Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
I don’t know about you but this Gospel sounds very much in favor
of communism / socialism. Let us all gather together under big brother
government and labor together, letting the government take control of
all private property and determine an equal wage so that all may
receive equally whether or not you work, not determined with how
much you work, nor what you work, nor where you work. Let
totalitarianism prosper so that all may become equal under
government’s control and ungodly regulations.
Wait, you say this Gospel is not about such? But I hear so many
use this parable to say that Christians, let alone Lutherans, must
support Socialism or Communism or Totalitarianism even though all
these structures are clearly denounced through Scripture and, most
especially as Lutherans, even though they have been very clearly
denounced by our Lutheran founding fathers in the 16th century, via
description, as heretical anti-Christians beliefs; for within the Formula
of Concord and the Solid Declaration, both found within the Book of
Concord which is the defining book that helps us understand what is
Lutheranism, it says such, “We reject and condemn the... erroneous,
heretical teaching, which is not to be tolerated or permitted in the
church, or in public affairs, or in domestic life. For they teach... That a
Christian cannot with a good conscience hold or possess any property,
but is in duty bound to devote it to the commonwealth” (Solid
Declaration, Article XII.9-22). So wait, let me get this clear, are you say
that all who preach these heretical structures are abusing Scripture, if
so then what does today’s Gospel really point us to?
There are some who have a nasty knack for taking Scripture out of
context to mean what it does not mean. Others do not mean so and
they are forgiven, though that does not mean they are suddenly
correct, their words are still wrong. For example, the abuse of James
chapter two where several Roman Catholics takes a part of verse 24
horribly out of context to claim, “that a person is justified by works and
not by faith.” The whole verse goes as such, “You [you, a human!] see
that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone,” which is
obvious because who can see one’s faith except via their works? And
the whole chapter of James 2, not one verse taken out of context, is all
one whole gigantic pro-“faith alone” argument. Where it clearly states
that if you have true faith, and not dead faith such as the demons who
do believe Jesus is Christ, then you are saved and if you are saved then
you naturally produce works, works that cannot be produced otherwise
because you are a sinner, and because I cannot see your faith that you
claim you have then I must see your works for if you have works then
you clearly are saved and if you are saved then you clearly have true
faith which you, again, claimed to have. Therefore you are saved by
faith, and out of salvation, and only out of salvation, capable of
performing good works.
So if we take out all of the abuses and read the Gospel passage in
its entirety, what does it tell us? Well it clearly begins with Jesus telling
us, “For the kingdom of heaven is like...”, and then He provides for us
his parable. The entire parable is about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not
about economics, for Jesus is painting for us a very specific picture, he
is weaving together a very specific tale, he is telling us that no matter
when you become a Christian, no matter how late or how early, when
you die you will all receive the generous award of eternal salvation and
abundant pardon. His parable is all about death and how no amount of
good works or time here on earth will earn you a better seat at God’s
table. Congratulations, that means upon your death you will be equal
to even St Peter himself and St Paul! Why? Because of your faith in
Our late Pastor Borows lived a long fruitful life as a pastor, as a
Christian, as a laborer for Christ. He is most definitely in Heaven, and
great is his reward. If I was to suddenly go ill due to say Covid because I
chose to visit the sick, treating them like lepers, the same as how Christ
treated the lepers, and then die, would that make me lesser a Christian
than Pastor Borow’s? If I was to get suddenly called up to serve our
great nation and was killed either overseas or here by one of our
domestic terrorists would I be any less a Christian than Pastor Borows?
Would my untimely death mean that my reward in heaven is lesser
than Pastor Borow’s because I did not live such a long life in service
towards God? No, and the same applies to all of you. The reward Christ
provides for the one who converts on his deathbed is no less than the
reward received by a lifelong 90 year old Christian. The reward is equal.
What about a mass murderer who repents and proclaims Christ before
capital punishment? The reward is equal. What about the young
baptized child who dies before they even say “mama” or “papa”? The
reward is equal. What about the young man who has faith but has done
nothing in the name of Christ? If they truly believe, the reward is equal.
What about the old man who has filled his life to the brim with selfless
service and mission work all in Christ’s name? The reward is equal.
I am reminded of the two sons in the Prodigal Son parable. One is
lost, a sinner, but once he comes back to the father, an amazing feast is
prepared. The other has never left the father and has labored hard, but
is jealous of his brother. As Christians, good works and the desire to
serve our father and help our neighbors and bear fruit the fruits of the
Spirit should come naturally to us. And we should desire to labor long
all for Christ’s sake. But we shouldn’t be like the older brother who,
though he never left his father, is jealous of his returning brother who
received a feast. Instead of being jealous or exuding hatred toward the
sinner who finds Christ before they die, we should rejoice for they have
been found. Rejoice for the reward they receive is so abundant that all
their sins have been pardoned and overwhelmed by God’s grace.
But some of us might find it hard to rejoice. Let me provide an
extreme example, an example that some in debate may call a nuclear
statement. Hitler. If he had or found faith in Christ, true faith, upon his
death, repenting of his sins, would he be in Heaven? Not saying he did,
but if he did would he be in heaven? How do you think you would feel,
knowing full well all the atrocious things he has done, if you found out
that he might be in heaven? Outright denial? Skepticism? Betrayal?
Hatred towards God? Jealousy? Or extreme joy? This is just a thought,
but one that expresses how natural it is for us to be like the older son
when it comes to hearing today’s Gospel.
How about Paul’s story? As Saul he was an enemy to the Christian
Jews and hunted them down and caused many of their deaths. But
through the grace of God, through his personal experience with Jesus,
he turned from his ways and was named Paul. Several of the other
disciples, to include Peter, did not believe that Paul was a true brother
or that he repented. They were skeptical of him; they were like the
older brother towards Paul who was like the younger brother.
Just goes to show how amazingly abundant Christ’s mercy and
grace is for us, it is so abundant that it goes far beyond normal human
understanding. Christ died so that all of our sins might be forgiven. To
the Christian, forgiveness is continuously available throughout their
lives, and to the new Christian, forgiveness is available for all the sin
you have racked up to the point you converted. For under Christ, all of
his laborers are forgiven, and through him, when we meet our maker,
we all come blameless, shameless, guiltless, sinless; all receiving the
same reward, eternal life in Heaven.
On an interesting note, you may have noticed in today’s parable
that the master only agreed to give a denarius to the first group of
laborers. He went out to them and after he, the master, agreed to hire
them for one denarius did he sent them into the vineyard. The laborers
set the terms. After that, throughout the day, the master hires more
laborers but does not tell any of them how much they will earn, only
that he will provide what he deemed was right. Then, at the end of the
day, it comes time for the passing of the wage, and the master asks the
last to come receive their pay first. The ones who only showed up the
final hour received one denarius, not knowing that would be their
wage. The next group the same and so on, until the final group, who
were the first to be hired showed up for their wage. This group, the
only one that the master agreed to give one denarius before hiring,
believes they will receive more because those who worked less also
received one denarius. But the master tells them that these were the
agreed upon terms, that they will receive one denarius, and why should
they get mad at the master for being generous with the others? Let it
be known it is only this group that agreed upon the terms to be paid
one denarius. Yet they are jealous, because the Master is willing to
provide the same for the latest of the laborers.
The kingdom of God is for all who labor for Christ, not part of it
for those who are late to the game, but all of it and all its amazing
abundance for those who come early and for those who come late, for
those who have been a Christian since their infant baptism to those
who come to believe right before they breath their last breath. They,
and you, have all been abundantly pardoned through faith in Christ,
and to you the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven are indeed open.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you are much grander than humans and
your thoughts much higher than humans and your love more vast than
humans, we cannot comprehend it, but we still adore it and ask that
you never take away this abundant love but continue to promise us all
the Kingdom of Heaven. In your name we pray, Amen.
Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
In many a great businesses and organizations there is a culture of “Lead by example”. The Army, for example, actually grades their subordinate leaders in how well they lead by example in order to better foster a desired culture. Say a company prizes humbleness, then a CEO may lead a life of humility at their company and through such actions encourage their employees to do likewise. Or say you have a Boy Scout group, and the scoutmaster wished to foster a troop culture of masculinity, just like the creator of Boy Scouts intended, then said scoutmaster would be reliable, protective, firm, a steady rock, etc.
All of these are but examples in how groups of people would utilize their authoritative structure to not only demand a certain culture but to also initiate the fostering of said culture by leading from the top, leading by example.
Within the Church, such a desired model exists between her people and the figurehead, God, Himself. We say what would Jesus do, or how has the Father reacted in similar situations. We don’t just listen and obey their commandments, or attempt to, but we observe the actions of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit throughout Scripture and try to model our lives after their “leading by example”. And God encourages this; be Godly, be like the “Holiest of All that is Holy”, be like He who is perfect and has done no wrong, model your life after Him so that you may be more like Him. But what has he done?
Jesus gave himself up on the cross, died, gave up his life, so that through Him, we may receive the means of Salvation through faith in Him. For we are dreadful sinners who deserve to go to Hell and nothing we do, by our own devices, can earn us a ticket into Heaven, but through the Grace of God, Jesus died on the Cross so that he could take on our sin and shove it into Hell. Someone had to go to Hell. Jesus said he would go to Hell, so he willingly, knowingly, took on all of our sin, suffered death, and suffered Hell, so that through Him we would not suffer Hell. He took on our sins, thus, through Him, we are forgiven of our sins, and through this forgiveness we are made clean, washed of our sins, so that we may enter Heaven.
Yet this gift was not forced on us, it is a gift. What that means is that you must accept the hand from which this gift comes from. Not all are forgiven, but all who believe in Jesus and only Jesus are indeed forgiven. For he says that if you have faith in Him and repent of your sins then He will take on your sins so that you would not have to; there are no other conditions, in fact there are no conditions at all because Jesus wants to give us forgiveness, but will not force it on us. He wants to free us from the chains of sin, not put us in new chains of forced forgiveness.
Speaking of chains, in the past I mentioned chains a lot in reference to our enslavement to sin under Original Sin, but there is another meaning to the word chain. For the purpose of this Gospel and Sermon, I wish to use the other definition of chain in reference to what most would understand as, “the chain of authority.” In order to lead by example there needs to be a chain of authority, and within the Church this chain of authority begins with God.
So what in today’s Gospel is Jesus trying to impress upon us? What culture is He desiring to foster through this “chain of authority” and “leading by example”? Forgiveness. Christ is instructing a culture of forgiveness, and he does so by opening our eyes to the fact that God Himself forgave you first, and thus you must do so too for your brothers.
Peter asked how many times a day should he be willing to forgive someone. When is enough enough? Is seven enough? Not seven, but seventy seven; in fact, not even that, there is no limit. If anyone is repentant then forgive them their sins. And if they keep on coming back to you, as long as they are truly repentant then you must forgive them.
Pastor please forgive me from doing this and that.
Again!? I just forgave you an hour ago for exactly that.
I know, but I did it again. I’m terribly sorry, I promise I won’t do it again, honest to God, I mean it this time.
You truly mean it?
Then you are forgiven.
One hour later… Pastor I did it again.
Ok, I’ll forgive you again.
So Jesus tells Peter that you must continually forgive your sinner, as long as they are repentant, but continues onward with a parable. In this parable, Jesus tells us of a King who forgave the entire debt of a servant who repented and asked for debt forgiveness. Then his servant goes out to another servant who also debt, but far less. The lesser servant does the same as the first, begs for forgiveness, but instead of forgiving this servant acts wrathfully. The king is then angry at his servant and throws him into jail. The point of the parable is to show that God is forgiving and if you are repentant then he will forgive you your entire debt, but that he also expects you to act like him and to treat your brothers and sisters in the same fashion. And as Christians we know with sure certainty that God has indeed forgiven us our sins by looking at the Cross. Thus should we not also observe Jesus’ example? Should we not observe his forgiveness? And, in reference to “leading by example” and “the chain of authority”, should we not also observe this, what I would call, “Chain of Forgiveness”?
On an interesting note, here Jesus is comparing sin to debt, which is a comparison I make very often. God demands perfection, thus a good action, in the eyes of God is a net zero; whereas sin is a net negative, where you incur debt. Nothing you do will resolve this debt back to a net zero because all perfect actions are already net zero’s, they are already required. Anything positive must be above and beyond perfection. So as a sinner, you are racking up a lengthy debt and nothing you can do will ever make that debt go away and bring it all to a net zero. Yet here is Jesus saying as long as you have faith in me, I will provide for you debt forgiveness. A lovely picture, which is present throughout scripture showing us that we are save by faith alone and not by any amount of good works, which is Pelagianism, a heresy denounced by the Roman Catholic Church during the first millennium.
