Yeah, I Believe In Jesus, But 'My Jesus' Would Never...

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

If the Apostle Peter would have gotten his way, you and I would be left in our sins and damned for eternity. 

Permit me to explain. 

In last week’s Gospel reading we heard the remarkable confession from Peter where he said that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  However, in today’s Gospel reading we heard that Jesus goes on to explain exactly what it meant for Him to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  In other words, reading last week’s Gospel text together with this week’s Gospel text, we can understand that right after Peter’s great and marvelous confession, Jesus goes on to show the disciples just what it meant to for Him to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  That is to say, Jesus explained that He, as the Christ, must go to Jerusalem to suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 

But what does this have to do with you and I being possibly damned in our sins forever?  Well, as we heard in our Gospel reading from today, it was hard for Peter accept Jesus’ explanation of what it meant to be the Christ, especially the suffering and dying part.  Peter was attempting to think about Jesus according to a man-centered way.   Thus, Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him saying, “Far be it from you, Lord!  This shall never happen to you.”  Otherwise stated, Peter just made this great confession that Jesus is the Christ and then Peter hears that the gates of Hades will not overcome the church.  What confidence and joy this must have been for the disciples.  But then, Jesus goes on to ruin all of this optimism by explaining what it means for Him to be the Christ—that He is going to suffer and die and rise.  Jesus goes on to share that it is indeed necessary for Him to suffer and die at the hands of the religious leaders of the day, something that Peter certainly did not want to hear and certainly did not want to happen.  I imagine Peter mumbling to himself,

“Jesus if you are the Son of the Living God, why on earth is it necessary for you to suffer and die?  Jesus, you are God in the flesh, you are the Son of Man with authority and power, the church will be founded upon you and the gates of hades will not overcome; therefore what on earth is this talk about death and suffering?  Ugh, enough with this dreadful suffering and dying talk; what about conquering the Romans, what about victory?”

What went wrong with Peter is what goes wrong with you and me today.  We subordinate who Jesus is to how we figure things should be with Jesus.  Yes, Peter “subordinated the Christ, the Son of the Living God, to his definition of the Christ . . . Peter worked these words [about Jesus being the Messiah} his way, to what worked for him.  Peter would not let Jesus be Christ His way.  [Peter] would lay on Jesus the sort of Christ he wanted Him to be.”[1]  Therefore, if Peter would have gotten his way, Jesus wouldn’t have died on the cross, thus resulting in salvation being unaccomplished, thus resulting in you and I being damned to hell.  If Peter would have stopped Jesus from being the Messiah according to Jesus’ perspective, the results would have been disastrous for the lost sheep of Israel and for the helpless sheep of the world—you and me.

My friends, this temptation to redefine Jesus is before each and every one of us.  It really is.  If we were in Peter’s shoes we would have recoiled in horror to Jesus’ talk of suffering and death.  Like Peter we would have said to ourselves, “If Jesus is God’s Christ, then let there be an end to the defeatist talk about suffering and death.”[2]  Like Peter, we are given the great confession upon our mind, hearts, and lips that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, but then we advertently and inadvertently take control of these words given to us.  We commandeer this great confession (these words revealed to us) and then redefine what they mean according to our hopes and dreams and desires.  We do this because it is the way that it is with our idolatrous hearts. 

You see, anytime that we entertain thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him we are breaking the first commandment and committing the sin of idolatry.[3]  In other words, idolatry is rather sneaky because it allows the opportunity to not totally reject the Lord, but an opportunity to simply redefine Him according to one’s own desires.  That is to say, one can add an expansion pack of supposed divine ideologies upon the Lord and not necessarily have to reject the Lord. 

This tactic of not rejecting the Lord, but redefining Him according to our own agendas is the result of the old Adam at work.  Keep in mind that your sinful nature, that is your corrupt and evil nature that you have inherited from Adam’s fall into sin, does not believe the Gospel, never has believed the Gospel and never will believe the Gospel.   The old Adam operates from the context of unbelief.  This sinful nature wants independence, not dependence.  This sinful nature wants to have everything, including the Lord underneath his thumb. This freedom and control can be cleverly attained, though, through the means of idolatry.  To put it briefly, the old Adam is sly in that he won’t flatly reject the Christ and the Gospel for the fear of being exposed.  Rather, the old sinful nature will attempt to redefine Christ into his own image.

