13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.(Matthew 16:13-20, New Revised Standard Version)
Have you ever had a doctor say you needed to do everything you never wanted to do? I am talking about one of those kind of doctors who have their own version of the Ten Commandments, saying things like “thou shalt not eat salt” and “thou shalt lose weight.” I’m talking about a Doctor you could have a conversation with, telling them you know and have studied the Bible and there is nothing in there saying anything about those two commandments and yet the doctor just doesn’t seem to care. He or she wants you to follow those instructions anyway. We can talk. We can argue and yet that wonderful doctor just keeps saying the same thing. We can even go so far as to call them “an old stick in the mud that wants to be take all the flavor out of food” or, even worse, wants us to completely remove our favorite foods from our mouths. I have actually heard one doctor say though not to me, “if it tastes good, spit it out!”
I don’t know about you, but I have had doctors tell me I need to lose some weight, an instruction I obviously have not fully followed. At least my efforts weren’t the way my doctors intended. But, I do work on it.
I think no matter what I, or any of the rest of us do or say, most of our doctors will keep telling us to lose weight or stop eating salt or get more exercise, or stop drinking coffee or whatever else might fall into their personal version of the Ten Commandments.
Why is it, do you think, our doctors push us, their patients lose weight? Sometimes I think he or she just wants to see skinny people walking around town. Could that possibly be true? Perhaps, but I doubt it.
Maybe these doctors own stock in a clothing manufacturing company or clothing retail store chain and is trying turn a profit? That could be the case but then that same doctor would be telling skinny people to gain weight so they would have to go out and buy new clothes as well. Besides, how many times have you heard about a doctor telling anyone to gain weight? It does happen, most recently the doctor told my son and daughter-in-law that Sydney needed to gain weight. But people hear the need to lose weight a great deal more than needing to gain weight.
It could be that our doctors think if those of us who are overweight would lose a few pounds we would look better. I know for me it would take more than just a few pounds.
Any of those things could be true, but I think there is probably a different answer resting in the fact that the person giving us these instructions is a medical doctor. Do you think that, maybe, just maybe, our physician knows that those of us who are overweight would be feeling better and living healthier if we lost all the extra pounds? That, my friends, is probably the case. But, how do our doctors know that to be true. If one of them were here this morning I might ask them the same question directly. To tell the truth, I really wouldn’t need an answer.
I think I know the answer. I think most of us do. Losing a few pounds or having something else that could cause that doctor to give us some kind of special instructions. Any of us might and all of us should, regardless of our weight, or who are doctor might be, listen, at least a little bit to what they say. First of all, we pay them our hard-earned money for their advice. But more importantly, they are the ones with the education. They are the ones who have read the research. How does the doctor know? His or her education, training, research, experience, and study tell them so.
I read an article by Dr. John Eagan on the Protestant work ethic. Dr. Eagan said everyone is a person of faith. He went on to make a point that though every person is a person of faith, he did not say in what people placed their faith. He only said that we all do have faith.
For instance, I have faith that when I put my clothes in the washing machine, do all the voodoo with all the settings, and all the stuff with the cleaning agents, my clothes will come out clean. How do I know? Because I know what the various products I use in doing the laundry are supposed to get done. If they don’t work, then I know my faith was misguided and I need to take another look at my laundry methods, cleaning products, equipment or all of the above.
When it’s August in Texas and the weatherman tells me, it’s going to be hot, I have the faith that what he says is true. It should be noted, however, that having faith in the weather forecast is not always faith well founded. But, how do I know that August in Texas means hot? My experience of living almost all my life in Texas, including a whole lot of Augustus tell me that it is almost always hot when those two conditions are present, no matter what the weatherman has to say when I watch the 10:00 o’clock news.
When I go to the doctor, I have faith that he or she gives me is best for my overall health. And we should listen to what they say if for no other reason than we have enough faith in the medical opinion to give them money so we can hear that opinion.
It is easy for us to say I have faith in something. It’s something very different to know why we have faith in something. Do you have faith that if we flip on a light switch the lights will come on? You do? How do you know?
In our lesson, we are looking at Jesus’ response to Peter first Jesus asks who do you say I am?” Jesus begins by asking a simple faith question, the question that laid the groundwork, if you will, is who do people say I am?” That’s a far easier question to answer when you’re talking about someone else, someone other than yourself. The response, “some say Moses, some say Elijah, or one of the prophets.” What other people are saying, is almost always an easier answer to give than to answer Jesus’ real question, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
Peter quickly gives the answer. Surprisingly, usually when Peter answers quickly, he’s wrong. But this time, Peter says, “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” That is a faith answer to a faith question. Peter says, I know you are the Messiah.” For me, what is really at stake is, how did Peter know?
If given the opportunity, I think Peter probably could have answered the question for himself. This time, he didn’t because Jesus responded first. “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but instead my father in heaven.” Peter says, “You are the Christ,” and that is true but how does he know? He knows because God revealed it to him.