So this “Chain of Forgiveness”, Jesus has forgiven us and demands that we follow his example and forgive our brothers. How many times a day? As often as your brother repents; continual forgiveness. And what if they are not repentant? Well you may forgive them, but the requirement to forgive is attached to repentance. For if a person comes to you truly sorrowful of their sins and wishes to change their ways then you must forgive them just as Jesus first forgiven you. That is what is meant when I say, “Chain of Forgiveness”.
For the history of Israel is a history full of God’s wrath and forgiveness. God doesn’t change his mind like humans, willy-nilly; nor does God give forgiveness like candy during a parade. Because of our sins He is wrathful, but is swift to forgiveness if we repent. Jonah went to Nineveh, well he was forced to go there, and preached that God was going place his wrath on them. The King and all his subjects repented of their sins, and, to Jonah’s dismay, God forgave them and relented of His anger.
What am I trying to say? Let me begin with this, whereas God is gracious and merciful, swift to anger and swift to relenting of his anger, He does not cheapen His grace; he does not hand out forgiveness like some rich man who throws money at every single cause without looking up to see if the causes are good or nefarious. Now do not be mistaken, this does not imply that God does not withhold his grace to only those who are repentant, only that He does not cheapen His grace, and above all else He will never withhold His grace to those who repent.
Because of this, we should do so too. We should be swift to forgiveness to those who repent, just like God who is swift to forgiveness when we repent. But we should not cheapen this grace. Why should we not cheapen grace? If you remember last week, I gave a plethora of examples why, but this week I’ll reflect on Bonhoeffer. When asked how the Church allowed the Nazi party to exist, Bonhoeffer, knowing through experience, said that the Church allowed the Nazis to exist because they cheapened Grace. His quote goes as such, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” Basically, when you cheapen grace, you allow evil to flourish.
So how do we not cheapen the grace of forgiveness? Maybe the first step is to, in a loving fashion, help each other realize our sins, and, as Christians, when we acknowledge our sins we are lead towards repentance, and because we repent of our sins we forgive each other. This does not mean we look for sins nor arbitrarily say someone committed a certain sin such as the wolves-in-sheep-clothing who preach that all white people are guilty of racism and need to repent (which is anti-Christian in of itself and is sinful for it is bearing false witness, is technically a form of racism, and breaks at least on top of my head three of the articles in the Augsburg Confession). What this means is that when a brother or sister does sin against you, you help them realize their sin so that they may repent and so that they may be swiftly forgiven and so that the weight of sin would be lifted. For even if we are not aware of our sin, the weight of our sins can still be felt and our soul will be weighed down by the Guilt and Shame of our sins, but through forgiveness, not only are we released from our sins but also the guilt and shame that comes with sin.
So forgiveness is a beautiful thing, and know this, through your faith in Jesus Christ, you have been forgiven, and as loving Christians, let us walk in the example of Christ, forgiving each other.
Let us pray,
Heavenly Father, through you our debt is forgiven and the doors to heaven are open. We ask that you embolden us with your loving generous Spirit so that when we approach our repentant siblings in Christ we forget not your forgiveness but act in similar fashion. In your most holy name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we pray, Amen.
Grace and Peace to you my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Amen.
Have you ever been around a person whose emotions could suddenly switch on you, where at one moment they were happy and all of a sudden they do a hard flip and become very angry? Now I’m not talking about someone whose emotions changes frequently, I’m talking about someone who is capable of these hard switches. It catches you off guard, doesn’t it? Now, what about a person whose emotions rarely changes and has a good head on their shoulders, but retains the capacity to make these hard switches. They are usually calm, and then they are all of a sudden angry. Such anger would throw us off and make us wonder what just happened? What set this usually calm person off? Did I do something wrong? What happened?
A personal example, when I was in college training to be an officer, as a senior, I was inspecting my fellow younger Soldiers as they conducted leadership training through obstacle lanes. I’m on a raised platform overlooking multiple individual courses, each with their little huddle of Soldiers, one appointed as the graded leader of said course. And as I was overlooking I hear from one group, their leader talking in a raised voice and with some choice language. This Soldier is a friend of mine and usually does not act this way; he is usually kind and mild mannered, but now he is acting belligerent. I guess it was either the lack of food or the stress of being graded, but his conduct was shocking.
After seeing this, I responded by also raising my voice and ordered this Soldier to calm down, to stand down, to cool his head off. If seeing this Soldier’s conduct was shocking, my reaction must have been a hurricane; for after I said that, the whole field went quiet. The said Soldier most especially was quiet, and went to the side and cool his head off. Eventually, training continued as usual.
After this exercise, my Lieutenant Colonel told me in her office that that was the first time she has ever seen me visibly angry and raise my voice. She was in shock too, for here is an inspiring chaplain who is usually shy and quiet mannered projecting his anger at a Soldier who is acting up. She was glad that I had this authoritative side, but she honestly had no clue I had it in me.
It is this kind of incident that Peter finds himself in Scripture. Just minutes ago Jesus is praising Peter for acknowledging that Jesus is Christ. Jesus proclaims that the Father has truly blessed Peter, that from here on out Peter was to be the Rock on which Christ’s Church was to be built on, that the keys to heaven were Peter’s, and that he was giving the power to bind and loose. Jesus said all of this, and in a matter of minutes Jesus called Peter Satan!
What happened? What caused this extreme shift in emotions? One minute he praises Peter, the next he calls Peter Satan. And imagine the emotions Peter is experiencing? Probably fear and shock. What happened?
Right after Jesus praises Peter, he starts to talk about his death. After hearing this Peter couldn’t take it anymore, pulls Jesus to the side, and starts to rebuke his Rabbi, his Master, his God. It is because of this rebuke that Jesus responded with such vicious anger, “Get behind me, Satan!” Now when Peter pulled Jesus to the side he did so out of the kindness of his heart. He had concern for his Lord who is talking about how he must suffer and be killed. Peter loved Jesus deeply and did not want to see him depart, let alone suffer. Peter truly had good intentions, but what about the famous quote, “the path to Hell is paved with good intentions?” Just because Peter had good intentions, just because he acted out of love, does not mean his actions were truly Good, Godly even. In fact they weren’t. We know this because Jesus told Peter that his mind wasn’t set on things of God, but on things of Man, and it is because of this mindset that Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” The fact that Peter had good intentions does not mean much. The fact that Peter acted out of kindness and love does not mean much. The fact that Peter wished for Jesus not to suffer but live does not mean much. Peter was still a puppet of Satan; Satan, who was using Peter in order to move Jesus away from fulfilling his role, fulfilling Scripture, and obeying His Father’s commands. Jesus had to suffer and be killed, it was foretold in Isaiah, and, instead of setting his mind on human things, he set his mind on Godly things and was obedient to his own death.
I am reminded of the multiple times in Scripture, for example from our reading in Romans, where we are told to live in the world, but not of the world, or, “Do not be conformed to this world.” To be conformed to this world is to act and think upon the things of Man. Such things that are worldly, things that are of Man, humane things, includes the desire to see others not suffer, to protect each other, the desire to see one’s neighbor or family or teacher live. There are many things that are worldly and appear to be good. But that is just it, they appear to be good. For what if your desire to prevent someone you love from suffering prevents them from fulfilling their desire to proclaim the Gospel? What if your desire to protect someone inhibits their desire to worship God and receive the Sacraments? What if your desire to save someone’s life hinders their desired ability to obey God? In such cases, these good intentions are not things of God, but simply things of Man, and if said someone was Jesus then he would most certainly say, “Get behind me, Satan!”
Jesus had a mission, He was sent not only to teach and to perform miracles, he was sent to fulfill Scripture by dying a most horrific and painful death so that through his suffering and death he may take on all of our sins and shove them into Hell. He died for our sins so that we may not die for our sins. He went to Hell, so that we won’t go to Hell. Someone had to pay for our sins, and Jesus came to be the innocent slaughtered Lamb sacrificed so that we wouldn’t go to Hell but instead live in Heaven with Him the now and forever Risen Son.
So when Satan spoke through Peter, trying to get Jesus off this mission, to disobey God, of course Jesus was furious. But he was also furious for Peter’s sake. For when Peter thought he was acting out of love, he was acting as a pawn of Satan, but Jesus who was acting out of anger was acting out of true love towards His servant. Jesus just blessed Peter, and now Satan is abusing His most trusted ally on Earth. Thus, for Peter’s sake, Jesus was furious and commanded Satan, not Peter, to go away. Get out of the one whom I building my Church on!
