If Jesus Is Not A Life Coach, Your BFF, A Wise Guru, Or A Political Revolutionary - Who Is He Then?

Text:  Matthew 16:13-20

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Jesus was coming into the region of Caesarea Philippi.  It was a region that had royal wealth and power.  It was also a region filled with idols and Greek culture.  It was within this context though that Jesus poses this question to His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

Before we examine the disciple’s response and answer to Jesus, let me ask you this same question.  Who do people say Jesus is today?  Is Jesus a mascot that cheers us on in this life as we stumble in sin and valiantly get up to fight another day?  Is Jesus a life coach who trains us and shows us how to live, kind of an example that one must follow? Is Jesus a best friend forever—a BFF—who merely cuddles little lambs? Was Jesus an overconfident Jewish Rabi preacher that found the true and secret path to right living?  Was Jesus a mere carpenter who was crucified by the Jews? So, who do people say Jesus is?

Like today, there were many opinions in the first-century on Jesus’ identity.  Like today, most of the opinions in the first-century were based on guesses, personal uninformed opinions, political and national hopes, and vacuous conjectures.

After asking the question of, “who do people say that I am,” Jesus directs this question to the disciples.  He says to the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter, who typically was a pretty emotional guy that operated on gut reactions, responded to this question by saying,

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

Now, did you just hear this confession by Peter?  Do not be too quick to gloss over it.  Even though Peter uses very few words and does not use extravagant language and does not formulate his answer to Jesus in an academic thesis, it is nonetheless direct and true in every respect.[1]  In other words, “The confession of St. Peter can hardly be improved on [for] it was given to him from the highest source.”[2]  Listen to it again.

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

Notice that this great confession does not confess that Jesus is a mere mascot for a political revolution, or a life coach, or a best friend, or a wise guru, or a motivational speaker, or a good role model, or a mere carpenter, or merely a good teacher.  No, He confesses that Jesus is The Christ, the Son of the Living God. 

Why this confession is simply so profound for you and I to consider today is that Peter did not garner this confession from all the opinions and thoughts about Jesus from the day.  He did not take a public opinion poll, issues surveys, or work with a focus group to derive the identity of Jesus.  Peter also did not dream this confession up on his own, because this confession is not derived from flesh and blood, but rather revealed to Him from the Father in heaven. 

My friends, when it comes to the identity of Jesus: the opinions of Oprah and Dr. Phil; the assertions of popular contemporary songs; the sentiments of sports athletes; the beliefs of movie stars; and the views of philosophers, really hold no weight for Jesus’ identity for Jesus’ identity is not derived from mankind, but is revealed from heaven. 

In a word, Peter is confessing that Jesus is the Messiah; the anointed one of God.  He is confessing that Jesus is not just one person among many, but “the one climatic figure in whom God’s purpose is finally being accomplished.”[3]  Peter is confessing that Jesus is the one that Israel had been waiting and looking for.  Peter is confessing that Jesus is the one that was promised in all the Old Testament scriptures.  He was the one anointed to do something remarkable.

But this now leads us to ask the questions, ‘Do what?  What was Jesus anointed to do?  What does the Christ do and for whom does He do it?’ 

At this point in Matthew chapter sixteen, “Jesus knew that the disciples would not [fully] know [and understand] the answer to that question until after He suffered, died, and rose from the dead. [In other words, they would not fully understand every implication of what Peter had just confessed, until all the events of Jesus’ ministry unraveled.]  That is the reason that Jesus gave that odd little instruction near the end of today’s reading.  He strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.  He did not want the disciples to teach the wrong understanding of what it means to be the Christ.”[4]  Thus, even though Peter’s confession was spot on, the disciples did not fully comprehend everything that the Christ was anointed to do and accomplish.

Today, you have heard the great confession of Peter from the written Word of God, the confession that was revealed to Peter by the Father.  Unlike the disciples in our text though, you have had the privileged to hear, what the radio announcer Paul Harvey says is, ‘The rest of the story.’  Indeed, God’s Word has proclaimed to you the rest of the story of Christ, so that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in His name.[5]  Otherwise stated you have heard that Jesus went to the cross where He was crucified, died and was buried—for you.  You have heard the words that Jesus is not in the tomb—that He is not among the dead.  You have heard that Jesus ascended and sits at the right hand in glory and power.  Therefore, dear friends, today, who do you, say that Jesus is?

Baptized saints, may we confess today that we believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is our Lord, who has redeemed us,  lost and condemned persons, purchased and won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that we may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.  This is most certainly true.[6]

This confession of ours and Peter’s confession is most certainly pure gift, for we cannot believe or confess Jesus as Lord or come to Him unless the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel and enlightened us.  Thus, Peter’s confession and our confession is a pure gift that does not come from all the conjectures and opinions of mankind, but it comes as a revelation to us, a gift to us from the Lord. 

Not only is this confession a great gift to Peter and to us, for we could not derive such a confession by our own thoughts, but this great confession of who Jesus is, is that which the church is built upon.  In others word, Baptized saints, do you realize that this church and the church at large are both built upon this great confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God?  Yes, according to Jesus in our Gospel reading from today, this confession that came out of the mouth of Peter and the confession that has been revealed to you and me is the strength of the church and the foundation upon which the church stands.  Thus, like the hundreds of Christians that have come before you, you are here because of what Christ did for you; you are here because the Holy Spirit through the Gospel has called you, enlightened you, placed this confession in your mouths, and placed you in the Christ’s church; the church that is gathered around and upon who Jesus is.  What this means is that the strength of this church is neither in your individual will-power nor your cumulative strength, but it is upon the great confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God—for you and for me. 

Practically stated, this church and the church at large is not built upon bricks, wood, steel, church councils, paid staff, church polity, constitutions, by-laws, Robert’s Rules of Order, programs, ministries, socials, friendships, relationships, activities, and so forth, as important as these things sometimes are.  The church is not even built upon a forged Jesus who is only a mere example, mascot, moral teacher, life coach, and so forth.  Truly, the church is not built upon you and me, it is not built upon a plastic counterfeit messiah, for a church that is built upon these things cannot stand and will not persevere.  Rather, the church that is called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified by Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, is built upon the solid and sturdy confession of who Christ is.  Yes, upon this confession of who Jesus is, nothing will overcome the called church.  Indeed, “it has the strength of God himself to overcome the gates of Hades.”[7]

You and I must keep in mind though that Jesus does not say that there will not be sorrow, danger, and pain for the church.  For indeed history has shown us that Christ’s bride, the church, has been beaten and bruised by the world.  With that said though, Jesus does say that the final victory will go to the ‘the called out’ church.  That is to say, the Gates of Hades are wicked false doctrines which seduce people away from the truth of the Gospel into the pits of hell; however, no scheme of man can change the fact that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the Living God.  Even more, the events of the past, present, and future cannot change this objective assuring fact that Jesus is the Christ who suffered, died, rose, and lives today.  The church rests upon this.  By the same token, Satan and his evil cohorts cannot defeat the church; the church will never be defeated by the hosts of darkness, no matter how dark it may get, because blood was shed on the cross and the tomb is empty—for you and me.  Take comfort dear flock for the powers of sin, death, and the evil one shall not prevail against the church, for the church is founded upon the Lord and giver of life; it is founded upon the crucified and resurrected Christ—for you and me. 

Blessed saints, all in all, Jesus Christ is the power and wisdom of God.  He is our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. He is the cornerstone of the church and the cornerstone of your faith for this life and the one to come.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

[1] R.C.H. Lenski. Matthew: Commentary on the New Testament (Hendrickson Publishers, 2001), 622.

[2] Norman Nagel.  Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 261.

[3] R.T. France,  The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), 618.

[4] James Batchelor, “Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost Sermon at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church of Hoopeston, IL” http://lcmssermons.com/index.php?sn=3863 (22 August 2014).

[5] See John 21:21.

[6] Explanation of the 2nd Article of the Apostle’s Creed according to the Small Catechism.

[7] Sermon Studies on the Gospels: Series A, Richard D. Balge, ed. (Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House), 288.

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Steve Martin said…
That, is a great sermon!

Thanks be to God!