Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent based on Mark 8:27-38
Dear confessors of Jesus as the Christ: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
We care what other people think of us. We may ask others what they’ve heard said about us because we want to make sure only good things are being said. We are vain.
That’s not why Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am?” Jesus knows what everyone thinks of Him.
Jesus wanted the disciples to know and take notice of what the world was saying about Him. The world was saying that Jesus is a prophet. A prophet like John the Baptist or Elijah. They said He was a respectable teacher with teaching worth hearing.
Jesus wants His church today to also know what the world says about Him. Guess what? It hasn’t changed. The world still says that Jesus was a prophet. They still say He was a teacher with some good lessons to teach. They say He’s one of the great religious leaders like Gandhi and Buddha. Even Muslims say that Jesus was a prophet like Mohammed.
There’s always room for another prophet. There’s always room for another teacher. Even the Pharisees called Jesus “Rabbi,” which means teacher. With teachers you take what you think is good, and discard what you think is not so good. If you don’t like one teacher, you find another.
Peter did not confess that Jesus was just another teacher. He confessed, “You are the Christ.” You are the promised Messiah, the Saviour of the world. You are the one anointed by God the Father to save us from our sins. You are God in the flesh, here to save us from hell.
We needed saving from hell, because there was not one spot left in us untainted by sin. We were sick with sin’s poison, infected with nothing but grim death in our future.
Christ, the Son of the living God, came and took our sentence of death in our place. He never broke any law or committed any crime to receive such a sharp sentence of death by crucifixion. Yet, He was crowned with thorns, smitten, and scourged. He was cruelly mocked and nailed to a tree. Even then the mocking continued.
All this was for us. Our sins were the reason Jesus suffered and died. All the wrath and the anguish that Jesus took on Himself was what we merited and deserved. The Shepherd died for sheep that love to wander, and the Master paid the debt His servants owed Him (paraphrased from LSB 439).
Jesus is the Christ. This remains the confession of the Church. There is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12).
Peter did not confess this because he was wise and well learned. He didn’t confess Jesus to be the Christ because he was such a wise theologian. He confessed it because it had not been revealed to him by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven (Matt. 16:17).
Immediately after Peter’s confession, we see his lack of understanding. Peter had just confessed Jesus to be the Christ, and thus the Saviour of the world, but as soon as Jesus started explaining what that would mean, Peter rebuked Him. As soon as Jesus told the disciples that being the Christ meant that He would suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, Peter took Jesus aside and told him no, that’s not how you are going to save us.
That’s where our cleverness gets us. Our intelligence gets us to say that Jesus is just another teacher. Our wisdom says that God’s Son should not die to save us.
The only way we know the truth about the promised Christ is if it is revealed to us by the Father in heaven. It is not from our great studies or learning or wisdom that we figure out God’s truth. Rather, God reveals His truth to us in His Word. His Word is truth.
God’s Word reveals Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. God’s Word reveals that it was necessary that Jesus die on the cross to pay for our sins. No other payment would have been enough.
Then God takes us miserable sinners and claims us as His own in the waters of Holy Baptism. He washes us clean from all our sins and joins us to Himself.
It is not through our intelligence or wisdom that we become children of God. Those who think that we choose God and believe in Him through our own reason and strength thus reject infant Baptism. They say babies haven’t done the studies necessary to be baptized. They’re not smart enough for Baptism. They’re not learned enough.
This brings us back once again to where our learning and intelligence get us. They get us to say that Jesus is nothing more than a good teacher and that He should not die for our sins. They get us to rebuke Jesus’ suffering and death as a good plan of salvation. In other words, they get us nowhere as far as salvation is concerned.
Only through God the Father revealing to us that Jesus is the Christ do we believe and then confess this to be true. “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him.” We need the Holy Spirit to call us by the Gospel. We need the Holy Spirit to wash us and claim us through the waters of Baptism. We need the Holy Spirit to enlighten us with His gifts. We need the Holy Spirit to sanctify us and keep us in the true faith.
This the Holy Spirit has done despite our reason and our intelligence. He has washed away our sin and given us faith to confess that Jesus is the Christ. God has revealed to us in His Word that we have peace with Him because of Jesus’ death in our place – that great payment that was required for our sins to be paid. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us and saved us from the wrath of God by justifying us by His blood. Our sins are forgiven. We are reconciled to God.
Thus, the Church has always confessed and will always confess who Jesus is. He is not just another teacher or prophet. He is not just one of many religious leaders from whom we pick and choose what we like. Jesus is the Christ – the anointed Saviour of the world. He is our Saviour from sin, death, and the devil. There is salvation in no other name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.