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Sermon August 23 2020

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost Sermon

Matthew 16:13-20


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

Keys!  How important are keys?  Most of us carry our keys with us most of the time.  Keys are important because without them we would find that we would be left out of buildings or our home or our vehicle.  Keys provide for us a way to gain entrance into that which we claim to be our own.

Another way of looking at keys is to think of a key as a set of answers for a particular test or exercise.  School teachers may use a key to grade multiple choice exams or to evaluate the progress a student makes on an assignment.  A key can be used to determine a grade or to help in an evaluation. 

In our personal lives, when we are looking for insight into a problem, we might say that we are looking for the key that will provide a breakthrough for us.  In personal struggles the key may be when someone realizes and accepts the facts.  The key to someone’s solution may be a particular course of action or behavior that lends itself well to the desired outcome. 

In our spiritual lives, scripture is the key or the answer to our search for spiritual meaning.  When we face guilt, loss or anxiety, a solid spirituality provides the entrance to a new way of interpreting our lives.  Our faith shapes our perspective and provides a lens to view our circumstances. 

In today’s Gospel, Peter’s Confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ is the foundation (the key) for us in our journey of faith.  Peter’s Confession is an important and influential moment in God’s Redeeming Activity in our world. 

In the District of Caesarea Philippi – 20 miles north of the location where Jesus fed 5000 men and an undisclosed number of women and children on the northwestern side of the Sea of Galilee – Peter makes a confession which is a point of climax in the story that Matthew is sketching for us. 

 As you have heard from our lectionary readings from the past few weeks, Jesus had been busy.  He had taught His disciples about the Kingdom of God.  He had performed miracles and acts with divine authority.  He had even challenged the Pharisees and Scribes over what is right and wrong.    

Over the past few weeks, Jesus had been preparing His disciples for the moment when He could fully disclose His true identity.  Well… today in our Gospel reading the time had arrived.  And Jesus began by asking His disciples – “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  Tell me, who do the people think I am?    

The disciples gave an honest answer.  Some say that you are John the Baptist.  Others say that you are Elijah, or Jeremiah, while others say that you are one of the prophets. 

I think Jesus was probably saddened by their answer.  Yes, their answer did show that the people knew that Jesus was no ordinary man.  And their answer did articulate that they knew that Jesus was a great man to whom honor and prestige was due.  But their answer did not identify the true identity of Jesus.  Their answer did not communicate that Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Son of the Living God. 

        Today, if someone were to ask the question, “Who is Jesus?” what would we say?  I think most people have at least heard of Jesus and have an opinion about the His identity.  Most people would even say that Jesus was no ordinary man.  

        Most people today would even state that Jesus was a good teacher and provided a healthy model and example for us to follow.  But we live in a society where there are many people who could not identify the true identity of Jesus.  We live in a society where most people would agree that Jesus was a great man but would question the church’s teaching that Jesus is the Son of God. 

        Jesus knew people would doubt His true identity.  Jesus knew the church would be under attack from people opposed to its teaching.  And so, Jesus wanted to reveal to His disciples His identity.  And Jesus did this by asking them “Who do you say that I am?”  And Peter responded correctly, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” 

        Peter, by his confession, acknowledged that Jesus is the One God promised would come.  Peter, by His answer, confessed that Jesus is the One anointed by God to be our Prophet, Priest, and King.  Peter, by his response, made it known to the rest of the disciples that Jesus was the One sent by God to fulfill the promise recorded in the Old Testament scripture.    

        And this was a very important moment in Christ’s ministry.  At this point in His ministry, it was important that His disciples know the truth about Him so that He could prepare them for the events that would soon take place. 

        To that end, Jesus instructed His disciples not to tell anyone about Him, at least not yet because He needed to teach them what being the Messiah really meant.  And so, for now, Jesus wanted His disciples to keep quiet so they would not give false interpretations on what the Messiah meant for the people of God. 

        Jesus knew He still needed to spend some time with His disciples and help them understand the importance of the events to come on their journey together.  Jesus needed to explain that soon He must suffer and die and rise again.  Jesus needed to clarify that soon He needed to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the religious leaders. 

        Indeed, very soon He would be betrayed, be physically abused, be mocked and laughed at and, finally, be executed.   But that would not be the end.  On the third day, He would rise from the grip of death and live. 

Yes, Jesus still had much to teach His disciples.  But first the cornerstone needed to be laid.  For you see, Peter’s Confession would become the foundation for a new community rooted in the confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. 

        And on this foundation stone the church would be built, and not even the gates of Hades will prevail against the church – not even death itself. 

        Despites the threats, despite the persecution, despite the hostility to the church, despite the lack of knowledge in the world concerning God’s Activity in our world, the church will remain and will one day emerge victorious. 

        And to Peter was given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven that would allow people to enter, the key that would spread the Gospel message all around the world.  

And the church would be built upon this rock of faith that was revealed through Peter’s confession.       

Our future, our hope, our key to heaven is built upon this faith that Peter expressed when the Son of God asked him “Who do you say that I am?”  And Peter responded, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” 

Let us pray:  Loving God who in Christ Jesus provided us a way to be reconciled with you and fellow human beings, give us the courage to freely confess our faith in you for others to hear.  All blessings, honor, thanks, and praise to you – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen.