Month: August, 2014

“Who do you say He is?”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

A 4th grade teacher was giving her students a lesson in logic.

“Here is the situation,” she said. “A man is standing up in a boat in the middle of the river, fishing. He loses his balance, falls in, and begins splashing and yelling for help. His wife hears his screams and, knowing he can’t swim, runs down to the bank. Now, why do you think she ran down to the bank?” A girl raised her hand and asked, “To draw out all his savings?”

Today, in our gospel lesson, the disciples are faced with a similar situation. They too were being asked a question of logic from the teacher. Only in this case it was the greatest teacher. In order to find favor with the teacher and to seem intelligent they begin blurting out answers. Not necessarily the right answers but answers none-the-less.

Now we should all know about Peter. When called upon in other situations, he didn’t always have the right answer. He was the champion at blurting out things before he really took the time to think things through. But this time he blurted out an answer that was both correct and insightful. Of course he follows it up by again putting his foot in his mouth but we’ll focus on what he answered right on this day.

This section of the Gospel is kind of the gospel in miniature. It includes all the basic fundamentals of our faith in Christ. Jesus asks, “who am I?” and “will you trust me?” Let’s focus on the first question this morning.

In several of our worship services, we have focused a lot on the miracles of Jesus. We have spoken about Jesus feeding the crowds, of Him walking on water of Him healing of the Canaanite woman’s daughter.

Great things are happening time after time and His disciples have been witness to it all. This morning, Jesus checks to see if they have been paying attention. This morning He presents them with a test from the teacher. He starts with one simple question, “who do people say I am?”

This is where the blurting begins and the answers are all quite interesting. Answers came rolling out, “some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” The answers, though somewhat vague, are still interesting. This is where the real test starts. This is where the story gets interesting and personal. Jesus asks the second test question, “who do you say I am?”

These are Jesus’ closest friends and followers. These are the men that have traveled with him from town to town and the witnesses to His miracles. Yet only one of them had any kind of answer, our friend Peter.

You know, the fact that these were those closest to Jesus and that they didn’t have an answer to such a simple question makes me wonder, what if He were to ask us here at Redeemer that same question today? What would we say?

I mean if Jesus were walking among us claiming to be the Son of God. If we were witness to the same miracles, if we chose to follow Him, what would we say to the question that was brought upon the disciples?

You know, I think there would be quite a few of us who would be somewhere skeptical no matter the miracles. We shouldn’t be so hard on the disciples until we walked a mile or more in their shoes.

I think many of us would call him a great teacher or prophet. Many would consider him nothing more than a wise magician. Others would consider him nothing more than a good and moral person.

I believe in our modern world very few would actually consider Him to be the Son of God. It’s probably more likely that He would be considered a criminal in our politically correct society.

The FDA would get after Him for turning water into wine,

the EPA for killing fig trees

the AMA for practicing medicine without a license.

The Dept. Of health for asking people to open graves, for raising the dead and for feeding 5000 people in the wilderness without a permit.

OSHA for walking on water without a life preserver.

PETA for driving hogs into the sea

The National Board of Psychiatrists for giving advice without the proper credentials

NOW for not having any female apostles

Abortion rights advocates for saying that whoever harms children, it is better that they had not been born

The interfaith movement for condemning all other religions.

The zoning board for building heavenly mansions without the proper paperwork

And the seminaries for preaching and teaching without having gone to seminary.

The idea that He was actually the very Son of God comes hard to us, maybe even more difficult then it did for the disciples and throughout the Gospels we see evidence that the disciples continued to doubt and question.

To me it’s what makes the Gospels so believable, because the disciples are just like us. In fact, in this situation, it was only Peter who seemed to have a clue to what the answer was to the question that Jesus has challenged them with.

And Peter didn’t get it from some textbook or seminar. The answer came straight from his heart. Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter found that it wasn’t about what you know or where you were. It wasn’t about knowing who or what Jesus was. It was about truly “knowing” Jesus and there is a difference.

Peter had been around Jesus long enough to figure it out. He realized that Jesus was not just another person. He was someone very special and this is what set Peter apart from the others. This time, at least, He didn’t answer from his head, he answered from his heart.

He could have answered, “You are the son of a Galilean carpenter, you are a talented speaker, a Rabbi or a prophet. There are many answers that Peter could have given, yet Peter got it right. Peter answered that Jesus was the very Presence of God and God’s salvation to the lost sheep of Israel and the whole world.

And Jesus responds, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Wow! Great answer Peter!

So why was Peter’s answer so important? Because, and this is where we are talking about the Gospel in miniature, Peter confesses that Christ is the Son of God and for that he gets the keys to the kingdom. He answered correctly. The whole church was built upon this confession of faith.

The church today is a testimony to Peter’s faith. It exists because of Peter and countless others like him who trusted and believed in God and His holy Word. Despite the circumstances they were presented with, despite the hostility of the religious leaders of the time, despite the persecution from the Romans and others after them, despite the lions that were unleashed upon them, despite the threat of being burned at the stake because of their faith, the church survived because of the one true faith burning in the hearts of those who put their trust in Jesus. We should learn from them as we face our persecutions today.

Talk about a powerful expression of Hope! All that from a confession, the right answer to the teacher’s question. Just like that. This day would prove to be a life changing experience for Peter. We are gathered here today partly because of this one man’s confession some 2000 years ago. Think about that for a second. Peter, the rock, Impulsive Peter, the person to which Christ’s church was built on. All bestowed on him because of his confession of faith.

Now let’s move ahead a couple thousand years to the present time. Many of us also confess to this faith and we want others to do likewise. We want the church to grow and we sit around and wonder. What is it going to take? What is it that we should be doing? What kind of new service or program will we need to offer? How do we compete with the Evangelical’s around here?

If you’ve been in conversation with me about church growth at all since I’ve been here, you’ll know that it my belief that since the time of Christ, church growth is still dependent on the same thing as it always was. The foundation remains the same. We must continue to preach the Gospel and, by that, come to know Jesus.

Not know “about” Jesus. Really “know” Jesus. That we also proclaim Him as the Messiah in our own lives and that we share that Good News with others. It is very possible to know everything about Jesus, it’s entirely another thing to really know Him and to know Him is to know love.

You can spend your entire life in a church, you can go every Sunday and hear every message. You can know everything you can about Jesus and still never, ever know Him. And, truly knowing Him is the entire point to our lives as Christians.

Peter was able to answer correctly that Jesus was the very Son of God, the Messiah, because he truly knew Jesus and He did so because of the work of the Holy Spirit in his life.

Even though we didn’t have the same opportunity to walk alongside him and be witness to His miracles as Peter did, the Good News is that we still have the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to the truth. We still have the same Spirit to reveal Jesus to us as Lord and allow us to have a relationship with Him. We still have the same Spirit enveloping us with the love Christ has for us.

I think one of the saddest tragedies of the church is in the way that many of us approach and share our faith with others. To many it’s simply a case of, you turn to Jesus or you rot in Hell for all eternity. People call this evangelism. Please don’t confuse the two. This approach is nothing more than an assault.

This is not how he shared himself and the Good News with others when He walked among us. Yes, He asked us to make a choice between the light and the darkness, but it wasn’t under the threat of violence. His call on our lives was demonstrated through His great love for us that even death could not match. This is the Good News we must share. The good news that so many people are desperate to hear.

He just wants to be in relationship with us. He wants us to know Him, to love Him, to allow Him the opportunity to love us back so that we might share this love with others.

It has been said, “You might be able to scare people into the church, but you’ll never keep them there.” Yet fear is the pattern that so many good intentioned Christians take to share the Gospel. This tactic is done without the knowledge of God’s exceeding love for us, that is why it’s so tragic.

I am with you and I understand that all of us want to see Redeemer grow. I’m here to tell you that if you want to see that happen, you are going to have to be more intentional about sharing Jesus and His love with other people. You’re going to have to be more intentional in sharing how Jesus has changed your own life. No scare tactics, no threats, no pushing, just an honest sharing of the relationship that you already share with Him and a willingness to be open and honest and non judgmental about where people currently are in their relationship. People need room to grow.