It is so interesting how in a matter of minutes both God and Satan spoke through Peter. One time God speaks through Peter, proclaiming that Jesus was Christ, the next Satan is speaking through Peter trying to save Jesus from his fate. The first was a thing of God, the other a thing of Man. But speaking of things of God, what is a thing of God? Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” What does this mean? Quite simply, to follow and embrace and obey God no matter the cost. Such a thing is truly a thing of God for this means you are willing to give up your life for God’s sake, or that you have what the world would view as an extreme form of courageous faith; the extreme courage to stay true to your faith even if that leads to death; the courage to go through trials and tribulations such as the ones Job went through and still hold on to your faith in God and follow Him.
Jesus took up his own cross and died so that we may be saved through Him. In like manner, we must be willing to embrace the cost of following in Jesus’ footsteps. If we truly wish to set our minds on things of God we must be willing to deny ourselves and, like Jesus, be willing to carry our own cross, even if that means dying for Jesus’ name sake.
Such a thing is scary, I understand, as a Chaplain I talk with Soldiers quite a bit about death and the willingness to die in order to preserve the freedoms of all Americans. And as Christians, to look death in the face without fear, to do such while following God, such is a daunting task. So I understand the fear.
There is a cost to following the Gospel and obeying God. We don’t preach a Prosperity Gospel, unlike some conmen. No, we preach a costly Gospel, one that is hated by the world, one that is mocked whenever a preacher or laity die, one that leads many a great men to their deaths. Stephen was stoned to death for his faith. Nero, ruler of Rome, ordered a mass genocide against Christians. Christians are ruthlessly killed for their faith today by, for example, Islamic extremists or Marxist regimes. Throughout history there are many a Christians who went on mission trips and died from some foreign disease, knowing full well that they most likely will get such a life threatening disease. One, for example, is St. Damien the Patron Saint for Leprosy, Outcasts, and Hawaii, who in the late 19th century conducted a mission trip to the Kingdom of Hawaii, before it became a state, to spread the
Gospel and to help treat those suffering from leprosy. At that time the Kingdom forced quarantined all who had leprosy, through an act in order to prevent the spread, on one of the islands, believing the illness of being fatal, incurable, and highly contagious. In response, Damien volunteered to be a missionary to this island of Hawaii, to serve the colony of leprosy, knowing full well he would contract it. And he did, but that did not stop him and he boldly continued his mission work till his death due to said leprosy.
So there is a cost to boldly following God, but know this, no matter what happens to you because of your faith, whether that is through virus or violence, Jesus the Lord our God who obeyed the Father unto death on the cross for our sake, and rose from the grave, will never leave you nor forsake you but continue to bless you, save you, and open there doors to eternal life in Heaven for you.
Let us pray,
Lord God, we come to you with humble hearts asking that you provide for us the amazing courage to not only deny ourselves, but to take up our own crosses to follow you and your every commandment regardless of the cost, for we wish to be conformed not by this world, but by your will and to have our minds set on Godly things. We ask this in your most holy name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Pastor Chris Boyd Sermon Sunday 9/06/2020
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
“Who do you say I am?”
Throughout the Old Testament, there are many who have proclaimed God. They proclaimed His might, His power, His creation, they proclaimed who God is. The prophets did this on behalf of God who first proclaimed Himself to them. The Judges did this. The Kings did this. In fact King David did this so much that we have an entire Book filled with songs of praise to our Lord, Psalms. There is no shortage of holy proclamations about our Father in Heaven.
In the New Testament, the tradition continues, and Paul, the author of many of the letters found in the New Testament, was no stranger to proclaiming the greatness of the Father. He, like his many predecessors, glorified the greatness of the Creator and His awesome power and grace and mercy. But Paul went one step further; in Romans he proclaimed this:
“ 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to [even] them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
Paul went one step further and proclaimed quite clearly that all believe in God, that there is no such thing as a true atheist, but rather those who choose to exchange the Truth for a lie. In a sense, he is proclaiming that all are secretly like the prophets in that all are subconsciously aware of the greatness of the Father. Yet, because of the complete corruption of sin within our lives we have given up what God has made obvious and instead chose to make for ourselves gods and serve these creations whether that is dumb idols or even humanity itself. Out of human narcissism, even though we know God, we pretend to be wise and thus prove ourselves to be fools.