All of us face the same faith question. It asks where our faith lies. Here we aren’t talking about our faith in doctors or the weather reporter or household appliances or light fixtures. We may have faith in at least some of these things. But what we’re talking about is faith that is deeper and more significant than anything we have talked about.
That is because they can falter, they can let us down and our faith is misguided. This faith question asks, “Who do you say he is?” If I asked each of us to answer in a quick poll of the congregation, I think I most, if not all of us, would answer, “He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the savior, the Redeemer,” or another title that would be equally appropriate.
That is not to say if we were to poll everyone in the country or even here in Huntington that we would get the same answer. We would probably get some very different answers from our own, depending on who we asked. But for this morning’s message, those questions are not our concern. Should we be concerned about their faith and their Salvation? Sure, we should, but we will save that concern for another time.
My focus is on us. My concern is for those who give the expected answer to Jesus question, “Who do you say I am?” for we who know Jesus to be the Messiah, the Christ, I have another question for you and perhaps it’s the most important question we have asked this morning.
You say Jesus is the Christ or some similar term, answer me this, how do you know? How do you know Jesus is the Christ? In many ways Jesus’s question to Peter is a confession of faith. When we confess our faith, we are saying we know Jesus is the Messiah?
The summer I was seven years old, toward the end of vacation Bible school, the pastor of our church asked me, “Keith, when are you going to come forward and let me baptize you?” Then he asked me if I believed in Jesus. I answered I did. Though I really don’t think I understood what that meant. Within a few weeks I was baptized and in my seven-year-old way I confessed Jesus to be the Christ, but how did I know? I knew because the preacher had told me. And maybe for a seven-year-old kid, probably for any kid, that’s good enough. But for a more mature faith, it isn’t good enough.
How do you know Jesus is the Christ? Is it because I or some other preacher told you who Jesus is? I’m glad you listened and got that message, but that’s not good enough.
Do you know because some past Sunday school teacher told you who Jesus was? Again, I’m really glad you got that message, but knowing because a Sunday school teacher told you isn’t good enough.
Do you know because you read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? It touches my heart to know that you read the Bible? Personal time and scripture is important and I am really glad to know you have taken the time to read Scripture. Keep it up. But just reading the Bible to say you know Jesus to be the Messiah, well, sorry, that isn’t good enough.
Do you know because your mom or dad taught it to you? Once again that’s important. It’s vitally important that we raise our children in the faith. It is important that we teach them matters of faith at home. But as much as I hate to say it, it still isn’t good enough all these things are important they are vitally important for our children. But you can’t inherit mom or dad’s faith.
Do you know it because you got it from your grandma or grandpa. Both of my grandmothers told me a lot about Jesus over the years. My maternal grandmother came by it honestly. She was a strict Baptist’s preacher’s kid. That wasn’t good enough.
As the Church, when we baptize children and adults, we make a promise to uphold and teach and demonstrate living the faith. And friends, at every opportunity you have to teach the faith, to demonstrate the faith, and to support those arounds us in church and beyond, thank you. But, as hard as you work to do that, I am sure God smiles, but it isn’t good enough.
Yes they are important period all of them are important and I would never tell you otherwise. But none of these things are good enough for the mature person of faith because all these things are head knowledge. We expect head knowledge from the doctor or the mechanic or from the other people we do business with. But with matters of faith, we all need something more.
John Wesley talked about his heartwarming experience. Wesley knew in his head all there was to know about Jesus, yet something was missing, something important. He knew what he had wasn’t good enough. He went on a search for what more he needed. His search sent him as a missionary to Georgia. His search led him to active participation in the Holy Club at Oxford. He desperately wanted to know what it was to know Jesus to be the Messiah, not just in his head but in his heart. He wanted more than to know Jesus to be the Messiah, he wanted to feel Jesus was the Messiah.
Then one day, as he was at a preaching house on Aldersgate Street in London. He listened to a reading of Martin Luther’s preface to Paul’s letter to the Romans. The Holy Spirit came mightily upon Wesley and he said he felt his heart strangely warmed. He said he knew Jesus died, even for him!
That’s what we need. We don’t just need head knowledge; we need heart knowledge. Matters of faith are matters of the heart. Here in the church we depend a great deal on head knowledge. We need it to do business. But more importantly, I think it is difficult, not impossible, but difficult for us to arrive at heart knowledge without first having head knowledge. We need to hear Christ proclaimed in worship, Sunday school, in the words of scripture, and in many other places so we can come to a knowledge and understanding about God’s work in our lives. But head knowledge alone is not good enough.
We need something more. We need a lot more. Where shall we turn? There is good news. In our lesson Jesus says to Peter, “blessed are you son of Simon son of Jonah for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my father in heaven.”
I think what Jesus is saying here is, flesh and blood work in our heads, God works in our hearts.
Seeking the Genuine,
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved