Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
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Friday of Epiphany 2
22 January 2016
All too often the holy saints and apostles are portrayed only as absolutely superior human beings. They surmounted every difficulty, blazed trails, sacrificed themselves, followed their Lord, and were often martyred for the holy faith. Who wouldn't want to emulate such persons? However, wanting to emulate them and being able to do so are two very different things. We are plagued by the weakness of our sinful flesh. We struggle to believe our Lord as we ought. We flounder about in the garbage of daily living. We seldom follow the exalted example of the saints and apostles often set before us.
However, we have failed to understand properly the true meaning of their example. They are not spiritual Supermen. None of them wore a big "S" on their chests. On the contrary, their example also includes weaknesses just like ours, their struggles to confess faithfully the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their imperfection, and their sin. They are called saints not for their own sakes, but for the sake of the blood-bought righteousness of Jesus Christ. They are sinners like us made holy by holy blood. When our conscience is troubled by our struggles and weaknesses we should turn our eyes upon the weakness of saints like Peter, who on the one hand faithfully confessed that Jesus is the Christ and yet on the other was brutally rebuked by his Lord. Saintliness is not a matter of my obedience to the example of the saints, but faithful listening to the sweet consolations of the Word of God. We are super saints because we have a super Lord!
"Take note, then, all you who have a timid conscience. You will not be saved by this or that work. For it will fare with you as with one who works in a sandpit: the more sand he shovels out the more falls upon him. That's why many have gone mad, as John Gerson says, so that they began to imagine things, one that he was a worm, another that he was a mouse, and so on. Just commit it to God and say: 'Oh, my dear God, I have sinned, but I confess it to thee, I pour it out to thee and pray thee for help; do thou help me!' This is what God wants of us.
"That's why I should like sermons about the saints to be more moderate in the sense that we would also tell how they fell, in accord with the gospel....For there can be no doubt that they too tripped and stumbled over great humps. They were of one flesh with us, one faith, one baptism, one blood. But we have now set them so high above us that we must despair of imitating them. Thus, for example, the gospel speaks of Peter after his confession concerning Christ, when he said to him, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God' (Mt 16:16). But soon afterwards he had to take these words: 'Get behind me, Satan, you devil!' (Mt 16:23) whereas just a while before he had been told, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!' (Mt 16:17). Just look; first he is blessed and holy, and afterwards he topples into hell and is called a devil.
"So it is that every one of us by himself is a devil, but in Christ we are holy. So when we thus connect the saints with Christ, they are Christ's true saints; but if we are not to despair, we must follow him.
"This Gospel lesson (Jn 11:1-45) therefore expresses nothing but the sweetness of Christ in his obedience to the Father and that he bestows nothing because of merit. Therefore, when the devil assaults us with temptation, you say this: 'Ah, even though I have done nothing that is good, nevertheless I will not despair, for He always dealt with men sweetly,' and that is true. Only the damned must remain until they have paid the last penny (Mt 5:26). The Scriptures demonstrate this again and again. In Ecclesiasticus it is written, 'Who was ever forsaken by God?'...And to Jeremiah God says, 'Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. But I will deliver you on that day, declares the LORD, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely save you' (Jer 39:16-18). From this we should learn how Christ loves us, even though He might justly be angry, in order that we should also love our brethren. Look, this is the way God treats you!"
Martin Luther, Sermon on the Raising of Lazarus
Dear Father in heaven, as you revealed to the apostle Saint Peter the blessed truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, strengthen us in that same faith in our Savior that we too may joyfully confess that there is salvation in no one else; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For Kalani Tschambo, in thanksgiving to God who has given her and that her mother, Jane, was kept safe in childbirth
For the board members of Luther Academy as they meet together this weekend, that their Lord would give them safe travel and productive deliberations
For our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, especially Pastor Marvin Donaire, who was re-elected the President of the Lutheran Church of Nicaragua, that they would continue to confess Christ faithfully
For the faculty and staff of Lutheran High North, that in their callings they might confess Christ as the only Savior from sin
Art: CARRACCI, Lodovico The Penitent St Peter (c. 1613)
© Scott R. Murray, 2016