“Who Do You Say I Am?”  (July 14, 2019)

Sermon Text: Luke 9:18 – 24

Pastor Daniel Schmidt

“Who is Jesus?”  Has anyone ever asked you that question?  If so, how did you answer?  Some answer that question by saying that Jesus was simply a great teacher.  Others will say that he was a good man, who said some good things, whose good example we should all follow.  Still others will say that he was simply a man who tried to trick people into thinking that he is the promised Savior.  Because there are so many different opinions about who he is even today, Jesus himself asks you a question: “WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?”

As the Lord carried out his ministry, just like today there were a lot of different opinions about who he is.  Certainly, as true God, Jesus knew what people were saying about him.  But the Savior wanted to test his disciples, to see if they believed the wrong things that people were saying about him.  In answering Jesus’ question, the disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”  It is interesting to note that no one the disciples were hearing from were saying that Jesus is the promised Savior.  So he asks, “But what about you?  Who do you say I am?”  And, speaking on behalf of the other disciples, Peter responded, “The Christ of God.” While the crowds did not believe, God the Holy Spirit led Peter and the other disciples to confess Jesus as the Christ.

After hearing their confession, Jesus then did something that may seem a little strange to us.  We read, “Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.”  “Why not?”, we think to ourselves.  Why not tell people that Jesus is the Christ?  To put it simply, the time was not yet right, because many different people had many different ideas about what the Christ, the Messiah, should do for the people.  Most in Israel were looking for a political Messiah, someone who would rescue them from the control of the Roman government.  But Jesus teaches his disciples what the Messiah, the Christ, would do, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

As you spend time talking to people, you find out that there are a lot who feel that they have to work hard to get into heaven.  Even your sinful nature and mine tempt us to think the same thing.  But, what does it mean to say that you know who Jesus is? It means to confess that by nature you and I are sinful, and only deserving of God’s wrath and punishment.  It means to confess that you and I in no way are able to save ourselves.  It means to confess that Jesus is the only one who lived, suffered, died and rose again to win the forgiveness of our sins.  As we read in Galatians chapter 3, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

By the grace of God, and by the faith that God the Holy Spirit has placed into your heart and mine, you and I are children of our Father in heaven.  You and I are clothed with the perfect life that Jesus lived in our place.  Who is Jesus?  As Martin Luther writes in his Small Catechism, he is the one who “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.”

Throughout the three years that he spent with his disciples, Jesus constantly taught them that it would not be easy to answer the question: “Who do you say I am?”  In today’s Gospel Lesson we read these words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  What does it mean that followers of Jesus will have to take up their “cross” on a daily basis?  It means that as someone who knows who Jesus is, there will be times when you are persecuted.  And for some, this persecution may even lead to their death.  As Jesus says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”  Because you know who Jesus is, you are willing to face the persecution that will come to those who believe in Jesus as their only Savior from sin.

As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, you and I are thankful that we live in a country where we don’t have to fear being arrested or put to death by our government for being a Christian.  But as Christians, you and I do face trouble and persecution in others ways. Our elected leaders continue to pass laws that are contrary to God’s Word.  More and more our society is excepting of lifestyles that are sinful in God’s eyes, and we are tempted to do the same.  Friends may make fun of you and me.  Even some of our own family members may make it difficult for you and me to confess who Jesus is.  And together you and I confess that, at times, we give in to those pressures, and try to hide the fact that we are Christians.  You and I would rather go along with the crowd, than be teased for not joining in.  You and I would rather keep our friends and family members happy, rather than standing up for our Savior and his Word.  And you and I know that such a failure to confess clearly who Jesus is, to stand up for the truth of his Word, is a sin that only deserves punishment.

But the Good News for you and me is that Jesus took that punishment upon himself in your place and mine. The Good News of forgiveness through our Savior, Jesus Christ, gives you and me the power and the motivation to live for him.  In our country, you and I are thankful that we have the opportunity to vote for leaders in government who agree with our view of what is right or wrong based on the Word of God.  In the face of peer pressure from friends or family members to do what is wrong, you and I willingly stand up for what we know is right in God’s eyes.  In the face of pressure to put aside certain teachings of the Bible, with the help of God the Holy Spirit, you and I as individuals, we as a congregation and as a Synod continually keep our feet firmly planted on the true Word of God.  As we read in Zechariah chapter 13, “They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’”

What does it mean to say that you know who Jesus is?  From God’s Word today we see that it means to know and believe that he is the One who has taken care of all your spiritual needs and mine.  To know who Jesus is means to believe that he is your one and only Savior, who offered up his perfect life as the full payment price for all of your sins.  To know who Jesus is means to take up your cross; that is, to live your life so that it offers him all praise and glory, even as you face pressures to deny him as your only Savior.  May God the Holy Spirit continue to use his powerful Word to strengthen your faith and mine in Jesus as our one and only Savior, so that when he asks you and me “But what about you?  Who do you say I am” with all joy in our hearts you and I gladly and willingly answer, “You are the Christ of God!  You are my Savior!”  Amen.

