mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. Amen.
of people are looking for a savior, as they always have. Lots of people eventually
find one, in various shapes and forms, as they conduct their earnest searches.
Sometimes they cling to their savior for a while, only to be disappointed when
it doesn’t quite pan out to meet their wants or their expectations. Sometimes
they shift their attention to new saviors, or stick with their old ones, simply
modifying their desires so that they get a good fit. It goes on all over the
world, on every continent and in every time zone. As a matter of fact, it goes
on in every single human heart.
among those who have come to be aware of Jesus, the looking—or at least the
shifting of expectations—goes on. If you’re looking for Jesus today, you’ll certainly
find plenty of different expressions of Him. Some prefer a Jesus who will make
their lives comfortable and successful. There’s one like that; he’ll give you
family harmony and financial prosperity. Just follow the guidelines and
principles that’ll be shown to you in the DVD they’ll be happy to send for a
donation of fifty dollars or more.
want a more personal Jesus. A Jesus who will help them feel emotionally
enriched, at peace with who they are, and able to live happy lives of quiet
strength. A Jesus who will help you pull out and use that power you have
within yourself to overcome doubt and weakness, to bring your mind and spirit
and body into balance, so that the world around you doesn’t get you down.
more want a Jesus who is very tolerant and completely open-minded. This Jesus
looks on with a pleasant smile as people express their own beliefs in their own
ways. Never mind what God has revealed to us in His Word, they say. Their
faith doesn’t revolve around “Thus says the Lord,” but depends upon, “Well,
what I think about Jesus is…”
so long as they are sincere, and have a desire to build a strong relationship
with the divine, their Jesus doesn’t care if they worship at a church or a
synagogue, a mosque or a bonfire, out in their bass boat or riding in a golf
cart. This Jesus hears all prayers, even those offered up to trees or through
the channels of self-proclaimed prophets. He’s an equal-opportunity,
politically-correct Jesus; all roads, all beliefs, are equally valid and perfectly
any of these sound familiar or attractive, you’re not alone. Whether it’s
Jesus the life coach, Jesus the spiritual guru, or Jesus the group hugger,
people everywhere build up their own ideas and expectations on just what they want
and need from a savior.
matter which Jesus you choose, or design and build for yourself, though, you’re
getting the same thing: a false Jesus. A Jesus who isn’t the Son of God, but
the son of perdition. A Jesus conceived not by the Holy Spirit, but by lies.
Born not of the Virgin Mary, but of the harlot of hell, Satan.
devil has a lot of tools, but one of his most successful is wearing the mask of
the false Jesus—the Jesus people want, rather than the Jesus they truly need.
is quite happy with those who believe in a false Jesus. In fact, for him it’s
as good as if someone doesn’t believe in any Jesus at all. There really isn’t
any difference. There is only one Christ, there is only one Jesus, there is
only one Savior, but there is a world full of imitations. And each and every
fake Jesus will be more than happy to take your hand, and walk with you and
talk with you, and lead you safely and comfortably through the world until you
hear the soft words, “Well done, my good and faithful fool,” spoken not
by the Father in heaven, but the devil below.
Jesus asks His disciples in our Gospel lesson today, “Who do people say
that I am?” they provide Him all sorts of possibilities. Maybe He’s
Elijah, returned from heaven, since that prophet was known not to have died a
natural death. Maybe He’s John the Baptist, somehow released from prison,
preaching that same Gospel of repentance and forgiveness.
He’s some other prophet, finally come to Israel after an absence of hundreds of
on the spot, though, Peter confesses what all those who know the true Jesus
confess: “You are the Christ.” And so He is. He’s not the
Jesus of many faces, of false faces. He’s the Jesus of one face. The face that
nursed at Mary’s breast. The face dripping with water from the River Jordan as
He is baptized into fellowship with us all. The face glowing with the glory of
God on the Mount of Transfiguration.
also the face set toward Jerusalem, the face that will be kissed by Judas in Gethsemane, and slapped by the Jews at His trial. His is the face that is defiled by the
spit of the ungodly, and finally is the face splattered red with the
sacrificial blood that dripped from His brow, pierced and torn for you with the
thorns of a mocking crown. This face—and only this face—is the face of God
which saves you, forgives you, and shines upon you and gives you peace.
face—and only this face—is the face of God that was preached by Peter and Paul,
and is preached yet to this day in the faithful Church. For the Church
proclaims this face of Jesus as the only one which truly meets the needs of
isn’t welcome news to some. It’s enough to cause anger among many. It’s as scandalous
today as it’s always been, to be so particular about Jesus; so narrow of mind.
Christians have the audacity to say this is the only face, the only name, by
which we can be saved. This exclusivity is not the inclusiveness and happy
harmony that many so-called spiritual people want to hear. Preaching that
Christ alone saves sinners makes some people roll their eyes and others shake
Jesus is the only face of God we can know. In Jesus alone, we have
forgiveness. In Jesus alone is there a way out of the shadow of death, the
only way to escape the deceptions and dead-ends of the devil which would lead
us into hell’s eternal blackness.
preach Christ crucified,” Paul
wrote, “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.”
And so it remains. These are the words printed on the pages of God’s Holy
Word, and placed into the mouths of God’s messengers yet today. “We preach
Christ crucified.” These words are as sweet as heaven, yet as bitter as
hell. Their sweetness comes from the fact that in hearing and digesting them,
you taste the honey of salvation. But they may give you a bitter taste along
the way, for in taking these words and chewing on them throughout your life,
you will be continually at war with the world of men and the power of the devil.
They both hate what these words say.
Peter can’t accept them at this point. Jesus throws all His cards on the
table: suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection, and Peter folds. He
takes Jesus aside, rebuking Him for making such an awkward, unpopular
statement. “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus replies.
uncrucified Christ—that sort of Christ, Peter can accept, you can accept, the
world can accept. There’s a certain seductive attractiveness to a Jesus like
that. But it’s a temptation that leads only to death, for it’s just another
way of saying, “Did God really say…?” It’s the temptation that
wants us to be silent about the crucifixion, to steer clear of the scandal of
we could pretty up Jesus, make Him into a Precious Moments figurine that is
cute and huggable. We could dress up Jesus in always-pleasant, Top-40 music
and cool pop-culture terminology to appeal to those who prefer shallowness and entertainment
to substance and truth. We could hand out Christ’s body and blood to
everybody, regardless of what they believe. We could even hold hands and pray
with those whose faiths reject the crucified Christ.
you uncrucify Jesus—if you hit the “Rewind” button on the drama and horror of
His passion and death—you can package a Jesus who is easy for people to accept,
a Jesus who appeals to a broad segment of society, a Jesus who is politically
correct for His openness and tolerance of all beliefs, all lifestyles. That’d
be a very easy gospel to preach, and to hear. It’s an easy Gospel to live,
too. And many flock to that gospel, all around us.
only one problem with that gospel: It’s not the Gospel which saves. It’s not
the Gospel the Church is called to proclaim, now and to the end of time. The
Gospel that saves is a bloody Gospel, dripping from the face and body of only
one kind of Jesus.
began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected
by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that He must be
killed and after three days rise again.”
sinners, is your life. Here, Church, is your Gospel. The Son of Man must
suffer many things, because the God of love will have it no other way than to
reclaim you. He won’t leave all His Adams and Eves exiled from paradise. He
won’t let Abraham plunge the blade and end the life of his promised seed, the
child of hope and laughter. He won’t leave Joseph down in the pit where Israel’s other sons threw him. God’s love is a love of rescue, and it comes to us.
Christ will suffer many things, indeed. He will suffer them for you. Bring on
the bloody sweat, the vinegar, the gall. Bring on the hands that bind, the
hands that slap, the hands that nail, the hands that bury. Bring on the lies
of the priests, the mocking of the crowd, and the silence of heaven. He
suffers many things. For the joy set before Him, He endures it all, all for
you. In your salvation is His joy.
His rejection, you find acceptance by the heavenly Father. In His death, you
receive life. In His burial, your sin is swallowed up in the ground like the
golden calf in the desert, the stranglehold of death broken forever. Sin and
death and hell have their day, it seems—but it only seems. In reality, the
crucified Christ destroys their power forever, bringing to you forgiveness,
life, and everlasting joy.
then, is the Gospel. There aren’t any others, for only this Gospel is
necessary. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He didn’t leave business managers,
pop psychologists, group dynamics counselors, or diplomats behind to carry on
His work. He left behind apostles, equipped with His Word. Into their hearts
and minds, and out of their mouths, flowed the Gospel, the very blood of His
sacrifice. And in their preaching, and in the conveyance of His Word to that generation
and every generation since, the blood of this Gospel, the sacrifice of Christ
crucified, was sprinkled and spread to all who might hear it.
that blood is your life. For you, for your family, for this Church, and for
all the world, this blood is for you. Every drop is an ocean of forgiveness.
It washes you in a bloody cleanliness that protects you like the blood of the
Passover lamb on the doorposts of the Israelites. It is sprinkled onto the
altar of your heart and upon the mercy seat of your soul in the temple of your
body—a body which is now God’s own, so that you can enter the Holy of Holies in
the Jerusalem yet to come.
blood makes devils retreat. It moistens the lips and parched throats of those
who thirst for righteousness. It quenches and extinguishes the fires of sin
that burn within you. It is the blood of the Church, the blood of the cross,
the blood of the one and only true Jesus. Amen.