Grace Lutheran Church Weekly Devotion - Matthew 16:13–20
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Against the background of “the gates of hell” there in the district of Caesarea Philippi Jesus asks His disciples two questions, and our answer today will determine your ultimate lot in time and eternity. In our reading Peter makes a great confession (16). Despite knowing Peter will soon try to steer Him away from the cross to which He is heading; Jesus appreciates his testimony, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16). The Lord declares He will build His Church on this confession since the future does not take away the reality of his pronouncement in the present. Peter’s confession distinguishes that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s Messiah and separates Him from false gods. Our confession “Jesus is Lord” (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3) comes from God, “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (17). It is a blessing, and an expression of God’s love for His children. By His grace He frees us from the confusion and aimlessness of following other gods.
So, who is your rock, your fortress, your deliverer? On whom do you depend for your defense when you face the threats, the dangers, the evils of the wind and waves of life that attack you? When Jesus calls Peter by the name given by his earthly parents, “Simon Bar-Jonah”, He is saying that by his first and sinful birth he is the son of Jonah, a child “of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (cf. Eph. 2:3). The confession the Lord uses to build His Church is not from a Simon Bar-Jonah, but from a Peter, a rock. Peter is a rock, because his faith rests upon the Rock, upon Christ, the Son of the living God.
Since the Church is built on Christ, the Rock of Ages; there is no other foundation which man could lay (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11). Jesus is the living foundation which time cannot destroy. On the day of our Baptism and then at our confirmation, we got it right when we made a promise and a confession of Christ. We confessed Jesus with the true and uncompromising words of the Apostle’s Creed. God loved hearing our confession of faith. And He still does. However, like Peter, we do not always live up to those promises that we have made. Perhaps we also have thought being a Christian might hamper our popularity or that we might be persecuted. But like Peter, Christ sought us out when we have failed, restoring our broken relationship and poured His Holy Spirit on us, empowering us to assault the very gates of hell (cf. 18-19). As He did for Peter the Lord made our words, “Jesus is the Christ,” the rock, the foundation, on which He builds His Church. The words we speak in Christ’s name and with His love are like the stone that crushes Satan’s power and the keys that open the kingdom of heaven to all who believe in “the Son of the living God.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: Amen.
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Cheyenne Wells, CO, 80810-0728
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