Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 18:15 mark.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It’s one thing to talk about God, with all of our human speculation, opinions, and arguments. It’s another thing entirely to be addressed by God. It’s one thing to talk about God: Who do people say that the Son of Man is? It’s another thing to be addressed by God: Who do you say that I am? Jesus asks His disciples about what people say, and they give various answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets. Jesus asks the disciples who they say that He is, and Peter answers for all of them: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
You are the Christ, the Anointed One—anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism, and declared by God: this is My beloved Son—the Son of the Living God, not of the all the dead idols in this world. And Jesus says to Peter: blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you. You didn’t get this from the speculations, opinions, or arguments of people. You didn’t get this from any person, or from human reason, or from anywhere in this world. This was revealed to you by My Father in heaven. It’s one thing to talk about God; it’s another to be addressed by God. And the way that God addresses this world is in the flesh of the Son of Man, who is the Son of God.
And I say that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail—will not be victorious, will not be able to withstand—over or against the Church of Jesus Christ. It should be clear that Jesus is not building His Church on Peter, although He uses Peter to build it. Peter is cut from the rock, but he is not himself the Rock. The Church is not built on the one who confesses, but on the One who is confessed.
And that becomes clear in the next few verses. Peter wavers. Peter denies. When Jesus tells the disciples what it is that the Christ, the Son of the Living God has come to do—to suffer, die, and rise from the dead—Peter again speaks for the disciples and says, No, Lord! God forbid that this should happen to You! Peter denies even knowing Jesus. As long as Peter is seeing Jesus, everything is fine. It’s when he looks at the people or things or events or circumstances surrounding him, everything is not fine. And what about you or me? Where will we find our confidence when things around us or things within us are pushing against us? Will we look inside ourselves and find some rock of certainty to which we can cling? We waver and doubt and are shaken all the time.
No, Jesus says, the one who hears these words of Mine and does them is like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock. The rain and the flood come, the wind blows and falls upon that house, but that house does not fall because it has been founded on the rock. Anything less might as well be built on sand. My hope is built on nothing else than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand. The rock is not the one who believes or confesses, but the One who is believed and confessed.
And in the midst of rain and flood and wind and waves, there is only one rock, who is Christ, who followed Israel, from whom we drink living water. Only His promise remains; only His Word is forever; only He cannot be shaken, or moved. Because He has been raised from the dead, and nothing in this world, nothing in us, nothing in life or death can move this Son of Man and Son of the Living God.
On this rock I will build My Church. Built on the rock, the Church must stand, even when steeples are falling. Even if everything falls around us—if heaven and earth themselves are shaken—we are anchored on the only firm and sure foundation that there is; the Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord. The rock is not human experience, or human technology, or human reason. The rock is not any country or state; it is not our rights or our freedoms. The rock is not in a political party, or politicians, or campaign promises, or election victories. Who knows what any of that will mean for the country or the world or people? The rock is Christ, and when everything else is shifting and changing and wavering and shaking, the Son of the Living God reaches out His hand, grabs hold of you, and pulls you back in the boat.
It’s one thing to talk about God, and speculate, and give opinions. It is another thing entirely to be addressed by God in a man who died but is alive: on this rock I will build My Church, and death, hell, and the world will never be able to overcome or withstand Christ’s Church. I forgive you all your sins, and what is loosed in heaven is also loosed on earth. This is My body and My blood. Take and eat and remember and be anchored to the rock. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Built on the rock, the Church must stand.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 8/21/20