Had Jesus been this big threatening guy ready to condemn, as many of the church leaders of that time thought He would be, and threatened to send everyone to hell who failed to give the right answer at a moments notice, our story this morning would not be about Peter’s confession of faith but instead about the other eleven disciples who failed to answer going to hell. It’s just not who Jesus was or He is.

Jesus is the Son of the Living God, and He is merciful. He is our Savior who is looking out for His followers to share His message of love and grace. That is who He is.

That is the message that the church is founded on. If you want to see Redeemer Lutheran Church grow, that is the foundation we must be built on and we must prove it by our witness, our words and our deeds.

We, as Missouri Synod Lutherans, are so different from other sort of, in your face, protestant churches. If anything, we are guilty of being afraid of offending someone so we keep our faith to ourselves. Neither approach is effective. We have to be willing to share if we are ever going to grow.

This relationship has been offered to you before, I want to offer it to again. No scare tactics, no threats, no pushing. Just a simple invitation that begins with a very simple question from the Master himself…..”Who do you say I am?” So…. who do you say He is? Amen

 

Bible Study Questions – Matthew 15:21-28

Bible Study Questions – Matthew 15:21-28

Jesus withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. What do we know about this region?* Ezekiel 27:32, 28:12; 1 Kings 7:13-14; Amos 1:9-10; Matthew 11:21-22; Luke 6:17—18

Why is this story so shocking?

What business did Jesus have in the land of the Gentiles if He came specifically for the house of Israel? Matthew 10:5-6

What other information do we get from this story in Mark 7:24-30?

How is the woman’s plea similar to that of Peter as he sank after first walking on the water? How is Jesus’ response different?

Why did Jesus not initially answer her, in verse 23?

Who are the dogs? Matthew 7:6, Philippians 3:2-3, Psalm 22:16

She calls Him “Lord, Son of David.” Why is this surprising? What does this tell us about the woman?

Who does the woman represent? Ephesians 2:8, Mark 7:29-30.

How is her response something we should do in our own life and tell others to do when they experience difficult situations?

 

Where do we find evidence that before this Jesus had helped other Gentiles? Matthew 4:24-25; 8:5-13

After being rebuffed by Jesus, what was significant about the woman’s response?

Why does Jesus sometimes put stumbling block along our path?

What moved Jesus to grant the Canaanite woman’s request?

What does this story teach us about faith?

Who Is the New Testament House of Israel? Matthew 15:24; Hebrews 8:8-10, Acts 2:36

How Does God View His People in the New Testament? Matthew 8:12,15:24; Romans 2:25,28-29, 9:6, 10:1-2, 11:26-27; Galatians 6:15-16.

What words and actions of Jesus became the hope that this woman needed?

*Tyre and Sidon were the two main Phoenician cities just north of Mount Carmel on the coast. In the Old Testament times this was all the region of the Phoenicians, better known as Canaanitish tribes. The word does not refer to one specific ethnic group, but an amalgamation of different groups (usually a list of twelve or more people known as the Canaanites) living in the land of Canaan. The word “Canaan” is the ancient name of the whole land before Abram arrived. The word itself may be related to the purple dye of the shellfish, or the merchant class that traded in the material. Because of its seaports and corresponding trade the Canaanite empire became a dominant power in the third millennium B.C. It had weakened tremendously by the time of the conquest, but still provided a formidable military challenge for Joshua and then later the Judges. But the Canaanites were also thoroughly pagan and corrupt. Their presence in the land was a strong threat to the purity of Israel’s religion and morality. So there is a long history of spiritual and military conflict between the Israelites and the Canaanites. David and his royal successors managed to control them; Solomon even did business with them when he was building he temple. But over the years the Canaanites were defeated and most of them fled the land. The bulk of those who fled settled in North Africa in Carthage, and met their doom in 146 B.C., which essentially ended the curse on Canaan and any threat from Canaanites. There were still people of various ethnic origins living in the area of today’s Lebanon and Syria, and they would be called Canaanites (like our term Americans).

Fun Fact:  This is the only time in the Bible Jesus directly tells someone they have great faith (he told the crowd that the centurion had great faith; he never told the centurion directly like he does here).

