Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Passage: Matthew 16:13–16:20
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 16:13-20
Date: August 27th, 2017; Pentecost 12; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Jesus asked the disciples a question that gets to the very heart of the Christian faith.
He asked, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13).
In other words, who is Jesus?
This is an important question.
What is your answer?
We hear a lot of different answers to this question.
Some answer that Jesus was a nice religious man, or a moral teacher, or an example of how to live a righteous life, or our “coach” who helps us live holy lives, or he was one prophet among many.
And although these responses may have some truth in them - they certainly do not fully answer the question of who Jesus is.
There are a lot of answers out there.
In fact, I typed this question into a Google search and there were more that 25 million results that turned up in less than a second!
This shows that there are a lot of different opinions on who Jesus is.
And the disciple’s answer to Jesus question shows that there was a lot of confusion way back then too.
They answered him, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:14).
Jesus then directs his question to his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
And Peter, like that smart kid in class who always has all of the answers, was the first to respond to our Lord.
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Peter answered (Matthew 16:16).
And Peter’s answer is correct.
Jesus is the Christ. The Anointed One. The Messiah. The fulfillment of all God promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the prophets - and to you.
This is what Peter confessed - and this is what we confess in the Creed.
Jesus reminded Peter that he didn’t come to this conclusion by his own reason, strength, or intuition. In fact, he couldn’t have learned it on his own.
“Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,” Jesus told him (Matthew 16:17).
This is also what Luther teaches in the Small Catechism in his explanation of the third article of the Creed, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him.”
We can know that Jesus walked on the earth and we can know some of the things he said and did.
But to believe and confess that he is the promised Messiah who has come to save the world from sin and death - including you personally - that is faith that only the Holy Spirit can provide as a gift.
“…No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit,” the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:3).
So, why does this matter? Why is it so important to believe in and confess that Jesus is the Christ who has come to take away the sin of the world?
It matters because Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One - holds the keys. The keys to heaven.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
Jesus makes it clear that he is the only One who has the keys to heaven.
And he wants those keys to be used. He said to Peter, "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" (Matthew 16:19).
Jesus does not want our sin to prevent us from getting to heaven.
The truth is that we are born shackled in our sin.
But God doesn’t want that, he didn’t create us to be slaves to sin – he created us to be free in his love and in our love for one another.
So he gave the disciples and his church the keys to free us from those shackles, which we call the Office of the Keys.
He gave us the ability to free people of their sins through the forgiveness that he earned for us on the cross.
Those keys have been passed on, generation after generation. Millennia after millennia.
Jesus has set us free. Free from sin and death. Unbound from our trespasses. Loosed from our offences.
This word "loosed" is the same word that Jesus used after He raised Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus told those watching, "Untie him." Loosen the burial clothes. Free him of his restraints.
And at Jesus’ word of command, Lazarus rose free from his death.
And we who were once dead (and bound) in our trespasses have now been freed from our death through the forgiveness of our sins.
Who is Jesus?
The answer to this question gets to the heart of the Christian faith.
He is the Messiah who took on our flesh - that he may take upon himself - the punishment and death that you and I deserve for our sin.
Jesus is the Messiah, who after suffering and being put to death, rose victoriously.
He destroyed sin, death, and the devil as proven by his death defeating resurrection.
Jesus is the Messiah who fulfilled God’s plan of grace and mercy for you.
He is the Saviour of the world, who has given us the keys so that we may enter heaven and live with him for eternity.
Jesus is your Peace in the midst of conflict. He is your Comfort in the midst of distress.
As it is so nicely put in the hymn “Christ is the World’s Redeemer”:
Jesus Christ is the world’s Redeemer,
The lover of the pure,
The font of heavenly wisdom,
Our trust and hope secure,
The armor of His soldiers,
The Lord of earth and sky,
Our health while we are living,
Our life when we shall die” (LSB 539). Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.