Summary: Everyone has an idea of what the church is and its purpose. But what does Jesus say about the church? What is his desire and purpose for the church? Based upon the confession of Peter Jesus reveals the truth about the church.
“The True Nature and Purpose of the Church”
Reading – Matthew 16: 13-25
Illustration: When I was growing up there were a number of experiences that left an indelible impression upon. I think we all go through an impressionable stage in life. For me, the thing that left an impression upon my life were the ‘super-heroes’. That’s right, I’m talking about guys like Superman, Batman & Robin, The Lone Ranger, The Phantom and so on. I loved watching the cartoons, reading the comic books and more recently the various movies that have been made about them. I would be enthralled as they suddenly appeared when there was trouble and people were in need of help. These super heroes would perform some super-human feats of strength and save the day. It had all the ingredients to capture the mind of a young boy growing up. But the thing that impressed me most was the way they conducted their lives in complete anonymity. Everywhere they went they left people wondering – “Who was that man?”, “Where did he come from?” Although they left people in a state of awe and wonder, they also left people wondering. They were very secretive. Their secrecy not only impressed me but at the same time it frustrated me. I mean, if I were a super-hero I would leave a calling card and say, “Hey, if you get into any strife, give me a call!”
Jesus was a person who left people wondering as to who he was. There were many differing opinions as to his identity once Jesus appeared on the scene and began to perform mighty miracles and present teachings like no-one had ever heard before. But despite the many and varied opinions as to his identity, Jesus wanted to make sure that his own disciples knew who he really was.
Jesus had been with his disciples for about two years. He had presented himself as the Messiah through his teachings and miracles. He had suffered the rejection of the religious leaders and experienced a mixture of responses as to his identity from the community. Amidst this confusion as to his identity, today’s passgae reveals that Jesus asked two questions:
1) a general question (v.13) – “Who do men say….?”
2) a personal question (v.15) – “Who do you say…?”
Jesus – had been offering himself as the Messiah and people were confronted with the decision as to his identity.
The Disciples first of all answered in a kind, diplomatic way. Some of the responses were – John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, a Prophet. There were obviously differing opinions as to who he really was. (NB: the disciples did not mention that some thought he was a blasphemer Matt. 9:3). They were all very good and honorable opinions, but it is possible for people to have a good opinion about Christ – but not the right one!
Jesus Christ seems to reject all the opinions concerning himself and asks for a personal response. There had been a two year association between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus revealed nothing personal about his identity. All he revealed to them was his character, miracles, and teachings. All he ever asked them was – “Follow me”. Now he asks, - “What do you think of me?”
Peter’s response by saying that “You are the Christ” – the annointed one, Saviour, Redeemer, the “Son of the Living God” – (v.13). The Bible tells us that God in his graciousness revealed it to Peter.
Jesus Christ was pleased with his response. And he used his response to teach his disciples a new truth. He used Peter’s confession to introduce the concept of the Church. Jesus makes a declaration concerning the Church and reveals his desire and purpose for the Church. This is the first time the word church is located in Scripture, therefore, we need to take note of what Jesus is teaching here. But first of all, what is the church?
Definition – “A group of people who find themselves in a new relationship with one another because of their new relationship with Jesus Christ.”
- i.e. We do not go to Church. We are the Church!
Jesus Christ – declared the Church to be:
1) A Progressive Church – “I will build my Church…” (v.18)
Jesus Christ’s desire was to see his Church progress.
The word ‘build’ conveys the idea of development; increasing towards a goal; moving forward/progressing
(e.g. A bricklayer – if he has 1000 bricks to lay, that is what he will do. He will not just lay 900 bricks but will work until the job is done.)
The Church – in the same way it should be progressing towards a goal. The church should be active and alive. The church should not be stagnant and lifeless. Jesus Christ’s purpose for his Church is seen in his words, “Occupy until I come”.