12th Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 16) LSB #’s 906, 645, 587
Text – Matthew 16:18
And I tell you, you are Peter, & on this rock I will build my church, & the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it.
BUILDING ON THE ROCK
A woman took her children to an animal farm in her red Volkswagen bug. She could not find a parking space so she had to put her car in a remote area near a ranger station. When she returned some hours later she found the front end of the car smashed down. Furious, she asked the ranger what had happened.
Apologetically, the ranger assured her the damage would be paid for. The cause of the damage was Millie the elephant, who took children for rides. Years earlier, in a circus act, it had been trained to sit on a red tub. That’s how the front of her red car had been crushed, but since the engine was in the rear of the VW Beetle, it would still run.
The woman took off for home & while trying to pass a line of cars she was stopped by a police officer. She was accused of leaving the scene of an accident in which she was involved. She pleaded that she had not been involved in an accident, so the officer pointed to the crushed front end of her car. “What happened?” he asked. She replied, “An elephant sat on it.”
Reaching into a pocket the officer brought out the breath analyzer. “Lady, would you please breathe into this tube for me?”
Truth matters, but sin has made it difficult for you & me to know what truth is, or what to do with it. For that reason Jesus gives a lesson in the one transcendent truth superseding all other realities. Peter, in characteristic fashion, blurts out the answer:
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” “Then [Jesus] strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ.” (Matthew 16:16 & 20 ESV) That last sentence reveals our handicap in all of this. It makes no sense. First, Jesus asks, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Then He asks, “But who do you say that I am?” After Peter gives the correct answer, Jesus strictly charges them to tell no one. It’s like He’s trying to hide the truth.
The real problem though, is that Jesus’ disciples don’t yet know what to do with the truth. Since they don’t know how to use it, Jesus tells them, for now, to keep it quiet. As the saying goes, “The truth hurts.” It is good to know the truth, yet each one of us can do a lot of damage with it. Sin has made it very difficult for us to know what to do with the truth.
The reason: sin has made it very difficult for you & me to love anyone but ourselves. The end result is this; much of the time we use the truth in ways that hurt other people. I tell the truth to save me time & trouble. It takes time & effort to be kind & patient & considerate.
In Ephesians 4, St. Paul encourages us to speak the truth in love & he connects that to the process of becoming more like Christ. Just because you’ve gone through confirmation or an adult instruction class does not automatically turn you into a mature child of God. Those classes do not give us superiority over others, & they do not even save us from hell.
Many people recognize that & ask, “Why should I bother spending time in such a class?” People spend time & money at college in the hope of getting a higher paying job. No one is going to pay you more money just because you’ve sat through confirmation class.
It would also save me a lot of time & trouble if I didn’t bother teaching them, but remember what I said above? It takes time & effort to be kind, patient & considerate. Loving only me is often the motive for bailing out on truly loving others. Loving others takes time & it involves heartache & struggle. If I don’t want to teach the class is it because I love only me?
If you don’t want to sit through the class is it because you love only you? And if you only love you, or if I only love me, what kind of foundation are we building our lives upon? We go through confirmation class, or adult instruction class, in order to build our lives upon a much more permanent foundation than love of self. We attend those classes out of love for Christ, & out of trust in Christ, because He died for us while we were still living on a foundation of sand.
To our sinful nature it is certainly a waste of time. Yet, trusting in Christ, our saintly nature knows that it’s not.
It seems like such a simple & trite thing to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Yet, that is the difference between death & life for all of forever & ever. What have you built your life upon? When Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” He did it so they would begin to consider upon what were they building their lives.
In the context of increasing hostility from the Jewish people & their leaders, Peter utters the climactic confession that brings the 2nd major section of Matthew’s Gospel to a close. The truth about Jesus’ identity is central to the mysteries of the reign of God’s Kingdom – here on earth & forever in heaven. Such knowledge comes only through God’s revelation to us.
Blessed are those to whom the Father grants this. It’s the key which unlocks the door to all the blessings of the reign of heaven. Yet, the culture we live in is increasingly hostile to our confession of Jesus as Savior & Lord. That confession is the rock upon which Christ is building His kingdom, the confession that Jesus is the Christ.
He is Messiah who has come to save us from our sins. Only He can do it, & now that His death & resurrection have been accomplished, He is choosing to spread that life through the Church. Throughout history the Church has appeared to be broken, corrupted, fallible & weak. If you think about it that’s how Jesus Himself appeared on the cross.
If your life appears to be broken, corrupted, fallible & weak, all hope is not lost. To you also Jesus says, “…the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” In other words, the gates of hell cannot keep you there. The Church of Jesus Christ has the power to rescue anyone who believes in the Son of God as Lord & Savior. And where do we get that belief? We get it from the Father in heaven who reveals it. As St. Paul wrote of the church, it is:
“…built on the foundation of the apostles & prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:20–21)
Now that Jesus is risen from the dead, we are to tell everyone that He is the Christ. In Him there is life, & abundantly so. That message is the rock upon which Christ is building His church & His kingdom. Amen.
Built on the Rock the Church shall stand even when steeples are falling. Crumbled have spires in every land; bells still are chiming & calling, calling the young & old to rest, but above all the souls distressed, longing for rest everlasting. Grant, then, O God, Your will be done, that, when the church bells are ringing, many in saving faith may come where Christ His message is bringing: “I know My own; My own know Me. You, not the world, My face shall see. My peace I leave with you. Amen.” LSB 645:1, 5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet