Summary: This is the first sermon of a new series we are doing on the Church.
On This Rock
Text: Matthew 16:13 – 20
Well Praise the Lord. God is good isn’t He!
Well, if you were expecting Romans this morning, I’ve got some bad news for you. The Lord has put something on my heart and we’re going to spend some time on it for the next few Sundays. We will come back and finish up Romans later on, but for the next few Sundays we’re going to be talking about the Church.
If you will, take your Bibles and open them up to Matthew 16:13 – 20 (READ).
So if you really want to understand something, one of the best things you can do is study its origin… or its beginning. That’s true of nations… if you want to really understand the United States of America, what it’s laws and institutions are about, and how it’s identity formed, then we would have to go back and learn about its birth – The War for Independence, it’s ideal of equality under God, its pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.
If you want to understand football you need to look back at how it began and how it was formed. Not many folks know that Football has its roots in the English game of rugby. And in the 1880’s the captain of Yale University’s rugby team was a man named Walter Camp. He introduced some rule changes into the game of rugby… like play from the line of scrimmage, point differences between touchdowns and field goals, set plays, an 11 man team, and things like that. Then later on; in 1906 he introduced the forward pass. So what Walter Camp did was took the English game of rugby and infused it with the American virtues of speed, daring, strength and imagination and combined them with the British virtues of strategy and stamina.
And so just like a nation, or sports, or anything really, if you want to understand a specific religion, then you have to go back where it began. So for example, if you want to understand Islam, you have to look at its founder Mohammed, and how the religion of Islam was formed by violence and conquest. And if you want to lay hold of the heart of Christianity, then we have to look at its founder, Jesus Christ.
Now let me give you the context of this passage we just read. Chapter 16 of Matthew is a pivotal turning point in the ministry of Jesus. After His baptism and temptation, Jesus came to Galilee where He taught on God’s kingdom. He performed miracles, and gathered disciples around Himself. That’s Matthew chapters 4 through 16. Then Jesus feeds the multitudes with only a few pieces of bread, and that is a demonstration of Him being the Messiah who leads His people and feeds them with manna from heaven – which demonstrates that He is God in the flesh. Now during this time the Pharisees rejected Him, and after the miracle He’s rejected even by the multitudes and only left with a small handful of disciples. And our text begins by telling us that Jesus takes His disciples to a place called Caesarea Philippi. Now this was the center of the Greco-Roman culture in Palestine. The nearby city had an ancient cave with an ancient shrine to Ba-al… yeah that pagan, demonic religion we read about in the Old Testament. The Greeks had actually began using it though and re-named Ba-al, calling him Pan. In-fact, many ancient writers called this area “Paneas.” There were also temples and shrines to other Greek and Roman gods. So what’s happened here is that Jesus has formed this small band of disciples and He’s going to challenge them, and so He brings them to a place where we see the idols of the world. And that’s where our text begins.
And so Jesus asks them, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
Now that’s the issue of faith. It was then, and it is today. WHO IS JESUS? Is He a great teacher? A moral and intellectual philosopher? A revolutionary? And just like then, today there are a lot of answers that people give to that question.
They answered Him and said, “Some say you’re John the Baptist, others say Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.”
So then Jesus makes it personal… He asks them, “Who do YOU say that I am?”
Now this is important, because it always comes down to the individual standing before Jesus. You know… others might say Jesus is this, or He’s that, but you are going to be the one standing before Him, giving an account for yourself… not for them. And they’re not going to give an account for you. And of course it’s Peter who speaks up and he says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And this is what theologians throughout history have called “The Great Confession.” And there’s two elements to this confession by Peter. The first one is “You’re The Christ.” In other words, You’re the Messiah, you’re the Anointed One… you’re the promised Savior… the Seed of the Woman… the Seed of Abraham. You’re the One who was promised to us in the Old Testament, and the One we’ve been expecting and anticipating since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.