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Posted: September 22, 2011 7:13 p.m.

Scharf: Rock solid truth

"On this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Jesus said that in Matthew 16:18. He said it about the answer Peter gave to a question he had asked.

Jesus had started the conversation by asking what the crowds were saying about him, who they said he was. He wanted the disciples to start thinking about what this whole "following Jesus" thing was all about. An important topic, don’t you think?

That’s when Jesus made it personal. Matthew 16:15: "But what about you? ...Who do you say I am?" We can’t skip this question, can we? After all, we call ourselves "Christian" or "little Christs." It’s important to be clear about who he is so we can understand who we are.

Thankfully, Peter speaks up for the rest of the disciples there, for us, putting into words what God has put in our hearts.

And his answer Jesus calls a "rock" — a solid, certain, unbreakable thing.

Now think about this. He used this term "in the region of Caesarea Philippi," a town in the shadow of a massive rock cliff, a permanent visual aid for something solid and secure. And Jesus uses that word "rock" to describe the answer Peter had just given

So let’s break down his answer. It defines who Jesus is and what we are built on. Here it is: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." That’s the truth on which Jesus says he’s building his church. It’s a truth, Jesus says Peter didn’t come up with on his own, an answer from God. In fact, he calls the truth of that answer the rock we’re talking about today.

So, what did Peter say in that answer? First, he called him "The Christ" — that’s the Greek for the Hebrew word Messiah — the anointed one. He called Jesus the one set apart by God and prophesied again and again in Scripture, the promised seed who would save us from sin, the one promised already to Adam and Eve who would crush the serpent’s head, who would destroy sin and its wages, death and the devil. "You are the Christ."

And then he adds, "the Son of the Living God," real literally, "the Son of God, the Living God" — the God who is life and gives life, the hope of every sinful human since Adam named his wife "life," which is what Eve’s name means in Hebrew, because through her would come the offspring who is the way, the truth and the life."

Because, you see, without that promise, all we had was death. Ever since the first human husband sat in the background instead of fulfilling his serving, loving, protecting leadership role for his wife, the consequence was death.

Ever since Eve rationalized a way to make that bite of fruit seem tastier in her mind than obedience to her Creator, since she bought in to Satan’s suggestion that maybe sin wasn’t so deathly serious and she sinned, the result was death.

Ever since you chose selfishness instead of sacrifice with your wife, the wage was death.

Ever since you picked comfort instead of truth in your interactions with those who don’t believe like you do, the price is death.

Ever since you sinned, since we were born in sin and its wages... The word doesn’t change; the wages of sin is always death. But because of the promise of God, Adam named his wife "life." And now, Peter says, "You Jesus, are this promise fulfilled. You are the God who brings life where there is death." And Peter was right. It was through Jesus’ death that he brought life, that he fulfilled Adam’s hope of "Eve," "life."

That, Jesus says, is the Rock on which the church is built. And like that cliff right in front of them, it cannot be toppled. In fact, Jesus says, "Even the gates of Hades" could not overcome the cliff, the rock that is the truth. That rock is solid.

The gates of Hades cannot overcome it. Think about that picture. It isn’t as if the truth is trying to struggle in some battle against Satan and his forces. The truth is the truth, the rock. Satan is the one waging the hopeless battle, trying to bring it down, but he cannot — like thousands of little hammers smashing up against the anvil of this truth and all suffering the same shattered fate.

The truth stands — not to be weakened by our doubts and fears, by our failures and shortcomings. That’s why we can have confidence in this rock. So come to the rock of God’s word and take comfort. Because there you see Christ, the one who brought life through his death.

Join us at church this Sunday and let’s build on that rock. Because all the doubt and fear and worry in the world can’t break God’s promises. That rock cannot be crushed.

In Christ,

Amen.

Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.

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