Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that our human feelings are fickle and change like the wind. We know that some days our faith is strong and some days it is weak. And in moments of honesty, we all worry whether or not our faith will fail us during times of upheaval. Today remind us that You are the Rock of our salvation. Remind us that when we build our faith on You and all that You have done to save our souls, we’ll be able to withstand the onslaughts of sin, Satan, and death. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE ROCK OF OUR SALVATION!
TEXT: Matthew 16: 13-20
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Rock and sand, Palestine is full of both. So, it should come as no surprise to us that our Lord used that common imagery to teach spiritual truths again and again. Think back to His sermon on the mount. Recall how Jesus spoke of the wise and also the foolish builders. The foolish builders construct their homes in the easiest and cheapest way possible. They built on sand. It was quick, easy, and inexpensive. They were into instant gratification in that they didn’t have the construction costs of excavating down to rock to anchor their homes. How such people must have laughed at their prudent neighbors who spent all that extra time and energy building their new homes on solid rock! But then, one day, a huge storm scudded across the sky and their sand-foundation homes were swept away. The rock-foundation ones stayed intact. Who was really wise? The point of that story was one of faith. Build prudently on Christ, the Rock, trust in His eternal permanence, and you’ll be able to withstand anything! Yes,
LISTEN TO THE MASTER BUILDER!
Most of you know that our church is built on rock ledge. Our building’s foundation is anchored securely into unmovable bedrock. That happenstance should teach us an even greater truth, however. For in reality, we’re really built on the Rock of Christ and what makes us secure is our unchanging reliance upon His unchanging grace.
Jesus is winding up His earthly ministry. After months of instruction, He wants to get a handle on whether the disciples have grasped His truths and also what the crowds are saying about Him. So, one day, He poses this question to the disciples. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Notice their quick reply. Obviously they have been working that “extended congregation” of hurting souls. “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Sad to say, this is a very inadequate answer. John was dead. Elijah was in heaven having been taken there 800 years before in that fiery chariot. And as to the “other prophets” they, too, were departed, having tasted death. How could Christ be one of these mere mortals? Of course, the only way was if God had resurrected Him! So, this inadequate answer does reveal to us that the common folk really did believe in and accept the reality of resurrection. Too bad many of them forgot that fact a few months later when Christ did actually arise from the dead!
Our Savior, goes on to quiz the disciples about His paternity. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” The spokesman, Peter, blurts out the answer Jesus has been looking for: “You are the Christ, the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, the Son of the living God.”
Ah, the Master Builder’s labors have not been in vain! Peter and the others “get it.” Peter confesses the truth about Jesus! He’s not just a mere mortal. He’s not a sin-tainted saint come back to life. No, He’s the Real Thing! He’s the promised Messiah! He’s the eternal Son of God, born at Bethlehem, Who came to suffer and die so that sinful humans might live forever through faith in Him, alone.
That answer, my friends, is Pinewood’s security blanket, too. Christ, the Master Builder, has worked such faith into our hearts. He has sustained us as a church for 124 years! We’re here today, not because we’ve had faithful pastors, great laymen and women, and not because we’re lucky. We’re here today because Christ is solid, unmovable, and thus our foundation is not “sinking sand.” We exist because we’ve heeded the call of the Master Builder!
To best understand what comes next, you need to know a little about Greek grammar, which makes Christ’s words very clear. Peter’s actual Jewish name was: Simon. Peter was a Greek play on words, a descriptive title, which Christ gave to him. Simon Peter was a mere man. In Greek, unlike English, everything has a case ending. So, when referring to Peter the man, Jesus would use a masculine case ending. But, Christ doesn’t do that here! When He says: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” The masculine ending is used. But when Christ continues talking, something amazing happens. “And I tell you that you are Peter (feminine ending) and on this rock (Peter means rock in Greek) I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” In short, this is a play on words. Christ didn’t build His kingdom on just a man named Peter (as some churches teach), but on Peter’s faithful confession of Christ.—That’s the antecedent for that feminine case ending. In short, the Christian Church is built on Christ! It is built on a faithful confession of Who He is and everything He’s done to save our souls! And the very gates of hell will never be able to overcome such a grouping of saints because our Rock, Christ, is unmovable!
Finally, Jesus goes on to give His fledgling Church, via the disciples, the very tools to continue the work of the Master Builder even after He’s ascended into heaven. “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.”
Right here is an outline for the ministry of the keys. Our service to God, or ministry, isn’t about merely winning friends and influencing people. It isn’t about marketing strategies. It is about forgiving the sins of hurting souls and also not applying God’s forgiveness to those who are not repentant. Forgiveness, or absolution, is the key component in the construction of any church. Without it we’re nothing more than a club. But with it we’re a Church, a temple of the Holy Spirit. That, my friends, is why the absolution simply must be a part of every single worship service at church! For it is the one vital component which makes, builds, and keeps any church thriving. Hearing the words: “Your sins are forgiven” and taking them to heart makes us “hard rock” saints!
So, Listen To the Master Builder! Take His words to heart! Use His tools every day and apply them both to yourselves and to others. They work! They come from the Son of God! And then take heart that no matter what happens in life, Built on a Rock, the Church, it stands! Amen