Based on: Matthew 16:13-20
Every once in awhile I see a bumper sticker where the first line reads, "No Jesus, No Peace." The word no is spelled N O, and of course that means that if you don’t have Jesus of course you don’t have real peace either. The second line of the bumper sticker says, "Know Jesus, Know Peace.” And the word know is spelled K N O W. If you know who Jesus is then you also have peace.
In our gospel for today Peter confesses that he knows who Jesus is and, of course, to know Jesus is to have peace and salvation. We will take the next several minutes here to look at who Jesus is, to look at our own confession of who Jesus is and finally what that means for us.
We can see very clearly what many people thought about Jesus in his day. Some thought that John the Baptist had come back to life. Others thought he was one of several Old Testament prophets who had died long ago. They all had good things to say about him, but their knowledge of him fell far short of reality.
What kind of answers would you get if you asked people today, “Who is Jesus?” Some might say he never really existed, but many others would say he was a very good person, that he taught people to love their neighbor and that we should follow his example. They might even say that he was a prophet who spoke for God. Too often, though, they will stop short of the whole truth. If that is all you know about Jesus, that he was a good person or just an example, then everything you know about Jesus is worthless.
When Peter responds to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” then we hear the full reality of what it means to know Jesus. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Now what does this mean? Do you know what the word “Christ” means? It is not part of his name. It is a title and it means the same thing as the Old Testament word “Messiah.” It means “Anointed One.” Whenever you anointed someone in the Old Testament you were installing them into a particular office. Usually that office would be prophet, high priest, or king. Our “Anointed One”, Jesus, actually does all three. As our prophet he proclaims God’s Word to us. As our high priest he made himself the sacrifice for our sins and mediates between us and God. As our king he rules in our hearts and rules the world for our good. Being anointed into these three offices really means that Jesus was anointed to be our Savior.
Peter also said to Jesus, you are the “Son of the living God.” This man whom God anointed to be our Savior is God’s own Son. He is not just a good person who teaches us to love. He is not merely a good example for us to follow. He is not only someone who speaks for God, but he is God. And if Jesus is God then we can be sure that the work he did to rescue us from hell was done perfectly.
This confession of Peter about who Jesus is, this is certainly the rock on which the church is founded. Without this truth, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, there can be no church and there can be no salvation.
We also confess the same thing Peter confessed. A little later we will say these words from the Nicene Creed, “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.” We also summarize all that he has done for us. But our confession doesn’t end there. It continues as we leave this building and live our lives out there. If someone looked at our lives and asked the question, “Who does this person say that Jesus is?” What answer would they come up with? If Christ’s church has broken through the gates of Hades, rescued me from the hell I deserved, and opened the doors of heaven for me, wouldn’t you think that would have an impact on my life? Our words and actions tell people a lot about what we think about Jesus.
For example, if you walk into a room where one of your co-workers is saying all sorts of lies about someone else, what do you do? If you go in and join right in then that person will get the impression that you are no different than they. You will not give any indication that you know Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God. But if you ask that person to stop or you walk out of the room and show that you aren’t interested in joining in his trash talk, then you have made a statement. They may not know right away why you did what you did, but they will know you are different and if they get to know you they will find out that it is because of Christ.
The same is true with your activity here at church. If you are involved and help here at church, the community of Sleepy Eye will see that and it will make an impression. It will certainly help outreach if people see church members willing to be involved in their church.
It isn’t easy to consistently confess that you know who Jesus is. You know how hard it is to make that confession in the rest of your life match what you say in the creed on Sunday morning, but that is why Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus was anointed to be your Savior.
Jesus made a bold and consistent confession. Even in front of the rulers of Israel and in front of Pilate he admitted plainly to being the Christ and to being King. His disciples fled in fear and we shrink back from confessing the truth, but he did not even though it meant his death on the cross. While on that cross he took on himself our incomplete and inconsistent confession, he took on himself all our guilt and shame and he suffered God’s wrath for it.
That is the blessing that is ours through knowing that Jesus is the Christ. God brings us to the knowledge that Jesus is the Anointed One for us, just as he did for Peter, and he blesses us through that knowledge. Peter would one day write that we are living stones being built into spiritual building. That is what we are, Christ’s church with the truth about who Jesus is as our foundation.
There are more blessings than just our own salvation, but Jesus told Peter that the gates of Hades would not overcome his church. It is not those gates that are attacking the church in this picture, but as the church grows it marches against the gates of hell. As we tell others that Jesus is the Christ then we are breaking down those gates and reaching out to people who would end up in hell without Christ. Whether as individuals or as a group, when we tell others about Christ even the gates of hades cannot stop God’s church from accomplishing what God desires.
Connected with this release from hell are the keys Christ gives to the church to open the door to heaven. We use these keys on a regular basis here at church. Do you know what these keys are? One example of the use of these keys was at the beginning of the service, after the first hymn.
Every Sunday when you hear those words, "I forgive you all your sins," the keys have been used. Your sins have been "loosed." They have been separated from you and the gates of heaven have been opened. As part of the church, you also have this authority. When your kid comes to you and is sorry for what they have done or a fellow Christian repents of his sin, and you tell them they are forgiven. You have used the keys.
Sometimes we tell people that their sins are still bound to them – that heaven is locked to them. Now why would we do that? That sounds cruel and unloving, but when someone is doing something God says is wrong and they are not willing to repent, then we must tell them that by their own actions they have already separated themselves from God and the door to heaven is closed to them. It is really the loving thing to do to tell them they are harming themselves. We want them to repent and come back into God’s grace and receive forgiveness.
So when someone is unwilling to repent of their sin, tell them about the key that locks the doors of heaven, but when a hurting soul comes to you, unsure about what will happen to them when they die – tell them that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and tell them what that means. Tell them that they are forgiven. You will be opening the door to heaven for them. That is what it means that Jesus is the Christ and those are the blessings that come with that truth.