Sundays:  Pastor's Class 9:00 AM (Ephesians)
               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

Wednesdays: Pastor's Class 10:00 AM (Psalm 119 deep dive)
                    Divine Liturgy 7:00 PM

Ash Wednesday:

Imposition of Ashes 11:00 AM
Divine Service with Imposition of Ashes 7:00 PM



Confess Without Hesitation

August 31, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross

Matthew 16:13-16
Rev. Lloyd Gross

This may be the first time you have come here. It may be the last time you get to hear the Word of God. It may be the very middle of everything. In any case, the most important question in your life is not your age, not your health, not your color, not your job or status. Far more important is the question Jesus asked the Twelve. He asks you also, Who am I? Is the name of Jesus sacred to you, a name you use in prayer, or abuse in swearing? Do you honor Him with public worship, or dishonor Him with public blasphemy? Can you sympathize with Luther when He said that Christ was so real to him as if He had just now poured forth His blood, or do you sympathize with the Pharisees who attributed the Lord's miracles to witchcraft? A great majority in our society would quickly say that Jesus was just another man. But our lesson makes a very different claim.

This story takes place as Jesus withdraws Himself from the mainstream of activity. Herod had killed John the Baptist. Do not think that is so unusual. The world cannot tolerate those who speak the Word of God with prophetic boldness. If you want worldly power, you have to pay your dues, which means showing contempt for the Gospel. It's always a battle. To persevere in our ability to confess Jesus, we need to draw away from the world, as the disciples did, in the company of the Word. Here is our place of retreat, our supply train for spiritual logistics. Here, at least, your confession will not be opposed.

Even so, as Jesus asked the Twelve the most important question in the world, He got a lot of wrong answers. So what would you say? If someone asked you, Who is Jesus, what would you say? Do you call Him a Prophet? That is not saying enough. Do you call Him a miracle worker? That does not address His most important work, which was His death. Do you call Him a martyr? Don't forget that He rose again. So call Him the Savior. That's good, only the world doesn't want to hear it. It doesn't want to believe that it needs to be saved from anything. Do you call Him Christ? That means Messiah, a term which only has meaning for Jews and Christians, for people who believe Moses and the Prophets, but the Jews don't call Him Messiah. Our society has an unofficial religion that rejects any Gospel that teaches revelation to particular people rather than to the general public. This unofficial American religion has also infiltrated the Church. As a result those who claim to represent Jesus give the wrong answer to the most important question in the world.

Peter gave the right answer. Jesus is the Messiah, and the Son of the Living God. Moses and the Prophets witness to Him. Messiah means "anointed," and Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit to take away the sins of the world. He is the Substitute for every sinner, the Ransom for every evil, the Reconciler of the world to God. How can this be? He is God Incarnate, assuming human nature in order to die, but still very God of very God, proved powerful above all by rising from the dead. Take all of your sins, your anxiety, your terror of soul, and bring it to the cross of Jesus. Here you can know for certain that His blood removes your sins forever. There is only One Living God, the Three in One. Jesus is the incarnate form of the Second Person. Besides Him there is no other God.
Do not hesitate to confess that Jesus died and rose again. He had no sin in Himself. Hell had no claim upon Him. Therefore, He was able to take the keys of death and hell by force. Shortly after the events of our text, Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured on a mountaintop. They heard the Voice of God the Father saying This is my beloved Son. In view of this, do not doubt that Jesus is God incarnate, do not doubt that He has authority to forgive sins, that He has all the titles and attributes of God. Do not hesitate to confess that Jesus is Lord and Messiah. How strange it is that although Jesus is praised by the angels and feared by the devils He should be denied by His own Church!

Jesus told Peter, Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. No amount of scientific research, no new technology, no human endeavor can convince you that Jesus is God. It is quite reasonable to believe it, but the problem is that the devil will not let you listen to your own reason when it comes to this. Jesus is God, that is absolutely the truth. The devil sets us to resist the truth, and only the Holy Spirit can remove our resistance to it. Revelation comes from God to man. It can go from man to man if the first man got it from God. But no one can invent the truth. I realize how formidable it is to confess that you have the truth while others do not. But so it must be.

Again look at Peter. He confessed Jesus without hesitation. We have known the New Testament most of our lives. We have rejected it at times, we have failed in our confirmation vows at times, we have been wrong about this and that, but it's never too late to join your voice with the Apostle's in a ringing, positive acknowledgment that Jesus is the 2000 year old answer to all that is wrong with the world today. What better confession than the memory work you all once learned: I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true Man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord who has redeemed me… Once you say that, you are also saying that those who deny it are wrong, and that includes almost the whole world. Well, they are wrong. If they aren't wrong, then Jesus is. Don't hesitate about which it is going to be.

There is only one right answer to Jesus' question, the most important question in the world. Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God. The Holy Bible proclaims Him on every page, for He is its center. Here in this house we can retreat with Him to be fed and cleansed by Word and Sacrament. Afterward, we can advance against all the strongholds of Satan, confident that we are on the winning side. AMEN.