I can - by faith - trust and confess Jesus Christ.
15 He [Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
From the region of Tyre and Sidon and the encounter with the Canaanite woman from last week, Jesus and the disciples move to the east and a bit south towards the area of Caesarea Philippi again working their way back towards Galilee. As noted last week the disciples missed some of Jesus’ teaching. They saw the 5000 fed; saw Jesus and Peter walk on the water and the wind and the waves calmed by Christ on the Sea of Galilee; saw steadfast faith from a woman who was not one of the Jews, God’s chosen people, which resulted in her receiving healing for her daughter’s oppression by a demon – immediately. Now, we move ahead a bit in their journey past the feeding of the 4000 to where Jesus asks the disciples a question.
13 … “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
Jesus asks this question to the group. They all had been missing some of His teaching and what he had revealed about himself, even saying at one point “truly, you are the Son of God.” Matt. 14:33b. They, along with the people, had seen the signs and miracles done along the way and Jesus asks them, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
Well, the peoples responses vary. “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” The disciples had heard some of the talk among the people. They thought maybe that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead or that one of the prophets from long ago had returned.
Luke 1:17 tells us:
17 [John] will go before Jesus in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
The people got some of what was proclaimed understanding that John, Elijah and Jesus are connected in some way. So Jesus asks the disciples directly:
“But who do you say that I am?”
Now I want you to understand the importance of the question Jesus asks and the answer that Peter gives. It can’t be answered by human wisdom.
If I were to ask you this same type of question about myself, “Well some might respond saying you’re Russ a childhood friend who grew up in Allen Park, or Russ a co-worker for many years at Evola Music in Bloomfield Hills. Some might say that I’m someone they attended St. John Lutheran Church in Rochester 20 years ago while others might say a member of Peace Lutheran Church here in Waterford.
But to that same question directed to you all here, “But who do you say that I am?” One might speak and answer for the group and say.
"You’re our pastor.”
The answer doesn’t mean that only one member in the church understands who I am and that I've been called to serve as pastor here. But in some way when the truth has been stated, the others know, understand, and agree.
This though, is known by human wisdom. But to the question Christ Jesus asked about himself, it is only known as it is revealed by the working of the Holy Spirit and by faith working through the word.
By faith Christ Jesus is confessed!
Many though in our day neither know God’s word or Christ Jesus the word of God made flesh. Bound in sin we are all brought into this world as God’s enemies and consigned to death. Through the proclamation of the word God works faith in and where he chooses turning those bound in sin free so that they too might confess and call Jesus, “the Christ, the son of the living God.”
Some might say that the confession – you are the Christ the Son of the living God - is the sign and the evidence of faith. It is for sure, but we as Lutheran’s also trust the word of God and the promise.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt 28:18-20
We are to follow Christ’s command and promise, and make disciples by baptizing and teaching. Parents teach their children by singing hymns and songs to them or reading them Bible stories and lessons. We then bring them to Sunday school and Church so they can be instructed and learn what this faith - that they have been given - means and so it doesn’t just die away from them from lack of feeding, or by our own sinfulness, the sinfulness of others and the working of the devil.
Baptizing is good and it’s God’s work, whether it is a baby or one old enough to be instructed and once instructed desires baptism.
Luther says in his writing on, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, which is a big title that simply means the church held captive:
“For the Word of God is powerful enough, when uttered, to change even a godless heart, which is no less unresponsive and helpless than any infant”
http://www.onthewing.org/user/Luther%20-%20Babylonian%20Captivity.pdf Pg 41, Paragraph 2
It is God who brings to faith and it is faith that says as Peter did:
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus commends Peter!
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!
And he tells Peter where the source of this confession comes from:
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter [which means rock], and on this rock [which means the rock of Peter’s confession of faith] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Jesus does not build His church on Peter’s person but on Peter’s confession which is your confession too, and Peter faith is nothing more than your faith and the faith of all, given by God through word and sacrament so that God’s church, and God’s kingdom against sin, death and the devil, is built.
Finally Jesus is speaking to the disciples says:
19 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 given to the church and administered by those called to serve in the place and by the command of Christ. That is why when the pastor says, “I forgive you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” you can trust that you are forgiven as if Christ himself were speaking the forgiveness to you directly.
Receive the forgiveness of the Lord. Joy in his word and sacraments which bring faith that trust is Christ and confesses Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!