Peter took a seat around the fire. It had been a rough couple of months. When he first started following Jesus, things had been pretty awesome. Jesus healed his mother in law. Jesus helped him catch hundreds of fish in just one net cast. Jesus even took him to a wedding and transformed a couple of jugs of water into wine with just the snap of his fingers.
It was fun. He had wanted to be a part of whatever it was they were building!!!
But lately…things weren’t so fun. The other religious leaders were getting angrier. Call it jealousy. Call it pride. They were getting angrier and heckling them as they went about teaching. In fact, the heckling had started to get a bit violent: One of Jesus’ ministry partners – his cousin named John the Baptist – had just been beheaded and there had begun to be rumblings that they wanted to kill Jesus, too.
Peter took sip of wine as he stared into the fire. It was good to get a break. Good to take a moment. Good to contemplate.
What were they really building?
Was it worth it?
Did he, Simon, really want to be a part of it?
And apparently...Jesus was doing the same thing:
Who do people say I am? (v.15)
Peter looked up. So, did the other disciples. Some still had ½ eaten pieces of fish hanging from their mouths.
I’m serious. Who do the people say that I am?
The disciples looked at one another. And then began to talk all at once: Some say, “John the Baptist” – dead, but come back to life. Other says “Elijah” – an even deader prophet come back to life. Jeremiah or Malachi or Zephaniah or some kind of prophet whose name is hard to pronounce. Honestly, Jesus there are all kinds of ideas about you: From nice guy to demon; to good teacher to scoundrel. I mean – those Pharisees look serious about shutting you down.
Jesus shook his head. Then, he looked directly at Peter.
“And what about you? Who do YOU say that I am?” (v.15)
Peter’s eyes darted to avoid the intensity of the question. He looked to John – who shrugged. He looked at James – who shook his head. He looked to the ground. He thought about what he had seen Jesus do. He thought about how Jesus’ hands had made blind people see and how his words had made deaf people hear. He could still picture Jesus stopping the lighting and raising the little dead girl back to life.
He nodded his head.
And he spoke confidently:
“You are the Christ. The Son of the Living God.” (Mt. 16:16)
Jesus didn’t slap him.
He didn’t facepalm.
He didn’t even say, “Good answer, but no…”
Jesus said this: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter – which means “Rock” – and on this rock of a confession I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it!” (v.17-18)
In other words.
Today we will apply Jesus’ own words to what we are doing with that 10,000-square foot building over there. We’re going to learn (1) who we need to build on and (2) what we are really building. Before we do, join me in prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Who to Build On
I think this is a really interesting section of Scripture because it gives you a glimpse into what people who lived and talked with Jesus thought about Jesus. Notice their answers. They name three prophets. Prophets were people who received messages from God and spoke message from God. And Elijah, John the Baptist and Jeremiah were some of the most well-known.
But more than that. They were all dead! Think about it: If I asked who you thought I was and you said, Elvis Presley, that’d be a compliment. If you really believed it, that’d be amazing. It would mean you have a high opinion of me.
Not only did these people think Jesus was a prophet, but they thought he was a dead prophet come back from the dead. They had a high opinion of Jesus.
Just. Not. High. Enough.
To be fair – most people today think highly of Jesus. They think he’s a good moralist. A good teacher. A nice guy.
Kinda like…Mr. Rogers.
Do you know Mr. Rogers?
Do you like Mr. Rogers?
I don’t know anyone that has ever complained about Mr. Rogers. He’s kind. He’s nice. He wears sweaters. He teaches kids to enjoy the land of Make-Believe, how crayons are made, and how to deal with slightly annoying mailmen—kindly.
Sometimes people think of Jesus just like Mr. Roger. Kind. Nice. Good teacher. But that’s about it.
Is that who we are building this school on?
Are we building it on some nice guy?
If so, how is it any different than George Washington University – ok guy, famous president, OR Johns Hopkins University – he had a lot of money and gave it to a hospital OR William Bucknall University – I don’t know even who he is!
We are not building this school in the name of some nice guy.
It’s not in the name of good morals.
It’s not in the name of good education.
It’s not in the name of good athletics.
If you want any of those, you can find those at just about any location down the street.
We are building this school in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Which was Peter’s confession. And it holds two important truths:
(1) Jesus is the Christ!
Really quick – Christ is the Greek word for “the Anointed One.” It matches up with the Hebrew word Messiah which also means “Anointed One.” If you are a fan of literature, it sounds a lot like the “Chosen One” trope that appears throughout it. Like Luke Skywalker being “the One” to bring balance to the Force, or Neo being the “One” to save people from the Matrix, or “Harry Potter” to defeat “he-who-must-not-be-named.”
It’s like that.