Jesus, yeah I believe in Jesus, but my Jesus doesn’t judge anyone and loves everyone.

Jesus, yeah I believe in Jesus, but my Jesus wouldn’t send anyone to hell.

Jesus, yeah I believe in Jesus, but my Jesus embraces all forms of sexuality and lifestyles.

Jesus, yeah I believe in Jesus, but my Jesus makes me stronger, more likeable, and better by teaching me to believe in myself.

Jesus, yeah I believe in Jesus, but my Jesus mainly teaches me how to be better by obeying His commandments and isn’t really into all that cross-bearing and dying stuff. 

Jesus, yeah I believe in Jesus, but my Jesus is not going to suffer and die but overthrow the Roman Empire.

Dear friends, when we hijack and redefine Jesus according to our own definitions and agendas, we become the mouthpiece and tool of Satan.  This is surely what Peter did to Jesus by attempting to redefine the mission, work, and person of Christ.  This is what you and I do when we take Jesus’ words—His Biblical truths about Himself and His mission of the cross—and simply run with them according to our own schemes.  Indeed, defining Christ according to our own man-centered opinions, desires, hopes, and dreams, rather than letting Christ simply speak for Himself through His Word is doing the work of Satan.[4] 

Keep in mind that Satan in the wilderness attempted to “lure Jesus into a path of power, toward the goal of seizing glory, away from lowliness and obedience,”[5] away from suffering and dying for sin.  Peter, in the same way denies the path of suffering and death, he does not see it as a plan of the Lord’s salvation, and thus he does the work of Satan.

What shall we say and do in response to this sobering reality?  Repent; may the Lord grant repentance to each and every one of us for our attempts of confiscating Jesus and putting Him into our debt.  May we be granted the eyes to see that this sin is most definitely the fruit of the stubborn and rebellious sinful nature.  Right here and right now is yet another opportunity for the old Adam together with all of its sins to be drowned and put to death. 

My friends, Peter with his hijacking actions towards Jesus was not some “mighty hero of [the] faith, prince of the church, number one pope.  . . . [That is to say,] you cannot be a bigger sinner than Peter with his satanic Christology.  Nevertheless, Jesus did not give up on Peter”[6] and He does not give up on you today.  Consider this, Jesus rebuked Peter to get behind Him not only because Peter was dead wrong but because Peter would not stand in Jesus’s way of the cross.  Peter would not stand in Jesus’ way for it was necessary—despite what Peter’s opinion was—for Jesus to suffer, die, and be raised again.  In other words, despite Peter’s road block, despite Him trying to redefine Jesus’ mission and purpose, and despite Peter’s sin, Jesus resisted this temptation, cast Peter and the temptation aside, and kept His appointment with the cross.  Why? Because Peter needed redemption for His sin; because you and I need forgiveness for our sins. 

The bottom line is that Peter’s confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God is the confession that prevails.  To put it another way, Jesus does not act according to Peter’s definition of who He is and what Peter thinks He should do.  Jesus also does not act according to our own sinful definitions of who we think He is, or who we think He needs to be.  He is Lord and we are not.  He is not handcuffed to our definitions.  He did not yield to Peter’s objections but cast Peter’s objections and the temptations of Satan behind Himself, and walked directly into the suffering, pain, death, and sin of Mount Calvary; and He considered it well worthwhile.

Baptized Saints, the good news is that Satan is indeed put behind Jesus and the definitions of who mankind thinks Jesus should be do not stick to Him, keeping Him from His divine mandate of the cross.  Neither the forces of the evil one nor human denial could keep Christ from the cross; the cross that He went to for Peter, for you, and for me.   

Take comfort dear saints, it was necessary for the Christ to die.  God planned it, Jesus carried out the plan with complete and total faithfulness, because it was and is necessary that He suffer, die, and be raised—for you; for your idolatry, for your past sins, for your present sins, and for your future sins.  It was necessary for Him to suffer, die, and be raised for your forgiveness and so that He might clothe you in righteousness, and declare you His own for all of eternity. 

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

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

[2] Jeffrey Gibbs,  Matthew 11:2-20:34: Concordia Commentary (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2010), 839.

[3] A.W. Tozer. Knowledge of the Holy. Full-Proof Ministires, (Accessed December 29, 2012), 5.

[4] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis, 262.

[5] Jeffrey Gibbs,  Matthew 11:2-20:34: Concordia Commentary, 839.

[6] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis, 262.

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