Sunday, February 24, 2019

The So-Called "Good Confession"

Let’s begin with an easy question this morning: “Who is Jesus?” For people living in Jesus’ time, that was not an easy question. Was Jesus Elijah? (Some thought so). David? The Messiah? Just another wanna-be prophet! In fact, for centuries, people have been trying to figure out who Jesus was.

Some of you may have heard of a group called “The Jesus Seminar.” This is a group of Christian scholars and teachers who set out to “find the real, historical Jesus.” Apart from myth, apart from legend. What’s interesting, though, is that the Jesus they consistently find looks a lot like them. Scholarly, void of emotion, a boring college professor type. If you ever have occasion to read any of their material, it’s actually quite comical. They think they are the cutting, edge brilliant scholars. But the methods they use to come to their conclusions are really absurd!

I ran across a story not long ago in which someone takes these methods and pushes them to their fullest extent. These scholars take scanty information about Jesus’ life and draw all kinds of conclusions. So this person did the same thing! Here are some of their comical conclusions:

There are three proofs that Jesus was in fact a Mexican.
—His first name was Jesus.
—He was bilingual.
—He was always being harassed by the authorities.

But, there were equally good arguments that Jesus was black.
—He called everybody “brother.”
—He liked Gospel.

But then there were equally good arguments that Jesus was Italian.
—He talked with his hands.
—He had wine with every meal.
—He used a lot of olive oil.

But maybe Jesus was from California.
—He never cut his hair.
—He walked around barefoot.
—He started a new religion.

But still, there were equally good arguments that Jesus was Irish.
—He never got married.
—He was always telling stories.
—He loved green pastures.

But perhaps the most compelling evidence leads many to believe Jesus was actually a woman!
—He had to feed a crowd at a moment's notice when there was no food.
—Even when He was dead, He had to get up because there was more work for him to do.
—He kept trying to get the message across to a bunch of men who JUST DIDN'T GET IT.

All jokes aside, do we really know for sure who Jesus was? The fact is, some of those who were the closest to Jesus were not even sure who He was.

Let's look at Luke 9:18-20 (NRSV).

"Once when Jesus[a] was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God."

Some of you might say, “Well, there you go! Peter knew who Jesus was! It says right there in black and white…"You are the Christ of God!” But I’m telling you right now that Peter’s “good confession” was no confession at all. In fact, Jesus was not the person Peter thought He was. Jesus was not the Jewish “Messiah”!

You heard me right. Jesus was not the Messiah. At least, He wasn’t the messiah they were looking for. According to Jewish belief, when the messiah finally arrived, these things would take place:
—All war will end.
—Peace and plenty will be restored for Israel.
—Israel and Judah will be reunited.
—People in exile will return.
—Salvation for everyone.
—A new era will begin that will never end.
—The central figure will be the new David.
—He is the ideal king of God.
—Israel will rule the world.
—With David on her throne!

When we read Luke 9, and we hear Peter say, “You are the Christ,” that is what he meant. And you can almost hear Jesus in the background…“No I’m not! I’m not the Christ you think I am!” That adds a little more context to Jesus’ next statement.

Read Luke 9:21-22 (NRSV).

"He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Why didn’t Jesus want them to tell anyone? You’ve heard all kinds of explanations:
—It wasn’t time yet.
—Jesus wasn’t ready.
—He didn’t want anything to interfere with His plan.

You want to know why Jesus didn’t want them to tell anyone He was the Christ?
Because according to their definition of “Christ“...He wasn’t the Christ! Jesus wanted to squelch this idea at all costs! He didn’t want people proclaiming Him king! He didn’t want an army to start gathering around Him! He was not the Jewish Messiah they all thought He was! So, right after He tells them to keep their opinions to themselves, Jesus immediately begins to set them straight.
—"I must suffer!"
—"I must be rejected!"
—"I must be killed!"

That is not who they thought Jesus was! Peter, over time, would learn that his idea of “Christ” was way off base. His confession that day, in some sense, was meaningless. What did he confess? That Jesus was a great king that would end war? That Jesus was inaugurate His new kingdom and kick out the Romans? That Jesus was the great general of war Israel had been waiting for? You know, that would have been great for Peter! He was tight with Jesus. Maybe he could be second in command. 2nd only to the king of the world…That’s not a bad spot to be in! But, no! The confession that Jesus demands is much more difficult than that!

Peter confessed, “Jesus is the Christ!” And I believe in this confession, he was hoping to gain a powerful place in the new kingdom. He wanted power. He wanted to be in charge. He wanted Jesus to be KING! But what does it really mean to say, “Jesus is the Christ!”?

Read Luke 9:23-27 (NRSV)

"Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

A confession doesn’t amount to anything if you’re not willing to carry your cross!

I have been pretty tough on ole’ Peter this morning. I think many of us have felt like Peter. We come up here and we confess, “Jesus is the Christ.” And like Peter, we probably felt pretty good about our confession...“I did it. Now, I’m in!” But when you confessed, “Jesus is the Christ"...What did you mean? Did you really understand? Did you realize that by making that claim, you’ve set yourself up for death?

That’s right! If you confess Jesus is the Christ, and if you make Him Lord of your life, you must die! Because He died. And we must follow in His footsteps. I wonder if Peter would have made the same confession if he’d known everything. I wonder if some of us would have made that confession if we’d understood all of the implications of following after “the Christ.”

Soren Kierkegaard once said:

"I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained-glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, 'If any man will be my disciple', said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me."

I have to admit…Sometimes I wonder, do you really understand what it means to say, “Jesus is the Christ.”

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