Summary: The second in a sixteen-sermon series on the Nazarene Articles of Faith. This sermon explores the incarnation and our understanding of the Divine-Human nature of Jesus.
Article of Faith #2 - Jesus Christ
Date: Sunday, June 13, 2004
Author: Rev. Jonathan K. Twitchell
Despite the somewhat bizarre weather we’ve had of late, it appears as though Summer is finally on its way. Friday was my last day of volunteering in the school lunchroom until next fall, as the Cape Elizabeth students will be on summer vacation beginning Tuesday afternoon. Even though summer vacation is on its way, I’m going to take a moment to talk about different styles of teaching.
Teachers often use different tools and methods to get their lessons across. Some will lecture, others will assign hands-on projects. Some teachers give multiple-choice quizzes, others assign essays. Some teach using visual aids, while others provide time for students to work out problems. It is said that we retain information better the more senses we can use to process the material. If we hear it, that’s good, but if we hear it, see it, recite it back, and experience it first-hand, that’s even better. Teachers will often use multiple approaches in order to reinforce the material, so that we may learn.
Most teachers use some sort of examination, not only to evaluate the students, but to help them process and retain the information. When we work through the material in an examination, we are more likely to remember it, because we thought more closely about it, as we tried to remember it and relate it to other topics. Some teachers are less formal in their examinations, relying instead on a series of questions and answers, dialoguing with the student to gauge their level of understanding.
Perhaps it was that sort of examination that the teacher Jesus was giving Peter in Matthew chapter 16, beginning in verse 13:
13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"
14They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah ; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
15"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ , the Son of the living God."
17Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter , and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ .
The Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ .
This passage really gets to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it? Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush with Peter , but goes straight to the most important question Peter will ever be asked: “Who do you say that I am?”
That question and its answer formed the basis for church teaching from that point on. After Jesus ascended, the Apostles and the early Christians continued to wrestle with the question: “Who do we say that Jesus is?” Who was Jesus ? What does it mean to say that He was the Christ ? What does it mean to say that He was the Son of God? Was He God? Was He human?
As the Apostles began to spread the Gospel message, it was important that they had a clear understanding of who Jesus was. Indeed, in order to explain His death and resurrection, they had to explain who He was. In order to make sense of the events they had experienced, they had to first explain why Jesus was more than just a good teacher. Jesus question, “Who do you say that I am” is a question that has been central to all of Christian teaching throughout the centuries.
Without a doctrine of “who Jesus was,” we might as well abandon this thing we call church. If we don’t understand who Jesus was, then it really doesn’t matter what we believe about His teachings or about His death and resurrection. If He was just another good teacher, then Christianity is no different from any other world religion.
But, we know who Jesus is. It has been taught to us from the very beginning, that Jesus is the Son of God. Peter identifies Him as the “ Christ , the Son of the Living God,” and it is that confession of faith upon which all of Christianity stands. Without that rock, our faith crumbles, for it is based upon sinking sand.
Peter begins that statement by affirming that Jesus is “the Christ ,” which is Greek for the Hebrew word for Messiah. The most basic meaning of those words is “Anointed One.” And yet, this is more than an affirmation that Jesus was anointed for a specific task or purpose. This was more than affirming His “Lordship” or “Majesty.” While there were many lowercase messiahs in Jewish history, there is only one Uppercase Messiah. Peter didn’t state that Jesus was one christ among many, but that He was “The Christ.” He was to be the deliverer, to set His people free.