Notes on the translation of the passage

V21 ‘Jesus got out of there …’  The translation here is more forceful than you will find in other Bibles, which say ‘Jesus went away from there’.  However, the general story line indicates that Jesus wanted to get away from Galilee, and the Greek verb can have the meaning to ‘escape’.

V22 ‘A Canaanite woman who came out of that region’  It is not clear exactly what region is being described here.  However, the same Greek words are used in this sentence as for Jesus’ departure from Galilee in verse 21, and for this reason, it is possible that Matthew suggests that this woman was following Jesus from Galilee.  In this case, ‘that region’ refers to where Jesus came from, not where He was going.

V22 ‘suffers terribly with a demon’  The Greek word ‘diamonidzomai’ means to be possessed by a demon, not so much as completely dominated so as to be uncontrollable, but simply bound in some way due to the effects of the demon.  We may assume here that it was some kind of sickness, which is not stated in the story.  The notion of ‘suffering with a demon’ is one that should evoke pity in us not revulsion.

V23 ‘set her free’ Most Bible versions have ‘send her away’, but it is also possible to translate ‘set her free’, because the Greek word is a general one that can mean all kinds of ‘freeing’, and is sometimes even used to describe forgiveness

V25 ‘began to worship Him’  There is a disagreement in some of the ancient manuscripts about whether this should be ‘she worshipped Him’, or ‘she began to worship Him’.  You could say that it does not make much difference to the story, but the imperfect form of the verb (‘she began to worship Him’) gives a sense of the urgency and drama of the occasion, typical of the whole story, so I prefer to accept the latter.

V26 ‘offer it to the household dogs’  There were a number of Greek words for dogs, and the word used here indicates households dogs kept not so much as pets as scavengers that would eat up scraps just as in this story.

V27 ‘even the dogs eat the scraps …’ The Greek word here can mean crumbs of bread or scraps of meat.  With dogs, it is far more likely that we are talking about meat scraps thrown to the dogs rather than bread crumbs!

V28 ‘let your request be granted’ There are a number of ways of translating this, and the Greek says ‘Let it be for you as you wish’.  This is a straightforward way of granting a request.

 

Bible Study Questions – Matthew 14:22-33

Bible Study Questions – Matthew 14:22-33

 

In this passage we see Jesus immediately made the disciples get into the boat after the miracle of feeding the five thousand, despite knowing they would encounter a great storm (verses 20-22, 24). Why do you suppose God allows us to do things when He knows we are going to face storms? James 1:2-4

 

What “crowd” did Jesus dismiss, verse 21? Why did he dismiss them John 6:15? How might this explain why Jesus immediately made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him?

 

How far out were the disciples? John 6:19 How does this add to the miracle?

 

This is not the first time the disciples have been shown that Jesus is in control even of the water. When was this shown before? What do they have in common? How are they different? Matthew 8:23-27

 

Peter was able to walk on the water because he had faith in Jesus’ word to come. Why did he then begin to sink? John 12:48-49; 2 Corinthians 5:6-7; Colossians 3:17; Hebrew 12:1-3

 

What are some examples of how we let doubt overcome our faith?

 

In the ESV Jesus calms the disciples by saying, “Take heart; it is I.” The actual translation for “It is I” in the Greek is egw eimi (I am). What is Jesus actually saying here? Exodus 3:14; Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:4, 14, 43:3-5, 10-12

 

What two choices did Peter have when he began to sink? (my thinking here – swim back to the boat or call on Jesus to save Him)

 

What does it say of His faith that Pater called on Jesus to save him? What would you do?

 

When Jesus and Peter entered the boat, the other disciples immediately bowed down in submission, obedience and worship, using the title “Son of God” in the same sense as the prophets identifying Jesus as the Davidic Messiah. Where else in Scripture do we find this title used? Job 1:6; 1 Chronicles 17:11-13; Psalm 2:7

 

What is the significance of this title being used, especially as compared to the first time Jesus calmed the sea?

 

What are some of the storms people commonly experience? What are the causes of these storms?

 

How can you experience Jesus’ calm in the midst of the storms of life?