2nd Sunday in Lent
4 March 2012
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Who do people say that I am? Imagine Bruce Wayne asking that question. Some say a billionaire playboy. Some say a spoiled orphan. Some say a great philanthropist. "But who do you say that I am?" he asks Commissioner Gordon. "You are Batman, the Dark Knight."
"Who do people say that I am?" This time, and infinitely more importantly, it is Jesus who asks. Some say John the Baptizer. Some say Elijah. Some say one of the other prophets. "But who do you say that I am?"
"You are the Christ, of God!" St. Peter is quick and bold to confess. This is no ordinary Man before him. Not just some great prophet either. Jesus of Nazareth is the Savior. God-in-the-flesh, having come for you! The Son of David and Son of God.
Simon Peter could not just make this up, or come up with that answer himself. God the Father revealed it to him -- gave him the knowledge and wisdom to declare that great statement of faith. Human knowledge, human strength, and human courage would not have been so bold, or even so correct, for that matter.
And yet, look and listen. No sooner does St. Peter declare that this is God he is speaking with, face to face, than he tells Jesus, "You don't know what You're talking about!" "Jesus, what do you mean, You are going to be arrested, and suffer and die?! No way! You can't do that? Are you insane?!" Now let that sink in some more. Peter has just admitted that Jesus is Christ --God--and the he turns around and tells Him that He doesn't know what He is talking about. Seriously?! Do you see how ridiculous that is?
"You are the Christ, of God!" When it comes down to it, this confession flows right out of the very purpose of building and maintaining Lutheran schools. God blesses us to have a school in which many children and youth are brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus, being taught and formed in faith the Holy Spirit to believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed "the Christ, of God!"
Yes, we are blessed with rigorous academics that exceed most elementary schools around. And yes, most of our students end up in the high schools of their choice. Many will even tell you that their freshman year was easy, after eighth grade at St. John's. But if that is why we exist, simply to be an academically excellent school, we have abandoned our purpose.
Yes, this is a safe environment for our students. A caring faculty and staff that know the students, with everyone promising to work together in a bully-free zone, is a marvelous thing. And it is a blessing. Yet if the reason we are here is safety, in and of itself, we turn our backs on the Lord.
Yes, this school is an enriching place, nurturing talent, honing skills, and supporting a desire to dabble in a great many things. Having so many and various clubs, athletic activities, and enrichment opportunities at an elementary level is almost unheard of. That is a tremendous blessing too. Yet, again, if that is the main reason we exist, we have missed the point, and we grieve our Lord.
National Lutheran Schools Week is a brief time to pause and reflect, and thank God for this precious gift -- the gift of a school in which Jesus is clearly proclaimed and taught to be who He is: the Christ, of God!
Do not reject your Lord and demote Him to a good and loving Rabbi. Do not dismiss Jesus as some great prophet. Stop hearing Him, and then turning around like Peter and saying that He doesn't know what He is talking about. When you do this, you reject God and refuse His forgiveness and salvation.
But thanks be to God, for your sake, He who IS the Christ, of God, takes away the sin of the world. He removes your guilt and looses you from your sin. As the Christ, He is anointed to bear your sin and be your Savior. God in the flesh, making you righteous!
For every time that you have thought you know better than God, He reaches out in love and releases you from that sin of arrogance. As you have heard or read His Word and then said, "He can't really mean that!" or "Well, that is only an opinion," you have joined the chief priests, the elders, and scribes in rejecting Him and killing Him. But He has called you to repentance and repeatedly pours out His forgiveness, erasing any marks of doubt or disparaging on your part. Why? Because He loves you!
The very death that He suffered at the hands of the chief priests and scribes is the cause of your forgiveness. The fact that He rose on the third day professes to the world that this death took care of it all, paying the price completely for your sin.
Jesus takes your mind off the things of man. He has made you His restored and renewed children, placing in your hearts and minds the things of God. And first and foremost of this things, is the gift of knowing that Jesus is indeed the Christ, of God! Amen.