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Pentecost 12 2020, Proper 16
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 23, 2020
Isaiah 51:1-6, Romans 11:33-12:8, Matthew 16:13-20

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

When I was in high school the really cool car was a Pontiac Trans Am with the 6.6 liter engine, tail fin, hood scoop, and tires with raised white letters. That was a fast, cool looking car with cool looking tires.  Tires are kind of funny.  There is style in the look of tires.  Since 1914 when whitewall tires were first made by the Vogue Tyre and Rubber Co. in Chicago for their horse drawn carriages we have had many variations in the style of the sidewalls of tires.  There are wide whitewalls, there are skinny whitewalls, there are the raised white letters, and there are the plain black sidewalls which seems to be mostly the preference today.  As cool as the different style of tire sidewalls may or may not look, it doesn’t really matter as far as the function of the tire.  What matters is the tread; where the rubber meets the road.

In churches there are a lot of different looks and styles.  Different styles of buildings and different styles of worship and church publications, programs, fellowship and food.  But these things are a lot like the sidewall of the tire. It may look nice and stylish, but that is not where the rubber meets the road.

In today’s Gospel reading we have a fundamental truth; a foundational truth.  Matthew 16:13 (ESV) 13 … [Jesus] asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”[1] Who is Jesus?  This was a huge question 2,000 years ago and it is a huge question today.  It is a fundamental question.  It is indeed where the rubber meets the road.  Who is Jesus?  Lots of people talk about Jesus.  Some shout his name as an expletive.  Muslims say they believe in Jesus, so the big question is…Who is Jesus?

Matthew 16:14 (ESV) 14 [The disciples] said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”[2] People at Jesus’ time are confused about Jesus’ identity.  That is the same problem that we have today.

The Barna research group did a poll in 2015 entitled, “What do Americans believe about Jesus? 5 popular beliefs.”  92% of Americans believe that Jesus was a real person who actually lived.  Ok, most people believe there was a guy named Jesus, but only 56% believe Jesus was God.  26% believe Jesus was only a religious or spiritual leader and 18% are not sure.  46% of people believe Jesus was sinless, while 52% of Americans believe Jesus was human and committed sins like other people.  Interestingly, while only 46% of Americans believe Jesus was sinless, 62% claim they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today.  So, who is this sinful Jesus that the 16% of Americans are committed to?  62% claim a commitment, but only 56% believe Jesus is God.  Who is this normal guy Jesus the other 6% are committing to.

Of the 62% who have made a commitment to Jesus only 63% of them believe you go to heaven because of Jesus.  Now, polls can be skewed depending on the questions, but this certainly shows there is a lot of confusion about the question, “Who is Jesus?”

In our nation there is increasingly open hostility toward people who believe that Jesus is God in flesh. Atheists will deride Christians for believing in a magical sky daddy.  Others have a generic god; “the big guy upstairs.”  Some have reduced Jesus to a life coach who helps you navigate the struggles of life.  So the question remains.  Who is Jesus?

Jesus asks the disciples, Matthew 16:15-16 (ESV) 15 …“But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[3]  Peter gets it right.

            This is the fundamental truth of the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation this is the foundational truth.  If you get this question wrong you get it all wrong. On Christ, the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Who is Jesus.  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Jesus is the anointed one.  He is the Son of God.  He is the Messiah foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament.  Now what does it mean to be the Messiah; the Christ?  We will explore that more next week when well-meaning Peter gets it very wrong.

Who is Jesus?  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Jesus is not your creation.  He is not someone you can mold and shape to your own understandings.  Jesus is not a comforting teddy-bear-type figure that you can put up on your shelf and ignore most of the time and then take Him down when you need to be comforted.  There is a great temptation to make Jesus be who you want Him to be; to be someone that you control.  But that is not Jesus.  You are not lord over Jesus.  Jesus is Lord over you and all creation.  Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus is God in flesh.  Jesus is Lord.

This is the fundamental truth of the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation this is the foundational truth.  If you get this question wrong you get it all wrong. On Christ, the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Jesus commends Peter’s confession.  Matthew 16:17-19 (ESV) 17 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. 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.”[4]

Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God is the foundation of Christ’s Church.  This is the solid rock of your faith.  This truth will prevail against the horde of demons and evil flooding out of the gates of Hell to attack the Church.  The Church is built on this confession by Peter and the disciples who spread this truth in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.  This truth has spread over the world even to you, here in Hamilton, Ohio.

And the wonderful thing is that this truth is not from you.  It is not about you ginning up the necessary amount of faith. Faith does not proceed from your own intellect or feelings.  This truth is revealed by God.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  Faith is a gift from God to you through the Holy Spirit.

What a great time to be the Church.  It is a wonderful time to be a Christian because we know the truth that so many people need.  So many churches and denominations are all worried about the style and perceptions, but so many have forgotten where the rubber meets the road.  They are busy polishing the whitewalls, but the tires are flat and bald with the steel belts showing and the stems cut off.  In order to be more acceptable to the world they have given up on the real Jesus.

Confessing the real Jesus will not make us popular with the world.  It may bring social and even governmental pressure.  Confessing the true Jesus will not make life easier, but we have Jesus’ own promise that the Church will stand on this rock.

In this time of generic religion and generic gods and so many people so confused about Jesus, it is a great time to be the Church and confess the truth about Jesus.  Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Built on the rock the Church shall stand.         Amen.

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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