September 16, 2018 [Pentecost 17]  Mark 8:27-35  J.D.Roekle

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 

 

Confess Christ!

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          Are you ready?  Are you ready to confess Christ?  We are still in road construction season.  This time around however, there’s even more road construction than we’ve had in past years.  That’s because our area is working on its infrastructure in anticipation of an influx of people to our area over the next several years.  In large part, that is due to the building of Foxconn which claims they will have 13,000 new jobs once the entire project has been built. 

          Along with those jobs, come people and families.  Are we ready for the influx of people?  Potentially 10s of thousands of people to our area?  A few representatives of First Evan spent the morning out at Shoreland yesterday discussing that question.  We heard from various people what we can expect as far as an influx of people goes. 

          Are we ready for it?  Are we ready to reach out to the numbers of people who will be moving into the downtown area over the next few years?  There are new housing developments being worked on as we speak.  Perhaps you saw the Journal Times article last Sunday which talked about the old YMCA, which a developer from California recently purchased in order to turn the building into an apartment complex.  They’re planning to put 46 new apartments in.  And that news is only the tip of the iceberg.  There are other housing projects in the works that will bring people here. 

          Are we ready for it?  Are we ready to reach out to our neighbors?  And keep in mind that as we reach out, we will also face challenges to our faith.  People will question why we believe what we do, and why we do what we do. 

          The bottom line is this.  We want to prepare ourselves to not only communicate Christ to people who need him so desperately, but also to be able to defend our faith against those who challenge us.  To defend what we hold so dear.  That’s what we want to focus on today. 

          Defending our faith means confessing Christ.  In order to confess Christ, we need to know who he is.  Jesus asked his disciples who people said he was.  And they came up ideas people had about Jesus.  John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets they answered.  In other words, they knew Jesus was someone special, but they vastly underestimated who Jesus was. 

          So Jesus shifted the questioning to his disciples.  “Who do you say I am?”  As he often did, Peter served as the spokesman to offer the answer: “You are the Christ.” 

          We use the name Christ or Jesus Christ quite a bit.  Jesus is the name he was given by God through the angel to both Mary and Joseph.  And Christ is points to who Jesus was.  He was and is the Anointed One.  He is the chosen one of God. 

          There is something very special about Jesus.  He is the one God chose to crush Satan’s head.  But it was more than that.  While many people looked at him as merely a special man, the name Christ implies something more.  He is more than a man.  He is also God.  Both divine and human at the same time. 

          Today, Jesus is simply too big to ignore or to claim as a myth.  So what do people often do with Jesus?  They change who he really is.  To some, he is some sort of social reformer.  To others, he is a messenger of love, who tolerates immorality.  In any case, all non-Christian people claim that Jesus is nothing more than a man. 

Are you ready to defend who Jesus really is?  Jesus is the Son of God, the one chosen by God.  Yes, true God and true man.  The Athanasian Creed which we speak on Trinity Sunday, not only defends the teaching of the Trinity, but also the fact that Jesus has two natures:  “We believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and man.  He is God, eternally begotten from the nature of the Father, and he is man, born in time from the nature of his mother, fully God, fully man, with rational soul and human flesh.” 

Confessing Christ means that we recognize who he is.  It also means that we understand his purpose here. 

          Last week, after Jesus healed the deaf and mute man, he told those who witnessed it not to tell anyone about it.  Here, too, when Peter confessed him as the Christ, he repeated the same warning.  Don’t tell anyone about it!

          We don’t have to speculate why he told Peter and the others that here.  They simply didn’t get it yet.  They knew he was both God and man, but they didn’t fully understand his purpose.  That is clear to us when Jesus explained what was ahead for him.  He would suffer, be rejected, be killed, and then rise again.  What was Peter’s reaction to this teaching?  He “took [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him.” 

          Jesus was quick to react and to rebuke Peter harshly in return “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”  The problem here was that Peter was subscribing to a theology of glory rather than a theology of the cross.  Jesus did not come to be some kind of king on earth, but rather he came to suffer disgrace.  And it was all for your sake and mine. 

          Peter meant well with his concern for Jesus and not wanting to see his master and teacher suffer or die.  But the reason Jesus rebuked Peter so harshly was because this served as a temptation to Jesus.  This was the only way it would work.  If Jesus didn’t die, Satan would have won.  If Satan won, we would all be lost. 

          As we defend Christ, we need to be ready to confess his purpose for coming in the first place.  His purpose was to save us by taking our place.  And the only way he could take our place was to go through what we were supposed to go through. 

                    Now, as we confess these truths, we have to remember that it won’t make this life easier.  In fact, confessing Christ can complicate things. 

     Jesus spelled that out to his disciples: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” 

          Confessing Christ means that sometimes we will need to make sacrifices.  It means that we might be sacrificing our popularity.  Speaking out against sin is not a popular position.  Even if you don’t speak out against any specific sin, you still need to do it in at least a general way in order to truly confess Christ.  For instance, in order to tell someone that Christ came to redeem them, you must also confess to them that they are lost and condemned creatures, because of who they are by nature. 

          But we are not here to see how many friends we can get to follow us on our Twitter feed, or to see how many likes we can garner on a Facebook post.  We are here to confess all of what Christ teaches, even if it means getting unfriended or being show a cold shoulder or getting berated by a college professor. 

          Through the centuries, Christians have even died on account of their faith and confession.  They have died for what they believe.  Christians are dying around the world on account of their confession.  A decade or two ago, I don’t think I would have thought that possible in the United States.  I’m not so sure anymore.  It may be coming.  As apathy to Christ turns into hate for Christ, physical persecution usually follows. 

          Now I’m not trying to say that it’s coming anytime soon, but it may in the next generations.  That’s why it is so important that we continue to zealously train ourselves and the next generations.  That we may know who Christ is, and clearly understand his purpose.  We need to have that firmly in our hearts and minds so that when the day comes when our faith is challenged, we may boldly confess Christ.  Amen.