Sunday, August 23, 2020

“Who Do You Say I Am?” (Matthew 16:13-20)


Today, our gospel message comes to us from Matthew 16:13-20, “The profession of Peter’s faith.”

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 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.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ (ESV).

Heavenly Father, you sent your Son to reveal your will for our lives and redeem us from sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, inspire us with confidence that you are with us in the midst of the storms of life, bring peace to our troubled souls, and lead your church throughout the ages. Enable us to live as your redeemed saints, that our lives may witness to our faith. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

“Who Do You Say I Am?”

INTRODUCTION

It is helpful at times to ask ourselves hard questions. They help us get our bearings and make sure that we are headed along the path that we want to walk to achieve the goals to which we feel called. Today we ponder the question, “Who do you say that I am?”

THE SETTING

Jesus asked his disciples this question when they were at Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea Philippi was the farthest point north from Jerusalem. It was the place were several contrasting religions—Canaanite (Baal), Egyptian, Greek, and Roman—had places of worship. This story also took place just before Jesus turned south and headed toward Jerusalem and his destiny.

Jesus first asks who the people think he may be. The disciples answer that people are speculating that Jesus might be the reincarnation of John the Baptist, Elijah, who was prophesized to precede the Messiah, or one of Israel’s great prophets. No one had figured out that Jesus might be the Messiah, because Jesus was so different from the Messiah that they were expecting.

After listening to what the people around the countryside thought of him, Jesus asks his disciples, “And who do you say that I am?” They are silent except for Peter, who says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter had been walking with Jesus for three years, and being inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is finally revealed to Peter who Jesus really is—the Messiah for whom Israel has been waiting.

THE CONFESSION

There was a greater difference between the fact that Peter made a confession and the general populous conjured up mere speculation. Along with Peter’s proclamation that Jesus was the Christ, came the commitment to follow Jesus as one of his disciples. The speculation of the people cost them nothing and affected their lives very little. Peter’s confession (and the confession of the church that followed) cost him everything and changed his life completely.

Today we can follow the example of the people and only speculate who Jesus might be—keeping an open mind for other possibilities. We can worship God, sing songs of praise, and listen to sermons and prayers while hesitating to make a commitment—wanting to keep our options open. Without the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord, and the commitment to become his disciple, there is little or no motivation to commit our time, talents, or treasures to his service—let alone our lives.

If we are brothers and sisters of Peter, though, we receive the revelation that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God; that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. We also open ourselves to the life-changing possibilities that such a confession opens to us and commit ourselves to live in reality by committing our lives—time, talents, and treasures—to loving God, serving and neighbor, and experiencing the abundant life that is ours.

Who we say that God is, by our words and actions, makes a huge difference in how we live out our lives.

OTHER NAMES FOR GOD

Peter experienced Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Throughout the Scriptures, God has revealed himself to people differently and touched their lives in various ways.

• For the Psalmist, God was a good shepherd who led him to green pastures, cool streams, and walked with him through the valley of the shadow of death.

• In Psalm 46, the writer sees God as his refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

• Several times in the Old Testament, the Lord is referred to as God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

• The prophet Isaiah writes that the Messiah will be titled, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

• The name Jesus or Joshua can be translated, “God saves.”

• Jesus is called Emmanuel, or “God with us.”

Each of us has experienced God in our lives in different ways.

• God is our provider giving us our daily bread.

• God is our comport, surrounding us with his love in times of grief.

• God is our peace, calming the storms of our lives, walking with us through troubled times, and giving us the strength to persevere and overcome.

CONCLUSION

Who do you say that God is? If he is your Lord and Savior, then commit your life to him and offer your time, talents, and treasures as your living sacrifice. If God is your provider, comfort, or peace, then give of your time, talents, and treasures, so that the church can be provider, comfort, and peace to the people around us.

No one can answer this question for you. You cannot poll the crowd and go with the largest response. This question is a question that you must answer for yourself and allow your confession to direct the path of your life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are a Lord who walks beside your people. So we pray for people who walk for justice.

You are a Lord who raises up those who are bent low. So we pray for those held down by the grindings of life and the indifference of the world.

You are a Lord who feeds the hungry. So we pray for all who long for bread and the means to provide it.

You are a Lord who celebrates the small and the insignificant. So we pray for the children and for those who are never noticed.

You are a Lord who says, ‘Follow me.’ So we pray for courage and faith in our hearts that we may take up the cross and find it leads to life.

You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Amen.

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Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Sermon contributed by Kevin Ruffcorn.
Saying that Jesus is our Lord and Savior demands that we back up our words with actions.

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