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Faithlife Corporation

Denying the Fullness of Christ

Notes & Transcripts

Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you – Our strength and our Saviour                                                                              - Amen

We have returned from a great break from the normal, we enjoyed the hospitality of the right coast, Nova Scotia, PEI and Cape Breton and we were gone long enough to really look forward to returning home.

But we arrived mid week and by the time that I was to have the bulletin ready for printing; I was still a long way off from writing this sermon

Now, I am telling you this in the hope that you will be merciful in the fact that this Sunday there was no sermon title in the bulletin – if you want one, you could use “Denying the fullness of Christ”

Also, if you were paying attention to the details in the bulletin for the Gospel reading, you will have noticed that I read beyond what is listed

The reading is divided for half this week and half next week

And being that it is summer and prime vacation season – some might be here this week and not next and some might not be here this week and be here next week and not have the important first half

I think when you delve into the story you will see that it needs to be told as a whole piece

In my pre-sermon prayer, I asked God to consider the meditations of our hearts – let’s take a moment and do just that: meditate on one aspect of our Gospel narrative this morning

I want you to imagine, if you will, that you are fishermen - 2000 years ago

You are married; your extended family lives with you, your wife’s mother and others

You are hard working and skilled fishermen – with a team of fishermen that work for you on your two boats

You are Jewish – You follow the teachings from the God of your ancestors – the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – of Joseph, Moses, of the prophets Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah…

You believe you belong to ‘a people that has been specially chosen’ by God – and yet you live in near poverty – oppressed by a foreign army that occupies the land that was ‘given to your people’ by God

You are forced to pay heavy taxes to this oppressive Roman army to support their rule of most of the know world

And you believe that one day, as the prophets foretold, there will come one that will lead you out of all this

That will return the land promised to your people solely to your people

One day as your are working hard after a very poor night of fishing, a stranger comes into town and is teaching a way which is beyond your previous understanding

He has a magnetic personality, He knows things that seem beyond what He should know – and yet it makes sense – deep in your heart you trust and believe what He is teaching

So you leave everything, your wife and family and boats and follow him

                                                                  And strangely He sees something in you

You become His closest follower and He seems to be closer to you than all the others

You hear incredible teachings

You witness incredible healings

You are even sent out at one point empowered by Him and sent with another to teach and heal just as He has

At times you are a one of a small group of close follower traveling the countryside with Him – supporting Him and learning from Him

                                                                                                            Other times large crowds gather to hear what the Rabbi has to teach

They are hungry, like you, to hear this new teaching

He talks about the Kingdom of Heaven, in many ways

He heals incredible illness – He challenges the religious leaders and their understanding of teachings of your forefathers

You know that He must blessed by God ‘to do all that He does’, to teach with the authority that He does

Sometimes when the crowds gather – people talk about who this Jesus really is – “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

You start to believe in your heart that this is ‘the one’ that the prophets have been saying would come one day

One day after some of the temple leaders, the powerful religious Sadducees and the other religious leaders that are strict to the torah, the Pharisees have come to spy on your friend and leader

They had come to question and test Him and they have left after He has shown ‘that they really don’t understand’ what they are teaching and

He warns you against them

                                                                        After this when it is just you and the other close followers

As if the questions of the Pharisees and Sadducees have made Jesus wonder who you think He is – He asks you

Something incredible happens to you – you feel overwhelmed with awareness as you boldly say “He is the Messiah”

And this Rabbi knows that something was working in you ‘that was bigger then you’ – that God gave you that answer

And He declares that you are the very foundation, the rock - of what His Church will be built on and renames you… Peter, which means rock

Then from that time on Jesus began to show you and the other close followers that He must go to temple city, Jerusalem, where all the religious leaders are, the ones that are jealous of Him and want Him silenced.

He declares that He will undergo great suffering at the hands of these elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

                                                                                                This news hits you like a ton of bricks

                                                                                                            You can’t believe it – this is not what the messiah is all about

                                                                                                                        The messiah was to come and save His people from oppression

He was to be like David, He was to lead them in military triumph – He was not to willing go and submit Himself to death at the hands of religious leaders, that don’t even understand the scriptures, or His message

You want Him around for longer

You want more of your family to hear His teachings

You have friends that need His healing touch

So you tell Him – No – Not you – God must not let this happen…

Never, Not to Jesus

Now I think we can all understand Peter’s situation

I think that this new development of Jesus’ teaching would have come as a real shock to expectations

                                                                              It just doesn’t seem to make sense – death is the end

Death is defeat – His teachings and miracles are too important to end

Why? – and - if we can imagine that we have any say in the matter

– No - Never

Peter’s understanding is of course in keeping with a very natural human desire to hold on to what is good – to protect it – guard against any and all harm

                                                                                          Further - Peter has an understanding of what the messiah is to be

                                                                                                And this new teaching, just doesn’t fit the plan

I think Peter is acting as the spokesmen for all the disciples and for all of us

Peter’s rebuke of Jesus is perfectly natural, if you put yourself in his …sandals

It is also one of the most common misrepresentations of who Jesus is

If you were to look at what other religions and those outside of religion think Jesus is

                                                                              All major religion acknowledge Jesus’ existence

They can’t deny the historical relevance of Jesus

As one scholar put it – there is more historical data about Jesus then there is about Napoleon and most people don’t have a problem believing that Napoleon existed

So what do they do - they reduce Jesus to some great teacher, a very good man or some even go as far as to say that he was a prophet

But they deny Jesus for what Christians know Him to be…

So it is understandable, Peter has yet to grasp who Jesus really is

Because ‘the who…by the how’ is just too hard to understand

Meaning - the messiah, the Christ – by a torturous death – the cross, doesn’t makes sense

Not without the aid of much bigger picture that Peter doesn’t have at that point in time

Also Peter seems deaf to the part about

“on the third day be raised”

 

At this point you might be thinking – okay ‘so what!’

Peter doesn’t see what Jesus sees – Peter doesn’t yet understand what we know …by reading ahead

You might be feeling a great deal of empathy for Peter, feeling like you might do the same thing if you were in Peter’s shoes

You might, I might too…

But it matters a great deal to Jesus

Consider how Jesus deals with Peter

                                                                              Jesus’ response is extremely dramatic

Peter, who Jesus had just previously declared will be the rock – the foundation of church – will be given the keys – says…

 

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

 

Jesus states that Peter’s position is identical with that of Satan, who early on in Matthew’s narrative in the temptations in the wilderness had attempted to sidetrack Jesus from his Father’s will (see Matthew 4:1-11)

Jesus gives no room for half measures – no room for limitations on who He is

No room for stumbling blocks in the way of the completion of His mission and ministry

                                                                              Simple put – Jesus role is not only about teaching and healing

He is not merely some great teacher, like Buddha

He is ‘the messiah’ - ‘the Christ’- the Son of God - that must go to the cross

That must die a cruel, seemingly disastrous death

At the hands of people that Jesus has revealed don’t really know what they are teaching

He must fulfill it all…

And save Peter… and all humanity, from our sins

                                                                                                            Provides for us a sacrificial lamb for atonement

Provide a way for the forgiveness of our sins

A way that will defeat death by rising again – that will reveal that He is Lord over all

A simple strategy that is perfect… elegant… and complete… beyond anything that we could ever design – …done for each one of us                                     (pause)

                                                                             

Now reducing Jesus ‘to just another teacher’ is not a new development – a new strategy of this increasingly secular world – ‘then as now’ it is common misunderstanding

Over 50 years ago in what some might say was the height of Christendom

CS Lewis, writer of the Narnia chronicles, scholar and defender of Christianity wrote a great quote that is often brought out that address this very matter

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. …let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

What we have in the first half of our Gospel reading today is precisely one of those moments in the life of Jesus, in which Jesus leaves nothing to chance

Jesus knows His audience… then and now

Jesus directly challenges our political correctness of tolerance of other people views about who Jesus is

A study of the Gospels will reveal many situations – but this is one of the most straight-forward examples, of where Jesus will not allow a limited understanding of who He is

Will not allow it even from His closest friend

And it is a matter of grave importance

And Jesus declares that the very act of trying to limit His ministry – to get in His way

Is the work of Satan

      The work of ‘the great deceiver’

 

Now this Sunday, in this sermon time, I have two objectives

                                                                                          One minor objective was to build / develop empathy for Peter

How he reached the point of making such a misunderstanding of Jesus and His ministry… probably the most common misunderstand about Jesus

 

But more importantly, to declare - as clearly as I can

That following Jesus means following ‘all of Jesus’

That Jesus loves us too much to be limited to ‘a mere great teacher’

Jesus loves us…each one of us…so much that He won’t let even His closest friend be a stumbling block from His mission

He won’t be distracted from His divine mission by earthly things – God’s ways are not limited by our ways

That…“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)

                              ….  …. Amen

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