“Who is Jesus?”  Has anyone ever asked you that question?  If so, how did you answer?  Some answer that question by saying that Jesus was simply a great teacher.  Others will say that he was a good man, who said some good things, whose good example we should all follow.  Still others will say that he was simply a man who tried to trick people into thinking that he is the promised Savior.  Because there are so many different opinions about who he is even today, Jesus himself asks you a question: “WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?”

As the Lord carried out his ministry, just like today there were a lot of different opinions about who he is.  Certainly, as true God, Jesus knew what people were saying about him.  But the Savior wanted to test his disciples, to see if they believed the wrong things that people were saying about him.  In answering Jesus’ question, the disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”  It is interesting to note that no one the disciples were hearing from were saying that Jesus is the promised Savior.  So he asks, “But what about you?  Who do you say I am?”  And, speaking on behalf of the other disciples, Peter responded, “The Christ of God.” While the crowds did not believe, God the Holy Spirit led Peter and the other disciples to confess Jesus as the Christ.

After hearing their confession, Jesus then did something that may seem a little strange to us.  We read, “Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.”  “Why not?”, we think to ourselves.  Why not tell people that Jesus is the Christ?  To put it simply, the time was not yet right, because many different people had many different ideas about what the Christ, the Messiah, should do for the people.  Most in Israel were looking for a political Messiah, someone who would rescue them from the control of the Roman government.  But Jesus teaches his disciples what the Messiah, the Christ, would do, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

As you spend time talking to people, you find out that there are a lot who feel that they have to work hard to get into heaven.  Even your sinful nature and mine tempt us to think the same thing.  But, what does it mean to say that you know who Jesus is? It means to confess that by nature you and I are sinful, and only deserving of God’s wrath and punishment.  It means to confess that you and I in no way are able to save ourselves.  It means to confess that Jesus is the only one who lived, suffered, died and rose again to win the forgiveness of our sins.  As we read in Galatians chapter 3, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

By the grace of God, and by the faith that God the Holy Spirit has placed into your heart and mine, you and I are children of our Father in heaven.  You and I are clothed with the perfect life that Jesus lived in our place.  Who is Jesus?  As Martin Luther writes in his Small Catechism, he is the one who “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.”

Throughout the three years that he spent with his disciples, Jesus constantly taught them that it would not be easy to answer the question: “Who do you say I am?”  In today’s Gospel Lesson we read these words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  What does it mean that followers of Jesus will have to take up their “cross” on a daily basis?  It means that as someone who knows who Jesus is, there will be times when you are persecuted.  And for some, this persecution may even lead to their death.  As Jesus says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”  Because you know who Jesus is, you are willing to face the persecution that will come to those who believe in Jesus as their only Savior from sin.

As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, you and I are thankful that we live in a country where we don’t have to fear being arrested or put to death by our government for being a Christian.  But as Christians, you and I do face trouble and persecution in others ways. Our elected leaders continue to pass laws that are contrary to God’s Word.  More and more our society is excepting of lifestyles that are sinful in God’s eyes, and we are tempted to do the same.  Friends may make fun of you and me.  Even some of our own family members may make it difficult for you and me to confess who Jesus is.  And together you and I confess that, at times, we give in to those pressures, and try to hide the fact that we are Christians.  You and I would rather go along with the crowd, than be teased for not joining in.  You and I would rather keep our friends and family members happy, rather than standing up for our Savior and his Word.  And you and I know that such a failure to confess clearly who Jesus is, to stand up for the truth of his Word, is a sin that only deserves punishment.

But the Good News for you and me is that Jesus took that punishment upon himself in your place and mine. The Good News of forgiveness through our Savior, Jesus Christ, gives you and me the power and the motivation to live for him.  In our country, you and I are thankful that we have the opportunity to vote for leaders in government who agree with our view of what is right or wrong based on the Word of God.  In the face of peer pressure from friends or family members to do what is wrong, you and I willingly stand up for what we know is right in God’s eyes.  In the face of pressure to put aside certain teachings of the Bible, with the help of God the Holy Spirit, you and I as individuals, we as a congregation and as a Synod continually keep our feet firmly planted on the true Word of God.  As we read in Zechariah chapter 13, “They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’”

What does it mean to say that you know who Jesus is?  From God’s Word today we see that it means to know and believe that he is the One who has taken care of all your spiritual needs and mine.  To know who Jesus is means to believe that he is your one and only Savior, who offered up his perfect life as the full payment price for all of your sins.  To know who Jesus is means to take up your cross; that is, to live your life so that it offers him all praise and glory, even as you face pressures to deny him as your only Savior.  May God the Holy Spirit continue to use his powerful Word to strengthen your faith and mine in Jesus as our one and only Savior, so that when he asks you and me “But what about you?  Who do you say I am” with all joy in our hearts you and I gladly and willingly answer, “You are the Christ of God!  You are my Savior!”  Amen.