Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Boldest Confession of Christ


Sermon for Pentecost 13, Proper 16A, preached on Sunday, August 23, 2020, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

We’re called to give a bold confession of faith.  Earlier in this season after Pentecost we heard Jesus say, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:32-33).   At all times, we’re to confess our Lord, to proclaim His name.  And it seems like today we need this more than ever.  People need Jesus, and we, the Church, we’re the only ones who can share Him with them.  We’re the only ones who can boldly proclaim Him to be the Savior: the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  We do this with our words, and we do it with our actions. 

                We heard Peter’s great confession.  Halfway through Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  (Matt 16:13).  Who do people say the Savior, the Messiah, the Christ is?  The disciples gave the popular opinions. 

Some believed Him to be John the Baptist, the one who first came on the scene proclaiming the kingdom of heaven was at hand.  But John couldn’t be the Son of Man because John denied this.  Without any reservation John confessed, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:20).  Others thought that the Son of Man would be the return of one of the great prophets, like Elijah or Jeremiah.  God’s Word did promise the arrival of a prophet before the coming of the Lord.  At that time, just like today, there were many ideas about Savior. 

Hearing these opinions of others, Jesus then directly asked His disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15).  And then comes Peter’s great confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16). 

Peter often gets a bad rap for opening his mouth when he should keep it closed and keeping his mouth closed when he should open it; but here he’s right.  Peter opens his mouth and he speaks a bold confession.  He speaks a confession that was given to him, revealed by God.  Seeing all the miracles Jesus’ had performed, all the healings, the miraculous feedings, the walking on water and calming the storm; hearing everything Jesus was teaching and saying, through all of it, God was revealing Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the one who was foretold and prophesied, the promised Savior who’d save His people.  This was Peter’s Spirit filled confession, and this is our confession.

We too confess Jesus to be Lord.  We confess Him to be the very Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary.  We confess Him to be the Savior of the world, saving us from sin, death, and the devil.  We confess His work of salvation, His suffering under Pontius Pilate, His dying on the cross, His burial in the tomb, and His resurrection three days later.  We confess Him to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life, giving us everlasting life through His Word of promise, through His washing of Baptism, and through His Holy Supper.  We confess all of this by Spirit given faith.  We confess it with the words of the creeds.  We confess it to our children as we raise them in the faith.  We confess it as we talk about our faith with family and friends, with neighbors and co-workers.  We confess it when we seek forgiveness.  And we confess it when we forgive.  Forgiveness is the boldest confession of Christ!

                Peter boldly confessed Jesus as the Christ, the very Son of God.  This was a great confession, and we follow in the same.  But we can’t stop there.  Notice Jesus’ response.  He blessed Peter and promised that on that confession He would build His never-ending Church.  But then He gave Peter and the rest of the disciples a responsibility.  Because of that confession, because they knew the truth of Christ’s identity, they now had the holy obligation and blessing of speaking Christ’s forgiveness. 

Jesus gave Peter and the rest of His apostles the keys of the kingdom of heaven.  He told them whatever they bound on earth it would be bound heaven and whatever they loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven.  With similar words He spoke on Easter night, telling His disciples to forgive repentant sinners.  This forgiveness is the direct result of who Jesus is.  If Jesus wasn’t the Christ, if He didn’t die on the cross to pay the penalty of your sin, if He didn’t shed His blood to cleanse you of your sins, then there’d be no forgiveness.  But because that’s exactly what He did, because that’s who He is, the Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, there is forgiveness.  Forgiveness is the boldest confession of Christ. 

Every Sunday, when you come into the Lord’s house and kneel with humility, seeking God’s forgiveness, confessing all your sins in thought, word, and deed, by what you’ve done and by what you’ve left undone, you’re making a bold confession.  When you hear the words of Absolution spoken by the pastor, those words that say, “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” as you hear those words and trust in them, you’re making a bold confession.  When you confess your sins to somebody you’ve sinned against, seeking their forgiveness, you’re making a bold confession.  And whenever you forgive another person, sharing the forgiveness Christ won on the cross, again, you’re making a bold.  Forgiveness is a bold confession of Christ because that’s why He died on the cross, so that you’d be forgiven, so that you’d be saved. 

With faith Peter confessed Jesus’ identity, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  This was a bold confession.  But even bolder than that was the confession Peter gave as he forgave repentant sinners.  And we do the same.  FORGIVENESS IS A BOLD CONFESSION OF CHRIST.  Every time we kneel in humility, confessing our sins, seeking Christ’s forgiveness, we boldly proclaim Him to be our Savior.  Every time we forgive others who’ve sinned against us, we boldly proclaim Him to be the Savior.  There can only be forgiveness because of Christ’s death and resurrection.  We forgive because we’ve been forgiven.  This is a bold confession of Christ.  So boldly confess.  Seek God’s forgiveness in Christ, and freely forgive, as you’ve been forgiven.  Confess with Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  In Jesus’ name...Amen. 

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