Only the literature we are talking about was around over 4000 years before those stories. And it finds very real fulfillment in a guy named Jesus 2000 years later.
He was born in Bethlehem as prophecy said.
He grew up in Nazareth as prophecy said.
He was Jewish as prophecy said.
He did miracles as prophecy said.
He died on a cross as prophecy said.
He rose from the dead as prophecy said.
And all of these visual fulfillments of prophecy – help us to understand some invisible prophecies he fulfilled.
He paid for our sins as prophecy said.
He won us forgiveness as prophecy said.
He defeated the devil as prophecy said.
He gave us eternal life as prophecy said.
He was our Savior as prophecy said.
Our school is about so much more than some nice guy.
It is about the One prophesied to save the world.
It is about the One prophesied to save us.
It is about the One prophesied to save – our kids.
(2) The Son of God
But Peter’s statement is two-fold. He calls Jesus more than just the Messiah. He calls him the “Son of God.”
My sister had a baby about a year ago. Harper Grace. I saw pictures of her and watched videos of her on Facebook. After a couple of months, I finally had the chance to confirm it in person.
My sister had given birth to a human.
From humans come humans.
From dogs come dogs.
From cats come cats.
From African Pigmy Hippopotamuses come African Pigmy Hippopotamuses.
And from God comes God.
Not that it’s quite the same. God is eternal. So, while Jesus is from God, he also always has been. Even you want to learn more about that – join me in Bible study this week to talk mind bending theology.
But for our purposes it is imperative you understand this truth:
Peter’s confession attributes “Godness” to Jesus!
That’s why he stopped storms.
That’s why he made the blind to see.
That’s why he made the deaf to hear and the lame to walk and the sick to be well.
That’s why he made the dead to rise and when he was dead he was able to do what most living people could not do – he brought himself back to life!
Our school is about so much more than some nice guy!
It is about THE Living God of Heaven above.
It is about the True GOD with his Almighty Power.
It is about the One who has always been around.
It is about the One who is always with us.
It is about the One who will never leave us – or our kids.
II. What are We Building
I want you to look out here. It’s just mud and sticks and stones. But I want you to close your eyes and visualize what will be. Close your eyes and visualize the final product. Close your eyes and visualize – what we are building. Close your eyes and visualize – a church!
Ummm…Pastor? Was there a mistake in the blueprints? I thought we were building a school?
Before you go grab the Construction Manager, look at what Jesus said to Peter. He said, “On this rock of a confession I will build my church.” Did you know that’s the first time Jesus uses the word “Church” in the Bible? The word is “ecclesia” and on its own it simply means an “assembly” a “group.”
But notice what Jesus calls it. “My church.”
This means a few things:
Understand this – church is not a building.
Church is not an organization.
Church is people.
People build on Jesus.
It means Jesus has been building onto “his church” for centuries.
He built onto his church when he brought us to faith in his family.
And God willing – he will build onto his “church” through our preschool building.
Every time a teacher tells a Bible story, God is building his church.
Every time a toddler sings the song “Jesus Loves Me,” God is building his church.
Every time an infant baptized, God is building his church.
Every time a parent talks to another parent and they hear about their Savior, God is building his church.
Every time a teacher gets down on her knees, explains that hitting is wrong, and the little child has tears in their eyes, blurts out, “I’m sorry,” and the director doesn’t just say, “It’s ok” she doesn’t say, “Try harder.” She says, “Jesus died for you. That means he forgives and I forgive you,” – God is building his church.
He’s bringing people to faith.
He’s adding to his kingdom.
He’s saving people to heaven.
III. What Now?
1. Be Confident Builders
Which might be a bit intimidating. Because we aren’t talking about simple numbers and letters anymore. The task is a lot bigger. The task is eternal. There will be temptations to fight against it. There will be temptations to fight about it. There will be people who don’t like it. There will be things that cause us to worry, numbers that cause us to fret and problems that cause us to vent.
Why wouldn’t there be problem? The devil will do anything to prevent a building dedicated to the good work of Jesus from happening.
But Look at Jesus’ promise: “I will build my church…and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” (v.17)
In other words – the building will happen.
Maybe not the brick and mortar building – but the building of God’s kingdom will happen.
Nothing can stop it. Nothing can stop us.
Not with God on our side.
Because Groundbreaking isn’t the end. The building isn’t finished yet. Neither the brick and mortar building or the building of God’s kingdom. If we stopped here to give each other high fives and say, “We did it!” We’d be wrong. There’s more building yet to do!
So…get to work.
If you can’t swing a hammer, pray.
If you can’t saw a saw, encourage.
If you don’t have any idea what a 7/8 wrench looks like, share the message of your Savior.
Be a part of this.
Be a part of building God’s kingdom.
And God bless us as we build on Jesus. Amen.