It is because of this complete corruption of sin that many of us choose to follow the great lie. It is because of this complete corruption of sin that many don’t want to see the Truth, can’t see the Truth. It is because of this complete corruption of sin that for many it is almost as if a veil has been placed over our eyes and what we see is not the whole world. This is why Jesus tells Peter that it is not out of flesh and blood that he proclaims Jesus as Christ. Flesh and blood has been completely corrupted by sin and though all may know of God, we can’t even fathom a piece of God. We may know a little bit about God, a mere awareness may be all that we have, but this corruption has locked us away from seeing the whole Truth, the ability to see that Jesus is Christ.
Then, this man of Nazareth shows up and performs miracles, and teaches with such brilliance and knowledge of Scripture. He speaks and there is authority behind his words. This man must truly be a great man. Many may perceive him to be this John the Baptist that they heard about. Others may believe this is Elijah back on earth, descended from Heaven. And still others may perceive him to be Jeremiah or another prophet. But God? No, who in their right mind would claim he is God and truly believe it sincerely in their hearts? Jesus may be a great man, but he is still a man; plus, God is God.
There is an impossibility to proclaim Jesus is God, that Jesus is Christ. We are spiritual incapable of proclaiming this, not because of human ineptitude but because of the chains of sin which force us to not recognize this. We may all know of God, but sin prevents us from acknowledging the depth of God, most especially that Jesus is He. It is impossible for us. It would take a miracle for us to make not that mental leap, but spiritual leap to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus. We, by our own devices can’t make that leap, for we will fail, but, by the grace of God, and only by the grace of God, we may succeed.
Through flesh and blood we cannot proclaim Christ as Lord. It is only through the Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the Father, can we truly believe, have faith, and loudly proclaim Jesus is Christ.
This is why Jesus tells Peter, after proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, that, “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven.”
A miracle did happen that day, Peter proclaimed Jesus is Christ, and he truly believed the words that he said. He didn’t do this from his own will, but God’s will. For on that day, Peter was truly blessed. God the Father gifted him with a revelation and it is because of this gift, not because of his own will, that Jesus also blessed Peter with his name, which means Rock, “for on this Rock I will build my church.” Outside of being the first of the twelve disciples, there was nothing special about him, just like there was nothing special about the Hebrews and Israel, but God still gifted him with faith and it is because of this faith that Jesus gives him the name Peter and proclaims that Peter, who proclaimed Jesus, would be the strong foundation that the church was to be built upon.
Yet Christ said a most curious thing after proclaiming this, he told his disciples not to tell anyone else. Why? The reason is two-fold. The first is because of sin which would block others from understanding, leading to misunderstanding and even generating hatred that could lead towards the untimely deaths of the disciples. The other is because Christ had yet to die for the sake of our sins. But after His death and resurrection, Christ null and voids this command and instead commands his disciples to proclaim the Good News, that Christ has died for our sins and that through him and his glorious resurrection we are indeed saved.
Thus, after his resurrection, through this Great commission, Jesus Christ has opened the means of Salvation. That through the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit may enter into us and provide for us the miracle necessary to have faith and believe that Jesus is Christ, and, through this faith, have Salvation.
And because today is a communion Sunday, we see this through the Daily Bread, this Holy Sacrament, for whereas through our flesh and blood we not only can’t believe in Jesus Christ, but also can’t maintain our faith, through His flesh and blood, through the bread and wine presented here today we are blessed with the spiritual sustenance necessary to maintain our faith in Jesus Christ.
So who do you say Jesus is?
Do you say Christ? If you say Christ, and you sincerely believe this and have faith in the promises he has made, then let it be known you are indeed saved. I say again, if you proclaim and have faith that Jesus is Christ, then let it be known the reason you can say this is because you are saved.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you are great and amazing and above all things. Through you we are truly blessed, for you have gifted us with your Son who died on the cross for our salvation, and you have gifted us with your Holy Spirit who provides for us the faith in your Son who is Christ, our Redeemer, Savior, Lord, and God. In your Name we pray, Amen.